How to Create a Pirate Radio Station 


Want to create an FM radio station for your town?  It's easier than you think 

The FCC has made it pretty much impossible for the average person (or even a group of people) to start and run a community focused radio station that reflects the local listeners interests.  Thanks to the National Association of Broadcasters, a few well paid senators and big radio corporations like Clear Channel, there just isn't room on the dial (or so they'd like you to believe).

The reality is Low Power FM could easily fit into the existing spectrum available on the FM dial.  The folks above have made sure you can't do this though.  They've created rules based on false information that make it impossible to get a license.

Hell with that.  Set up your own pirate radio station and go on the air.  It's easier than you might think.

What you need:

A Studio Transmitter Link Setup (this is placed in someone's back yard with the antenna mounted in a tree or on the roof).

Gear:   Total cost for new equipment: $5000 (max).

-And FM transmitter.  Best ones cost about $3000 and are from Broadcast Warehouse out of England.  The TX100 is a perfect box. 

-A Comet 5/8ths wave antenna.  They're easy to tune to your the frequency you want on the dial.  They cost about $100-150 and you can get one from Progressive Concepts (www.progressiveconcepts.com).  You can get your transmitter there as well.

-100 feet of 50ohm cable.  Get it when you buy the antenna.

-A cheap laptop.  An old one with a wimpy processor works fine.   Intalled RealVNC software on it (allows you to control the computer remotely).

-An outdoor plastic case (to put all this gear into).  Get it at Home Depot for $50.

-A small mixer (Behringer makes a great one for $50). 

-And internet connection.

All of this gear is plugged together into a working FM radio station.  Once in place you put a big piece of duct tape over it that says "Ham Radio Repeater".   

Your Studio: 

-Another computer with a library of music and an internet connection

-Another Behringer mixer.

-A decent microphone.  You can get one at Best Buy for $30.

-An account on Live365.

What you're going to do is set up a studio that feeds an internet stream of your show to Live365.  You're then going to log into that stream from the cheap laptop sitting in the box, which is plugged into the transmitter which is plugged into the antenna.  You get power from the house and you get internet from either a cable running from the houses internet or, better, from a wifi connection between the house and your cheap laptop.

By separating the Pirate DJ from the transmitter, and giving the house where you've got the transmitter plausible deniability, you can play a cat and mouse game with the FCC for years.

When (not if) the FCC shows up, your remote transmitter setup is going to be inspected by the field agents.  The person hosting that site simply says:  "I thought it was some ham radio thing.  I met a guy at a party that asked if they could put it in our back yard because we had a good location and they'd pay our internet bill for us.  We had no idea it was an FM transmitter".  The FCC may buy it, they may not, either way they have to do the same thing:  Ask your host to turn it off (which they do immediately) and then if they can have the setup (the answer is: "No, it's not mine").  The FCC will have what they want:  It's off.  So they leave.  They may leave a Notice of Apparent Liability.  This is a letter that says 'show us your license to run this or turn it off in 10 days'.  No license, but it's off.  They win.  They leave.

Your host then calls you.  You come 4 or 5 hours later (giving the FCC time to clear out of the area) and you set it up at your next host location (which you've hopefully already set up).  Downtime is usually 24 hours or less.  Your hosts are (usually) also your DJ's.  Or, they're friends and fans of the station. 

Some basic rules:

Never use real names.  Everyone has a handle.  Everyone uses it.  No one knows each others real names.  This is easier than you think and fun at parties (yell across the room "hey Beerguy.. I saw JuiceBag yesterday" can be very enteraining to the other guests).

Keep your studio and transmitter separate. 

No one under 18, no drugs and no guns in the studio.  Ever.  

For history, see the KBFR blog at http://freemedia.blogspot.com/