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Build your own FM transmitter at Free Radio Berkeley’s Summer Radio Camp

Stephen Dunifer in the FRB shop

Although Free Radio Berkeley has not been an operational radio station for over a decade, founder Stephen Dunifer continues to champion the cause of unlicensed micropower radio. In this spirit FRB just announced its 2011 schedule of summer radio camps. Each camp is a four-day workshop where participants learn to build a 10- or 40-watt transmitter and put together a low-power FM broadcast station.

The workshops are priced ridiculously reasonably at a sliding scale of $150 – $200. The cost of the transmitter kit is additional, with the 10 watter priced at $225 and the 40 at $350. Participants are also responsible for finding their own housing, but a PDF information packet provides some guidance.

Anyone attending an FRB radio camp should keep in mind that these transmitters are not suitable for use by a licensed station, and are instead intended to be used unlicensed. Dunifer considers unlicensed broadcasting to be an act of electronic civil disobedience, as he explains in this essay he wrote in 2008. We frequently report on unlicensed broadcasting here at Radio Survivor, and so want our readers to be clear that the FCC and federal government still frown on it. However laws and enforcement vary greatly in other countries, and in many places and struggles unlicensed stations provide essential information lifelines that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Even in the US the risk of criminal penalties is very slight in the 48 states that aren’t New Jersey or Florida, with the latter being the only state where actual arrests have been reported. I don’t add this caution in order to scare people off. Rather, having followed the FCC’s enforcement of unlicensed broadcasting for more than a decade, it appears that many of the folks who receive notices of apparent liability seem to have expressed quite a bit naïveté about the legal status of their endeavor, not even realizing that the FCC might take notice. Simply, it’s good to be informed and thoughtful. Anyone thinking about starting an unlicensed station should do some research and weigh the risks and benefits. And I’m sure Mr. Dunifer would be glad to answer participants’ questions about this aspect.

Learn more about Free Radio Berkeley by watching this short documentary video:

How To Make a Radio Station from Free Radio on Vimeo.

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2 Responses to Build your own FM transmitter at Free Radio Berkeley’s Summer Radio Camp

  1. John Poet May 10, 2011 at 9:16 am #

    That sounds like a good time, and productive too. While the shortwave pirates tend to get more of the media attention from the “hobby press”, the small local FM pirates are truly in the front line trenches of the fight for free radio– and ultimately have the potential for a much larger audience within a confined geographical area than the shortwave pirates can achieve nationwide.

  2. May 11, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    It would be interesting to have a similar radio camp for those who wish to focus on remaining within the legal confines of US Law. We had proposed a similar conference idea some years ago over on but many radio enthusiasts mentioned they did not have the funds available to attend.

    While legal Part 15 FM is pretty much limited to around 250 feet there are those individuals operating on the AM band who have managed to get nice coverage considering the Part 15 regulations they have to work within (many operate under Part 15.219 which states a final amplifier input power of 0.1 watts and a total antenna system length of 3 meters, which also includes the ground lead). Many people find it rewarding to see how far they can get with a tenth of a watt while remaining within what’s spelled out in the regulations.

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