From the June 2001 Idaho Observer:

Free Radio America

by Dr. Gary Trexler and Jan Blum

“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.” ~James Madison

“The Media Monopoly” proclaimed in 1983 that media ownership had narrowed to a mere 50 transnational conglomerates. Today those claims pale as global dominance of the media has dwindled to nine. Local control has disappeared as newspapers and radio stations are owned by nationwide conglomerates. Clear Channel is a major player in “local” radio station ownership. Their senior vice president, George Sosson, summed it up poignantly when he said, “Before the FCC loosened its regulations, stations were afraid to increase ad loads too much for fear of driving customers to 'the other guy.' Now we all are the other guy.” To learn more about who the media barons are and which politicians have accepted how much, visit the following 3 websites:,$.htm, and

The truth is that there are no more “little guys” to speak of. They have been bought out or gone broke - but wait, some of them have gone underground. And a few are dedicated to helping others who want to get into the radio world - either the government sanctioned world or the one they envision on their own.

This month's column takes a look at pirates, hackers, and all things clandestine - even government.

Need help getting on the air? Details abound. Low Power FM instructions and many alternatives. A flaming microphone gripped in one hand and being passed to the outstretched palm of another person - the torch moving on. With a logo like that, you can expect lots of grit and passion. We weren't disappointed. and

Are you an independent broadcaster looking for community? Or would you become a local broadcaster if you could find some mentors? Here are two groups with lots of resources. They have annual conferences, offer professional mentors, provide technical assistance, advice, ideas, models - in short, a community. Both groups are dedicated to helping people who want to broadcast to their local communities. Quite mainstream in their mindset, but certainly hands on and helpful. The proviso is “local” and “community”.

Want to be a Rogues' scholar? Scoot up a chair. This site serves up tons of research links for all shades of radio and hands-on help. And while you're there, check out the Micropower Radio Bust Response Network. They track who has been shut down and they offer help.

The Fourth Hackers on Planet Earth Conference - plan now for the summer of 2002. Meet them that's doin' and see demonstrations of how they're doin' it. Hands on. Monitor site for date of conference which is yet to be announced.

Lots of diversity here. Underlying it all is the desire to speak freely. While in the neighborhood, check out the straight line that ties Clear Channel to the White House at An audio clip (scroll to the bottom of the page) explains it all. Did you realize, for example, that the new FCC Commissioner Michael Powell is the son of Colin Powell? And there's more - lots more.

Since World War II, clandestine radio has been a presence in global affairs. This site is connected to the UN but it is interesting to see their intricate and powerful influence on world affairs and how they make it look like it “comes from the streets.” If they can fake it, then the real thing (free speech) also has a powerful affect.

This guy has got the formula. An antenna on an RV and he moves around the country transmitting. Photos of his rig and radio setup.

Pirates are not limited to am/fm radio. Shortwave boasts it fair share of pirate ships as well. One of them, K-2000 exists solely for parody's sake. They poke fun at all of us. No one is spared. You never know who will be next. Were you listening when they did the segment on our own John Bryant? Pirates maybe but professionals of the highest rank. You never know where they'll pop up on the dial - so move it around a bit and see if you catch them in the act. Serving up free speech can furrow the brow sometimes; when that happens it's time to lighten up and see what K-2000 is up to now.

Watch the birth of a protest against Clear Channel Communications and a mass effort to wake up legislators. Wonder what they'll do when they realize the legislators have been doing this with their eyes (and palms) wide open?

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