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Podcast #206 – Podcasts Are Radio

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 19:56

With mergers, acquisitions and millions of dollars changing hands, podcasts continue to be in the news. But just when it seems like well-funded networks are edging out the indies, Paul and Eric are here to assure community and college broadcasters and independent podcasters that there is growing opportunity for them, too.

Show Notes:

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Podcast #205 – A Brief Update

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 23:49

Hello, Eric Klein here. This week’s episode of the radio show features wall to wall music selected by Matthew Lasar to demonstrate his passion for the radio format he would like to hear more of in the world, Hybrid Highbrow. All that music would be against the rules in a podcast, so this web-only version of the show this week features a little bit of me talking about Matthew’s ideas; I talk about a few of the recent episodes of the program you might have missed; and then a quick update on the conclusion of our humble fund raising campaign.

Show Notes:

The post Podcast #205 – A Brief Update appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Thanks to All Our Supporters!

Tue, 08/06/2019 - 00:54

We wrapped up our first truly focused Patreon campaign last week. Thanks to our many supporters, we more than doubled our base of patrons, bringing us to a grand total of 64. We are elated and humbled that so many readers and listeners joined on to help support our work.

The final tasks to finish our first ever ‘zine are underway. All 43 of you who are supporting us at the $5 tier or higher as of Aug. 1 will be receiving your copy later this month. We’ll keep you updated with posts to our Patreon page.

Now, you might recall that our goal was to reach 100 patrons by August 1. You’ll also note that we didn’t quite get there. It was an ambitious goal, but a true one. That really is the kind of regular support we need to in order to do the work we proposed: to document the history of Indymedia and LPFM on the occasion of these movements’ 20th anniversaries.

However, it’s work we still really want to accomplish. Moreover, we think there’s no sense is taking an “all or nothing” approach. 

Our plan, then, is to begin work on documenting the history of LPFM.  The objective is to have a first installment to share on our podcast and here on our website in January 2020, when the service celebrates its 20th birthday.

We’re scaling back from the grander narrative of linking in the independent media movements of the 90s – including community radio – that came together around the 1999 protests against the WTO in Seattle. But given that low-power FM has long been one of our principal areas of coverage, we think it’s a story that will benefit Radio Survivor readers and listeners.

We’ll also reveal more details of this effort as it comes along. 

In the meantime we want to say Thank You again! If you have any questions or comments please hit us up on social media or drop us a line at

The post Thanks to All Our Supporters! appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Ireland Can’t Quit Longwave

Sun, 08/04/2019 - 21:24

I’m still playing catch up with a queue of interesting radio stories I’ve yet to post. Although this news dates from May, it didn’t get much play on this side of the Atlantic, and should be of interest to Radio Survivors.

Ireland’s longstanding – and oft-threatened – longwave radio station RTÉ 1 on 252 kHz is staying on the air. With the ability to serve listeners over a longer distance than AM (mediumwave), though covering less area than shortwave, listeners in the Irish diaspora across the UK have relied upon this station to keep in touch with news and culture back home.

However, the cost of maintaining aging equipment and the availability of RTÉ 1 on the internet caused the state broadcaster to plan its shutdown five years ago. That’s when the station first appeared on my radar. Immediately listeners across Ireland and the UK registered their protests, noting that many older people who rely upon the broadcasts aren’t able to use internet radio easily, and that in-car listening isn’t so easily replaced by the internet, either.

In 2016 the RTÉ put the closure on hold. It was finally cancelled this May, when the broadcaster announced that it would perform necessary repairs and maintenance in order to keep the 252 signal on air for at least another two years. That will require a two month interruption in service.

As a contingency, RTÉ has explored simulcasts on digital DAB+ radio in the UK, but regulations that require broadcasters to be UK-based have been a stumbling block.

Longwave radio, which sits below the AM band between 148 and 283 kHz, was never implemented as a broadcast service in North America. It primarily travels via groundwaves for distances up to about 1200 miles, whereas shortwave travels by skywaves for even longer distances. Longwave’s advantages are that it has fidelity and reliability that are more like AM radio, while covering a larger area.

Though longwave has been in service about as long as AM mediumwave, RTÉ 252 has only been going since 1989. As contributor Paul Bailey explained, the broadcaster acquired the operation from Radio Luxembourg as its rock music programming was losing ground to native stations in the UK.

30 years is still a decent tenure, and the decision to keep the 252 signal going is a testament to the power of radio, and the notion that obsolescence is in the ear of the beholder. The point of radio is to reach listeners, and if the new technology won’t reach those who benefit most, then is it really better?

The post Ireland Can’t Quit Longwave appeared first on Radio Survivor.

College Radio Watch: Don McGahn’s College Radio Moment and More News

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 08:12

It’s been an exciting week, with readers and listeners chipping in to help Radio Survivor with our Patreon campaign. A whole slew of you donated at least $5 a month by the August 1st deadline and will be getting a copy of our hand made ‘zine. We’ve had so much fun crafting it, that we are hoping to create more in the future. Although we didn’t meet our 100 donors goal, we are super stoked by the 60+ monthly contributors and generous one-time donors who are helping to support our work.

Don McGahn’s 1990s College Radio Moment

One of my favorite stories in recent memory is a tale about the confluence of college radio, 1990s punk rock, and 2019 government officials. With members of Generation X in their 40s and 50s today, it stands to reason that plenty of them with high profile jobs also have indie rock/college radio pasts.

I enjoyed every word of “I Was on a Compilation CD with Don McGahn in College,” John Dugan’s account of how his 90s self crossed paths with the former White House counsel. Dugan writes:

There’s really nothing more ’90s than being on an obscure compilation CD. And perhaps there’s nothing more 2019 than being from the DC area and having a bizarre, tangential relationship [to] the Trump administration.

…an old college radio chum alerted me to the fact that Don McGahn, President Trump’s OG White House Counsel and purveyor of fine ’80s cover tunes in Scott’s New Band, has a solo song on the Jericho Sessions CD. Yes, the Don McGahn who Trump tried to pressure into firing Robert Mueller.

Dugan explains that his band also appears on the Jericho Sessions compilation CD of campus bands, which was put together in 1991 by University of Notre Dame’s student-run college radio station WVFI (“Voice of the Fighting Irish”). Read his article to see vintage images of the CD compilation as well as Dugan’s reviews of the student bands.

Coincidentally, my husband is also a WVFI alumnus, but alas has no compilation CDs from his radio days there. We did return to the station back in 2008, with our 2-year-old in tow. That tour (saved for posterity as my 3rd radio station field trip report) is the stuff of family lore thanks to my daughter’s epic face plant into a college radio couch. While she dozed away, my husband and I enjoyed a leisurely tour through the WVFI studio and library, having no idea about the cross-section of characters and bands that had occupied those same spaces over the decades.

More College Radio News Profiles of Stations and Personnel Events Programming Popular Culture Alumni

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Radio Station Visit #158: Community Radio Station KBFG-LP in Seattle

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 19:44

Tucked away in a shed in a northwest Seattle neighborhood was perhaps the tiniest radio station that I’d ever seen: community radio station KBFG-LP. Part of the most recent wave of low power FM stations, it launched in December, 2017 and broadcasts for a 2.5 mile radio to a potential FM audience of around 250,000 people in the Ballard, Fremont and Greenwood neighborhoods (thus the B-F-G call letters).

KBFG’s Jerry Russell and my pal Colin hanging out at The Shack in October, 2018. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

Radio Survivor readers will recall that my colleagues Eric and Paul attended KBFG’s launch party, interviewing several of its founders for Radio Survivor Podcast #124. That event was also featured in a big story about low power FM in the New York Times, lending some incredible early attention to the station.

KBFG sign in front of the Shack. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

Thanks to the wonders of technology, KBFG-LP was able to take to the airwaves before it had a public-facing studio, with programmers submitting their shows remotely. Within a year, it opened “The Shack,” in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. The mini studio was housed in a pre-fabricated building that I was told was really designed as a lawnmower shed. Nestled behind a coffee stand and steps away from a dumpster on a Ballard corner, it was a funky location that truly spoke to KBFG’s hyper-local, neighborhood ethos.

Tripod Coffee, adjacent to the KBFG Shack. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

On a rainy afternoon in late October, 2018, I ventured to “The Shack” to check out the station. With room for approximately two people in the studio, part of the visit was spend lingering outside under umbrellas. As I spoke with Fulcrum Community Communications (KBFG’s non-profit license-holder) board member Jerry Russell, his fellow board member Pamela Burton arrived for a separate interview. I was curious how we’d all manage the space constraints and watched in awe as she invited the guest into her car for the conversation, while I chatted with Russell in the small studio. Clearly this is a crew that is used to managing with limited resources.

KBFG Board Member Jerry Russell at the Shack in October, 2018. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

At the time of my visit, the Shack had been up and running for about six months, with a couple of shows broadcasting live from the cozy studio, including a Sunday evening show called “Night Sweats.” Other volunteers used the Shack to pre-record their shows or conduct interviews that would air at a later time. Russell explained that the Shack was outfitted with “bare bones” equipment while KBFG awaited an eventual move to a bigger space.

A glimpse inside the KBFG Shack. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

A light outside the door of the Shack alerted passersby that the station was on the air and speakers could also be set up to play KBFG to folks hanging out in the adjacent triangular gravel-filled space. While it was quiet (except for the “45rpm” show of 1940s and 1950s music playing from automation in the background) and rainy on my visit, I was told that during summer months there were picnic tables and a food truck parked outside, creating an even more convivial atmosphere

On-air light outside KBFG’s Shack. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

Earlier in the day, I got my first taste of KBFG during the Halloween event/food drive, Hunger Goblin’ Treat or Treat, in a nearby neighborhood. The station set up a remote outpost in the corner of a bank, with windows facing a busy daytime trick-or-treating route. The costumed father-son DJ duo played spooky tunes and chimed in with running commentary about the ghouls, goblins, TV characters, and other revelers spotted during the event.

KBFG’s Tim and Tristan broadcast live from Hunger Goblin’ Trick or Treat event. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

While both the parade broadcast and the Shack speak to KBFG’s community outreach, back in October much of the production of radio shows was taking place inside the homes of DJs and show hosts. With a mix of music and public affairs programming, KBFG’s local-focused mission extends to the artists played over the airwaves. When there isn’t a live DJ, the station plays a curated mix of music, with 80% of it from Seattle artists and 20% from musicians from other states in the Northwest. Russell told me that by October, 2018, the station had already acquired music from 5,000 artists in Seattle alone. During my visit, the music collection was largely digital, with not much room for a physical music library of records or CDs in the Shack (although I did spot a few vinyl LPs).

Small collection of LPs in the Shack at KBFG. Photo: J. Waits

Russell and Burton were among the group of folks who worked to bring KBFG to the airwaves. While Russell’s radio experience was limited to a stint at his high school station many years ago; Burton worked at Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles for close to 20 years in numerous roles, including Director of the Pacifica Radio Archives.

KBFG Board Member Pamela Burton at the KBFG Shack in October, 2018. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

Burton’s work at Pacifica as both a radio producer and archivist informs her current programming on KBFG, as she regularly combs the archives to use on her “You Heard it Here” program, drawing links between current events and historical material. She’s pulled clips from a wide range of past programs, with topics covering everything from feminism to vampires.

Headphones at KBFG Shack. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

Excited about both the current group of KBFG-LP volunteers and the possibilities of collaborations with Seattle institutions and venues, Burton told me that she was looking forward to having more people involved with the station, adding, “everybody’s invited to come and play.”

Board in the Shack. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

In March, 2019, KBFG moved to its new home, complete with studio and office, leaving the Shack behind. Its new headquarters, The Jack Straw Cultural Center, holds a special place in community radio history, having been established with funds from pioneering Seattle radio station KRAB (hear about the KRAB Archives on Radio Survivor Podcast #134). Over email, Burton relayed the exciting news:

Our new digs are in the Jack Straw Cultural Center which was built from funds earned when KRAB radio’s frequency was sold in 1984. There are production studios down stairs as well as performance spaces which we plan to use for live broadcasts. For now we are training new programmers in our studio/office including a Monday night session at 7pm called Office Hours when program director Tim Flanagan goes on the air inviting people to come in and learn how to do radio.

Audio equipment in old KBFG Shack in October, 2018. Photo: J. Waits/Radio Survivor

Thanks so much to everyone at KBFG for sharing your station with me. This is my 158th radio station tour report, my 33rd community radio station tour, and around my 21st LPFM tour. Read of my radio station tours in numerical order or by station type in our archives.

The post Radio Station Visit #158: Community Radio Station KBFG-LP in Seattle appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Podcast #204 – Resistance Radio ‘The People’s Airwaves’

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 19:25

This week we explore the role of radio as a tool for resistance with two of the eight organizers of the “Resistance Radio ‘The People’s Airwaves'” exhibit in Brooklyn, New York.

Interference Archive volunteers Celia Easton Koehler and Elena Levi join us on the podcast to discuss the scope of the exhibit, which investigates a cross-section of themes, including black liberation, radio and prisons, squatting radio, war and revolution radio, and more.

The physical exhibit (on view until September 29, 2019) includes artifacts and audio from a wide range of radio stations from all over the world. Additionally, the team is producing a series of events, a ‘zine, and an online companion exhibit.

Show Notes:

The post Podcast #204 – Resistance Radio ‘The People’s Airwaves’ appeared first on Radio Survivor.

College Radio Watch: KTRU Flashback and More News

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 08:14

I love it when folks share vintage college radio documentaries with me and the latest to make its way to my inbox is a circa 1992 look at Rice University’s KTRU. It’s wonderfully post-modern, with nods to 2001: A Space Odyssey and some clever usage of expert interviews. The discussion of the station’s former hair dryer-scale wattage was particularly entertaining.

Please Join the Radio Survivor Patreon by August 1 (and get a ‘zine!)

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to Radio Survivor’s Patreon campaign. We’re just about half way to our goal of 100 monthly supporters by August 1st. Everyone donating at least $5/month will get a copy of our new ‘zine, which I’m especially excited about. I just finished mocking up my article about a hike to see radio towers and I can’t wait to share that with our readers.

More College Radio News College Radio History Profiles of Stations and Staff Funding and Infrastructure Events Awards and Accolades Alumni

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Podcast #203 – FCC One Step Closer to Defunding Community Media

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 00:12

The FCC is one step closer to a rule change that threatens to de-fund community media and technology, by undermining a long-established principle that cable and internet companies owe rent to municipalities for use of the public right-of-way.

Sabrina Roach, board member of the Alliance for Community Media Foundation, joins to help us understand what’s at stake. The future of public access, educational and government TV channels and community technology centers hangs in the balance.

Support Radio Survivor, Get Our ‘Zine

We’re publishing a ‘zine and you can get one when you support our work at Radio Survivor via our Patreon campaign. Everyone who supports us at a level of $5 a month or more will get a print copy of Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1. 

Your contribution will help us continue to spread the word of great radio and audio, and allow us to embark on celebrating the 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and LPFM by documenting these important histories. We need 100 Patreon supporters by August 1, 2019 to start this work.

Not coincidentally, that’s the deadline to sign up to get your ‘zine. Everything in the ‘zine will be print-exclusive – learn more here.

Support Radio Survivor today.

Show Notes:

The post Podcast #203 – FCC One Step Closer to Defunding Community Media appeared first on Radio Survivor.

College Radio Watch: Join us as a Patron by Aug 1, Tours and More News

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 09:00

At Radio Survivor, we’re in the midst of a Patreon campaign, with a goal of having at least 100 monthly donors to Radio Survivor by August 1st. If you chip in at least $5/month, we’ll send you our inaugural ‘zine. You may not realize that Radio Survivor is a lean, volunteer effort and our work on the website and podcast is on borrowed time between all of our other paying gigs and obligations. With more contributions, however, we will be able to do some more in-depth projects, including documenting the history of LPFM and the indymedia movement. As of this writing, we need another 59 donors, so now’s a great time to join up to support our work covering college radio, community media, and audio culture. Here’s a link to donate on our Patreon page. Thanks!

Are all “College Radio” Station Sales Part of a Broader Trend

I’m a stickler for definitions and tend to think about college radio as a specific category of radio station that includes substantial student involvement. For that reason, I’m careful to distinguish between college-based stations and college radio stations. Unfortunately stations at colleges often get lumped into the same category, which can create confusion when talking about broader trends in the industry, including radio station license sales.

Although I’ve written and spoken about various college radio station license sales over the past decade or so, I’m cautious to not report on these stories as part of a major trend or decline in college radio. As part of that effort, when there is news of a station sale, I work hard to not feed into a common industry refrain that “yet another” college is selling its license. Whereas other types of radio station licenses may get sold and bought with regularity, news reports rarely state that “yet another station is being sold.” In part, I want to encourage folks to look beyond the headlines.

Let’s interrogate the circumstances of these sales, particularly when the “college” stations in question aren’t always student operations. I worry that stories about college’s selling radio licenses are interpreted on the surface as student-oriented “college radio station” sales, leading the general public to also think that college radio is dwindling. It’s much more complicated than that, since there are many types of radio stations on campuses (public radio, religious radio, student-run stations, lab-oriented training stations and more) and not all of them even broadcast over FM or AM.

A few recent college-owned license sales are for stations largely airing syndicated national programming from a religious or public radio broadcaster. That’s the case with the latest instance at Corban University in Oregon.

All Access reports “CORBAN UNIVERSITY is the latest college to bail on FM radio, selling Contemporary Christian KWBX/SALEM, OR to EDUCATIONAL MEDIA FOUNDATION for $90,000. KWBX is already an affiliate of EMF’s AIR1 network.”

Digging further, it turns out that from the very beginning KWBX has been an AIR1 affiliate, playing Christian music and programming. In an interesting twist, however, the station briefly aired Corban University sports as part of its initial agreement with Air1. Back in 2011, a Hillop News profile of the station recounted its nearly 8-year-run at that point:

One of the purposes of having a radio station was to train students to broadcast Christian programming, but with students off campus for four months of the year during the summer, an essentially student-run radio station just wasn’t possible. With no infrastructure, the endeavor might have stopped there. But [Mike] Allegre was determined to see it through. He had heard that Air 1 was looking for a place to establish a station in Salem, so he decided to pursue that path.

San Diego College Radio Tours on the Podcast

On this week’s podcast, I share a travel report from my journey to San Diego for the National Federation of Community Broadcasters conference. I reveal highlights from my presentation on the “Past, Present and Future of Community Radio” panel and also give a preview of my soon-to-be published San Diego college radio station tours.

More College Radio News
Infrastructure Station Sales, Sale Attempts Events History/Anniversaries Awards and Accolades

The post College Radio Watch: Join us as a Patron by Aug 1, Tours and More News appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Walter Benjamin radio diary: mailbag #1

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 18:40

I have composed just two entries for my Walter Benjamin radio diary, and already I am getting lots of mail.

First came a friendly missive from Nick During, publicist at the New York Review of Books classics department. “We actually have a Walter Benjamin book coming up,” Nick wrote, “that is a collection of his writings that show how he got to the ideas found in his famous essay ‘The Storyteller’ and includes one radio piece, ‘The Lisbon Earthquake’. Would you like to see our book?”

Well, yes, I replied. So the publisher sent it to me.

The little tome in question is called The Storyteller Essays, edited and introduced by Samuel Titan and translated from German by Tess Lewis. It assembles various Benjamin texts that provide context for his famous thought piece “The Storyteller.” I do not want to say much about this essay right now, but “The Storyteller” provocatively contends that a story is best told without an explanation for its events.

Benjamin wrote:

“Every morning, news reaches us from around the globe. And yet we lack remarkable stories. This is due to the fact that no incidents any longer reach us not already permeated with explanations. In other words: almost nothing occurs to the story’s benefit anymore; instead, it all serves information. In fact, at least half of the art of storytelling consists in keeping one’s tale free of explanations.”

Titan, The Storyteller, p. 54.

What purpose does this omission of explanations serve? It allows story tellers and listeners to own the tale, to see it as organic to their very specific and individual lives. “The storyteller,” Benjamin concluded, “is the figure in which the righteous man encounters himself.” When I discuss his Lisbon earthquake radio talk in an upcoming post, I will try to show how these arguments come to life.

Then I received some correspondence from radio producer Toby Kaufmann-Buhler.

“I just found your blog posts on the Radio Survivor site about Walter Benjamin and his radio work,” Kaufmann-Buhler wrote.

“Over the past 8 months or so I’ve produced one of Benjamin’s radio plays, ‘Lichtenberg: A Cross-Section’. This is from the translation in the Radio Benjamin book; this play was never originally broadcast as he finished writing the commission just as broadcasting was taken over by the Nazi regime.

We produced this originally for an exhibition this past May at a sound art gallery in Indianapolis, Listen Hear, which also houses the LPFM station WQRT 99.1. The play aired on WQRT several times; as far as I know this was the first radio broadcast of the play in English, and possibly in any language (could be wrong, but this is based on my research). The play has also been broadcast more recently in New York’s Hudson Valley on Wave Farm’s experimental station.”

Here is my favorite moment from the play, which focuses on a committee of Moon beings’ efforts to engage in “Earth research”:

“The samples taken over the last millennia have not yielded a single case in which a human has amounted to anything. Taking this established scientific fact as a basis for our investigations, our meetings from now on will deal solely with proving that this is a result of the unhappy human condition.”

To help with this task, the committee gloms onto to the research of the German writer/humorist/scientist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, with whom Benjamin was apparently quite taken. But that is as far as I will go with this script. You will have to listen to the radio play to learn more.

Finally, Patricia Flanagan brought this BBC Wireless Nights sound essay to my attention. Pulp stalwart Jarvis Cocker takes us on a sultry tour of contemporary Berlin, laced with tales of the Cold War era. Not exactly a Walter Benjamin piece, but quite beautiful. I recommend a listen.

That’s my Walter Benjamin mail so far. Drop me a line at hybridhighbrow<AT> and your Benjamin related work may wind up in my next mailbag dispatch. Thanks in advance!

The post Walter Benjamin radio diary: mailbag #1 appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Podcast #202 – Small Boosts Proposed for LPFM & Why Aren’t There College Stations on the Dial in San Diego?

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 01:21

The FCC just proposed a series of changes to help make it easier for low-power FM stations to move their transmitters and to fill in weak signal areas. We review this proposal along with a suggestion from the Commission to whittle away at protections for the few dozen remaining analog low-power TV channel 6 stations, often called “Franken FMs” or “Back Door FMs” who’s audio can be heard at the far left end of the FM dial.

Jennifer reports back from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters conference in San Diego where she presented on future trends in community and college radio. She highlights some current stations that exemplify these trends.

Then she shares a few tours of college stations in the San Diego area, none of which have broadcast licenses, despite being around for decades. We explore this interesting niche of radio history.

Support Radio Survivor, Get Our ‘Zine

We’re publishing a ‘zine and you can get one when you support our work at Radio Survivor via our Patreon campaign. Everyone who supports us at a level of $5 a month or more will get a print copy of Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1. 

Your contribution will help us continue to spread the word of great radio and audio, and allow us to embark on celebrating the 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and LPFM by documenting these important histories. We need 100 Patreon supporters by August 1, 2019 to start this work.

Not coincidentally, that’s the deadline to sign up to get your ‘zine. Everything in the ‘zine will be print-exclusive – learn more here.

Support Radio Survivor today.

Show Notes:

The post Podcast #202 – Small Boosts Proposed for LPFM & Why Aren’t There College Stations on the Dial in San Diego? appeared first on Radio Survivor.

College Radio Watch: Radio Orientation and More News

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 08:17

What if college radio was an integral part of every student’s college orientation activities? Sounds amazing to me. This week I learned about Hamilton College’s mandatory “orientation trips,” which provide students with an immersion into various topics and activities as part of their transition to college life.

One of the 4-day trips, Stay “Tuned”, focuses on music and radio and includes a visit to Hamilton’s college radio station WHCL. The trip description states in part:

“We will explore the behind-the-scenes of recording studios, meet professionals in the recording industry, visit local indie record shops, and, of course, listen to live performances, including an outdoor music fest! Upon returning to campus, we will take a visit to the campus radio station, WHCL, where we will get a close-up look at station management and campus broadcasting. Those interested will have the chance to learn how to create and host their own radio show during their time at Hamilton.”

In a profile of WHCL, its General Manager Peter Kelly speaks of the powerful impact of that orientation. Kelly recounts, “I was a part of the orientation trip ‘Stay Tuned,’ which focused a lot on music and radio. We visited a few radio stations, but on one of the later days, we went to WHCL and were allowed to do a show, and I’ve been in love ever since. I’ve had at least one show every semester, and I don’t see myself stopping!”

This is a serious step up from simply having a college radio station on a campus tour route (which can also be quite an accomplishment on hectic tours). Do you know about other innovative ways that colleges are introducing students to their campus radio stations?

More College Radio News Profiles of Stations and Staff Funding and Infrastructure Popular Culture Events Alumni

The post College Radio Watch: Radio Orientation and More News appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Don’t Waste Your Money on that Bluetooth Cassette Player Kickstarter

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 19:21

Last week – coincident with the original Walkman’s 40th birthday – I saw all these articles reporting on this supposedly “world’s first” Bluetooth enabled portable Walkman-style cassette player/recorder, named IT’S OK (yes, the brand is in all caps). Reactions to this Kickstarter ranged from snarky to excited, but all the coverage struck me as a little too credulous.

Always hoping that someone is going to start making decent quality cassette decks or players again, every so often I search around on Amazon or Ebay to see what’s on offer. In the back of my head I thought I’d seen a cheap Bluetooth tape player before, for far less than the $75 intro price promised to Kickstarter supporters.

Turns out, my memory was correct. This Digitnow branded “cassette to MP3 converter” has been available on Amazon since August of 2018 for a price that fluctuates between $29 and $39. Over on Ebay they’re $39.99.

In addition to playing to your Bluetooth headphones, it’ll digitize your cassettes directly to a microSD card, or to your computer via USB. Two additional features missing from the IT’S OK. Now, I’ve never used the Digitnow player, so I can’t vouch for the quality of playback. But my guess is that it’s about as good as the cheap knock-off Walkman you might have bought at K-Mart in 1989, so caveat emptor. I also have serious doubts that the IT’S OK will be any better, even at nearly twice the price.

Already suspicious of the “feasibility study and first handmade prototypes” on the Kickstarter timeline, today I saw a video from YouTuber VWestlife wherein he identifies an extremely similar cassette player available on Alibaba for as little as $7 in quantity direct from China. VWestlife also points out that the IT’S OK player isn’t even in stereo, specifying “Classic Monaural Sound.”

He does note that since all the parts for the IT’S OK are readily available, the Kickstarter likely isn’t a scam. You’ll just get a flimsy mono cassette recorder/player worth maybe $20 in parts – or available from other sources at about $40 – for your $75. And you’ll have to wait until December to get it. Or you can wait until after the Kickstarter ends and get it for $88 (no kidding).

I’ll admit to being enticed when I first saw headlines about the device, but it didn’t take long for me to see that this Kickstarter is mostly hype, seizing on the Walkman’s nostalgia moment and slow news week to get some free press release journalism coverage.

I have no snark for anyone wanting a new cassette Walkman today, and wish that reputable brands like Sony and Panasonic still made them. If you’re in the market I’d first try to find a decent used one, or take a shot on any of the dozens of $20 ones scattered across online retailers and Ebay. (While you’re at it, you might as well get one with a radio.) Aside from the cognitive dissonance around the apparent anachronism of the IT’S OK player, I don’t really get the appeal of adding Bluetooth… especially in freakin’ mono.

But if you decide to bite and get one, please do let us know how it goes.

The post Don’t Waste Your Money on that Bluetooth Cassette Player Kickstarter appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Podcast #201 – A Fantasy FCC Serves the Public Interest

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 21:34

A different media world is possible. What if the FCC truly regulated in the public interest, creating policies and services that promoted community voices and civic values? It does happen occasionally, but not often enough.

It’s easy to assume our media system turned out this way because it was inevitable, but in truth it was the result of hundreds, even thousands of decisions, at all levels of government, influenced by multitudes of actors, from major corporations to community media activists. That means there have been, and still are, many opportunities for change, and improvement.

But what would that revitalized FCC look like? Matthew Lasar has some ideas, based upon his years of researching the Commission, going back to its pre-cursor, the Federal Radio Commission, created by President Herbert Hoover, a Republican who opposed privatization of the airwaves and believed in a robust public service obligation. Matthew’s suggestions may not be what you think. We invite you fantasize along with us.

Support Radio Survivor, Get Our ‘Zine

We’re publishing a ‘zine and you can get one when you support our work at Radio Survivor via our Patreon campaign. Everyone who supports us at a level of $5 a month or more will get a print copy of Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1.

Your contribution will help us continue to spread the word of great radio and audio, and allow us to embark on celebrating the 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and LPFM by documenting these important histories. We need 100 Patreon supporters by August 1, 2019 to start this work.

Not coincidentally, that’s the deadline to sign up to get your ‘zine. Everything in the ‘zine will be print-exclusive – learn more here.

Support Radio Survivor today.

Show Notes:

The post Podcast #201 – A Fantasy FCC Serves the Public Interest appeared first on Radio Survivor.

College Radio Watch: 200th Podcast, Our ‘Zine + College Radio News

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 08:25

It’s been a decade that I’ve been covering college radio on Radio Survivor, which was one of the topics that we discussed on our 200th episode of the podcast/radio show this week. It was a treat to have another rare episode with all four Radio Survivor principals: Matthew Lasar, Paul Riismandel, Eric Klein and myself. We all dug into our deep histories with this project of covering radio from a participant and fan’s perspective and I specifically reflected back on how I got started writing about college radio culture back in 2008 on my Spinning Indie blog.

Radio Survivor launched in 2009 and our podcast began four years ago in 2015. My original intent with Spinning Indie was to shine a light on every pocket of college radio culture so that participants could get some perspective about what’s happening at stations across the United States. I also worked to remind the general public about the important role that college radio plays in media and hoped that people who weren’t listening to college radio would be prompted to tune in to a station in their community or even one that’s far afield.

Eleven years after doing my first college radio-themed blog post for Spinning Indie, it’s gratifying to still be carrying on my original mission, largely at Radio Survivor. Not only do I attempt to do college radio news wrap-ups weekly (as I’ve been doing since 2013!), but I also regularly do field trip reports from my tours of over 100 college radio stations and share various college radio stories on the podcast. It’s also super exciting that the radio version of the Radio Survivor show now airs on five college radio station affiliates in the United States, Canada and Ireland. Long live college radio!

Donate and Get our Inaugural ‘Zine

We’re trying something new at Radio Survivor and will be launching a ‘zine this summer for our Patreon supporters. If you can pitch in as little as $5/month, you’ll get a copy of our hand-crafted publication, full of quirky and fun radio stories and illustrations by the Radio Survivor team and extended family. As always, thanks to everyone for reading, listening and supporting our efforts.

More College Radio News New Stations and Station Revivals Profiles of Stations and Staff Programming
  • WSOU to Cover NYC Fireworks Show Live (WSOU)
Alumni Awards and Accolades

The post College Radio Watch: 200th Podcast, Our ‘Zine + College Radio News appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Walter Benjamin radio diary entry #2: “the downside of radio.”

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 22:02

It is not clear exactly when Walter Benjamin gave his second radio talk, titled “Street Trade and Markets in the Old and New Berlin.” The editor of a volume of his broadcasts that I consult, Lecia Rosenthal, thinks that it aired in late 1929 or early 1930 on Radio Berlin. But whenever it streamed, he served up a wonderful portrait of the Magdeburger Platz and Lindenstraße indoor market halls of the period.

” . . . above all, ” Benjamin noted, “there is the smell, a mix of fish, cheese, flowers, raw meat, and fruit all under one roof, which is completely different than the open air markets and creates a dim and woozy aroma that fits perfectly with the light seeping through the murky panes of lead framed glass.”

It is a wonderful passage. But in this diary entry, I just want to focus on one comment that Benjamin made. He was reflecting on how great it was to return to these halls, which he had not visited since his childhood. “And if I really want a special treat, I go for a walk in the Lindenstraße market in the afternoons between four and five,” he told his listeners. “Maybe someday I’ll meet one of you there. But we won’t recognize each other. That’s the downside of radio.”

Perhaps. Of course it was true that Benjamin’s listeners might not visually recognize him. But apparently it did not occur to the storyteller at that early point in his radio career that they might recognize him by his voice, such as when he spoke to a market stall merchant.

In my years writing about radio, many community radio station hosts have told me that they became truly hooked on broadcasting when, by accident, someone in their signal area recognized them as they spoke on the street or in a restaurant. Years ago I interviewed Don Foster, news/public affairs host at Pacifica stations WPFW-FM in Washington D.C. and KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California, for my second book on the Pacifica radio network. Foster described how he would sometimes hail D.C. taxis and the driver would identify him by his voice:

“One time I got in a cab in D.C. and I was going to do an interview with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president of Haiti, who I had met in Haiti once, and I got in the cab telling the guy I was going to the Haitian embassy, and the cab driver was a Haitian, and he says, “Are you Don Foster?”  And I said, “Yeah.”  And he says, “Oh, man, I listened to the report and the thing you did on Aristide!”  And then when I got to the Haitian embassy he wouldn’t take my money.  Wouldn’t take it [laughing].  I tried to throw it at him; so for me it was like the Academy Award, right?”

Oral History interview with Don Foster, 2002

As for me, it has been a while since I regularly spoke on any radio station. But at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where I teach, I now run an online class in which students participate in streaming video discussion sections. The other day I was working out at a gym near the campus, when I noticed several students practicing somersaults. I told them how impressed I was with their acrobatics.

“Are you Professor Matthew Lasar?” one of them exclaimed. “I’m one of your online class students!” She identified herself by name and I remembered her from one of our email exchanges. What I found most interesting was that she obviously recognized me not because of my appearance, but via the sound of my voice. I would like to think that maybe my voice is distinctive. But it is just as likely that rather than watch the pre-recorded videos for our class, she just listened.

I do hope that at some point in Walter Benjamin’s radio career, someone heard him ordering some cheese or beer from a market vendor and cried out: “Omigod! You are Walter Benjamin! The guy who does those great talks on Radio Berlin. I loved your talk on the Berlin Schnauze. You are so awesome! We love your show!” It is one of the most satisfying moments for any radio host.

This is an ongoing diary that reacts to and reflects on Walter Benjamin’s radio talks.

The post Walter Benjamin radio diary entry #2: “the downside of radio.” appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Podcast #200 – How We Survived a Decade of Independent Publishing

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 07:01

Radio Survivor celebrates 10 years on the internet and four years podcasting with our 200th episode. Matthew Lasar joins Jennifer Waits, Eric Klein and Paul Riismandel for this review of the last decade in radio that matters.

Matthew tells the Radio Survivor origin story that sprang forth from his I.F. Stone inspired research deep into the digital catacombs of the FCC database, unearthing comments that broadcast execs never imagined would be public – such as one who accused prominent media reformists of being “communists.”

Jennifer recalls how a literature review for a journal article on college radio revealed how little scholarly work existed on the topic, compelling her to document this important media form that Matthew says he has learned is, “the first public radio.” “The present is future history,” Jennifer observes. This prompts Paul to comment how we’ve begun to fulfill that promise, given that Radio Survivor now has dozens of citations in scholarly works.

On the way through these stories, everyone notes the changes in the broadcast and online media landscape since 2009, how some publications have come and gone, and offering reasons why Radio Survivor has managed to survive. It’s a discussion of interest to anyone who has tried to, or wants to, sustain a passion project fueled primarily by volunteer labor.

We’re making a ‘zine!

As we announce on this episode, in August we’ll be publishing our first ever print project, hand made in the spirit of great independent radio.

We’ll send issue #1 to every Patreon supporter who gives at the $5/month level or more. But you have to be signed up by August 1, 2019.

Plus, every new sign-up gets us closer to our goal of 100 Patreon supporters so that we have a foundation to do the work of documenting the upcoming 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and low-power FM.

See our ‘zine page to learn more, or go ahead and sign up now.

Show Notes:

The post Podcast #200 – How We Survived a Decade of Independent Publishing appeared first on Radio Survivor.

We’re Making a ‘Zine for Our Supporters

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 06:01

We wanted to find a special way to thank the readers and listeners who support us every month via our Patreon campaign. Something unique, hand-made and in the spirit of great college and community radio.

Why not make a ‘zine?

If you’ve never heard of a ‘zine, it’s an independently produced publication, often photocopied and hand-assembled. The history goes back to mimeographed science fiction fanzines published as far back as the 1930s. Adopted by punk and underground music fans in the 70s and 80s, the name was shortened to ‘zine to reflect a broadening in subject matter beyond just fandom. For more history, see this brief timeline.

For Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1 we’re writing and assembling pieces that we feel are fit for a more tactile format, breaking free of the strict layouts forced upon us by blog software. You won’t find these pieces on our website or anywhere else online. Here are more details:

  • Radio Survivor Zine #1 will go to everyone who contributes $5 a month or more to our Patreon campaign.
    • You need to have completed at least one payment in order to get the ‘zine, but if you’ve signed up by Aug. 1 we’ll send the zine as soon as that first payment is made.
  • The deadline to sign up is August 1, 2019
  • We’ll send out the ‘zines in August 2019

Here is a sampling of the features in Radio Survivor Zine #1:

  • “Wild Flowers and Radio Towers”
  • “Radios I Have Known and Loved”
  • Hand-drawn illustrations and cartoons
  • more more more!

If you sign on as a Patron of Radio Survivor you’ll also be helping us reach our goal of the 100 supporters we need to do the work of documenting the 20th anniversaries of Indymedia and low-power FM.

Sign up now to reserve your copy of Radio Survivor ‘Zine #1!

The post We’re Making a ‘Zine for Our Supporters appeared first on Radio Survivor.

Reflections on the Walkman and Radio on the Occasion of the Former’s 40th Birthday

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 02:37

The Sony Walkman celebrated its 40th birthday on Monday, July 1. While portable audiocassette recorder/players that you could connect to headphones had been around pretty much since the invention of the medium, the Walkman was the first one designed specifically for stereo playback on the go, for personal listening, without even a tiny speaker.

Although the Walkman is principally a cassette device, I’ve always associated it with radio. Sure, in some ways it’s almost anti-radio, giving the person on-the-go a completely individualized listening experience. The first model lacked a tuner, but it wouldn’t be long until a receiver became almost standard.

A child of the 80s, I remember lusting after a Walkman, though the first generations were priced well beyond the reach of a pre-teen. Around 1983 or 1984 nearly every electronics manufacturer made its own version, and by then I managed to save up about 25 bucks, enough to buy the bottom-of-the-line Sanyo knock-off.

As I recall, the Sanyo was on the bulky side, with just three buttons: play, stop and fast-forward. Rewind was too sophisticated for such an inexpensive device (worth about $60 in today’s dollars). If you needed to rewind you flipped the cassette over and fast-forwarded the opposite side. But it did come with those iconic cheap 80s headphones with the orange ear cushions (as seen in “Guardians of the Galaxy”).

I might have wanted one with a radio, but the extra five or ten bucks would have been too much of a stretch for this middle-schooler.

Thanks to the Pocket Calculator Show’s extensive archive directories of portable stereos I’ve concluded I had likely had the Sanyo M-G7, without radio. The lack of receiver would be supplemented by a Magnavox D1600 tiny portable AM/FM radio I received as a birthday gift. Back then I think we’d have called it a “Walkman radio,” since it didn’t have a speaker, intended only for headphone listening.

Radios like this were directly influenced by the Walkman. Tiny transistor radios had been around a couple of decades by the early 80s, and most included an earphone jack for discreet listening. But they almost always had a tinny speaker intended for most of the listening, offering overall a mono, low-fidelity experience.

New breed Walkman-style radios were headphone-only, and much tinier. That Magnavox was the size of a deck of cards, only about one-third as thick. Plus, it offered FM stereo. Though, in reality, because the headphone cable doubled as the antenna, you had to find a really strong signal to get that stereo light to go on. Even so, sometimes even the slightest movement could kill it.

It wasn’t long after getting that first Sanyo player that I desired an upgrade that was smaller, sounded better and might even rewind tapes. Thereafter every Walkman-style player I’d get would have a radio – never would I have considered one without it. That’s not just because I’m a life-long radio nerd.

Sometimes you’d get tired of the one or two tapes you have with you, and want to hear something different. Or I’d want to catch a specific show while on the school bus or out walking. Also, in the days before good rechargeable batteries, often the radio still worked decently even when worn-down batteries made Metallica sound like Leonard Cohen.

Though Walkman is a Sony trademark, the only actual Sony model I ever owned was one a heavy-duty, water-proof, bright yellow Sports Walkman from the early 90s. As it turned out, that would be my last one, for all intents and purposes. Though I’ve owned a couple more in the intervening years, they were all recording models that primarily saw duty as cheap field recorders.

By 1991 I got my first Sony Discman portable CD player, which competed for listening time with the cassette Walkman. I didn’t give up on cassettes, since these were the days before CD-Rs, and I was still a prolific mix-tape maker and trader. But since I bought most of my music on CD the Discman was more likely to be my travel companion.

One con of pretty much every portable CD player I’ve owned is that none had a radio. I seem to remember such existing, but they were far less common than cassette players with radios. I wonder if maybe the far more sophisticated CD electronics posed more interference than the comparatively primitive cassette mechanicals.

The lack of integrated radio persisted as I graduated to minidisc as my primary portable music device in 1997. Though sometimes derided as a failure, the format lasted more than 20 years, and at that time it gave me all the recording convenience of a cassette, with near-CD quality, in a much smaller package.

I remember one minidisc recorder I owned that had a radio integrated into its wired remote – a wired remote with a headphone jack was a common feature – rather than on the unit itself. Again, I think the minidisc electronics created too much interference to have it housed in the same case a radio. Though it was a clever workaround, performance was disappointing. So, it went mostly unused.

That’s why I always had a little Walkman-style radio in my arsenal. Often used for daily public transport commutes, they were always in my travel bag to scan the dial when visiting different cities.

For a while, in the awkward time between the slow decline of the minidisc format and the rise of the smartphone I had a tiny Sansa branded MP3 player that featured a surprisingly good FM tuner. That actually got a lot of use even after I got my first iPhone, since it was the size of a couple of chapsticks, taking up almost no space in any bag.

I’m a little chagrined to admit that I don’t currently have a Walkman-style radio now. It’s true that the smartphone dominates my portable listening, and for most trips, short or long, I’m more inclined to choose podcasts or my own music. I do still travel with a radio, but these days I use one with a speaker, shortwave reception and a built-in digital recorder. True, it’s bigger than the tiny Walkman radios I’ve owned, but it does a lot more, too.

Thinking about it is making me want to get one. Turns out, there are still plenty out there, though most are from obscure Chinese brands. Looks like too small a niche for Sony anymore. That said, you can get a cute little red Sony MP3 player that has a radio for about $60, or an FM-enabled Sansa Clip Jam for less than $30. It’s just that with the MP3 players you give up AM reception.

Given that new portable cassette players are even more rare, it may well be the case that the Walkman-style radio has, or will, outlive the cassette player that inspired it.

At least until Sony decides there’s enough nostalgia dollars out there to cash in.

Feature image credit: Grant Hutchinson / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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