What cool and unusual things can be done with low-power community radio?
June 21, 2013 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Some friends are interested in starting a low-power community radio station in my hometown. What fun, interesting, and unusual things we could do with this?

What can we do with radio waves that we couldn't already do better on the Internet?

I'm really interested in the idea of radio station as laboratory, broadcasting as necessary, but really focused on doing as many different things as possibly can be done with radio frequency energy.

Please give me your ideas!
posted by atchafalaya to Technology (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Ultralocal weather forecasting and traffic updates.
Long-form music - entire albums at a shot. There was a local station that did this a few towns ago, I loved it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:43 AM on June 21, 2013

Presentations by, or interviews with, local people who aren't necessarily celebs or politicians- just regular folks.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:49 AM on June 21, 2013

Bring back the community newsletter! So and so got engaged, had a baby, is visiting from out of town.

Item swap: Joe needs a ladder. Betty needs a hammer.

Let's all help so and so, who injured her leg and can't shovel the snow any more.

Didja know? So and so is has this special skill! Ask him about it next time you see him.

Local history - did you know this street was named after Sir Buck?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:49 AM on June 21, 2013

Here in Portland we have a pretty large community radio station, KBOO. It's wonderfully eclectic. It's a pretty political place, so ymmv, but they used to, for example, read the body counts for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan every day. They also have all sorts of weird music programs, like contemporary classical music hour, weird advice shows, they used to have a cool DIY show before OPB got hold of it, lots of interesting music like two hours of Grateful Dead live shows each week, lots of live broadcasts of weird things from around town no one else will cover, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:50 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is a local station that I've heard while driving through the midwest that does a sort of classfied ad show. You write in and tell them what you have for sale and the host reads it on the air and gives your number and people can contact you. This doesn't quite hit the "Not available on the internet" criteria, but for a lot of places where Craigslist is too broad (I have a CL that is basically for all of Vermont) it's a neat community-building exercise.

Also: chapters of books, hyperlocal weather and news and obits, interviews with people in the community, a really up to date and non-spammy calendar, and a local history show.
posted by jessamyn at 11:50 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Read bedtime stories to all the kids! On the radio! And mention their names!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:51 AM on June 21, 2013

Ok I just realized I'm not sure the size of your town... but you could divide the town up into sections and spend a week specializing on each section, with the ideas listed above.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:59 AM on June 21, 2013

There is a whole mess of disappearing culture and music in your area that needs help preserving and spreading. This guy could give you some content ideas and maybe even fill an hour or two!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:06 PM on June 21, 2013

Local restaurant reviews.
Ultra-local news.
Play music from unsigned local bands/musicians.
(You probably can't play music by established/signed bands, due to copyright and royalty requirements)
posted by Thorzdad at 12:08 PM on June 21, 2013

I've always wanted to hook a low-power station to a computer and let people email MP3s to the machine. Whatever gets mailed gets played.

There probably also needs to be some kind of kill switch on the thing, but I guess that depends on how you trust your userbase. One could make the email address available to everyone, or just trusted people.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:15 PM on June 21, 2013

I've always wanted to hook a low-power station to a computer and let people email MP3s to the machine. Whatever gets mailed gets played.

There probably also needs to be some kind of kill switch on the thing, but I guess that depends on how you trust your userbase. One could make the email address available to everyone, or just trusted people.

A local paper in my hometown had a thing where people could call in and leave an answering machine message of up to 3 minutes, which the paper would transcribe and print. Anything that wasn't totally unprintable would appear, unfiltered , in a weekly column. You could do something like that, bleeping anything super pornographic or whatever.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:33 PM on June 21, 2013

We have one of the best community-supported stations in the country right here in Memphis, TN. WEVL gives airtime for weekly shows in two-hour slots. What ends up happening is that random local guy Joe is an expert on New Orleans Jazz, or Celtic, or punk, or big bands from the 40's, or the local music scene, or 50's country, or delta blues. Joe is given a weekly time slot and creates a show in the two-hour format, either by lugging his album collection to the station or taping it ahead of time at home. Joe also does interviews with musicians who are passing through town, or locals with a new cd. Sometimes, Joe plays one entire album from start to finish, commenting in between songs. The only rule seems to be that Joe can't play his OWN music, if he's a member of a local band.

We LOVE our local station. We all have favorite shows and tune in weekly. We also end up hearing a TON of different genres just by keeping our car radios tuned in.
posted by raisingsand at 12:42 PM on June 21, 2013

One of my friends who lives in Austin has a low-power FM station (I think it's half a watt) that broadcasts whatever music he's listening to on his computer to a couple-block radius. He just tunes in via radios around the house, but I think a lot of his neighbors also listen in when they're in the mood for avant garde & contemporary classical stuff.

The performance group we both used to work with once used the transmitter to broadcast (fake) local radio broadcasts to 97.5FM, each supposedly being broadcast from community radio stations in town along the Hudson River Valley. We were broadcasting for a multi-day performance constructed for a single person, and in the train scene she'd been given an old Walkman radio jammed to 97.5 by a stranger on the Amtrak and was listening in. The transmitter was broadcasting from business class (outlets by every seat!), hooked into iTunes, where my friend was dj'ing so the timing synched perfectly, since Amtrak's stop times can vary and there are lots of stops on this route.
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:50 PM on June 21, 2013

Ambient sound. Set up a mic in the backyard/on the roof/out the window and just let it run.
posted by clorox at 1:21 PM on June 21, 2013

Radio receivers are cheap. Circuits that can detect specific tones then do something are cheap. This can let you make gizmos for an alternate reality game.
posted by Sophont at 1:34 PM on June 21, 2013

Old school Radio Shows!

Make a foley box/(download some free sound effects to your ipod) and write some meaningful twenty minute shows. Bonus, if you want to really get old school, sell ad time to tobacco companies and get rich!
posted by Sphinx at 5:37 PM on June 21, 2013

Exquisite corpse, radio style! Have a few storytellers rotate and each storyteller has to listen to the segment prior, and continue the story for the duration of their next shift.
posted by Night_owl at 5:54 PM on June 21, 2013

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