We are free radio for a free Portland, occupying the airwaves while you occupy the streets. We broadcast when necessary on the radio and online.
This is why we broadcast:
Radio stations don't need to broadcast 24/7. Too many stations--commercial and non-commercial--just fill time with automated jukeboxes, with no humans involved. Instead more voices can be heard when we share the airwaves.
That's why Portland Free Radio isn't on the air all the time. We are happy to cede this spot on the dial to any other station that wants to use it.
We want to hear dozens or hundreds of stations take to the air in the cracks in the sidewalk, the frequencies where the voices of the many can be squeezed in between the voices of the few.
It's nearly comical how easy it is to obtain a transmitter right now. Decent quality 5, 7, 10, 15-watt and even more powerful transmitters can be bought on Ebay or even Amazon.com! Whereas ten years ago you had to build your own or take your chances ordering from overseas, today Amerikkka's biggest online retalier is ready to deliver one to your door in 2 days or less.
Just search Amazon for "15 watt transmitter" and you can pick up a transmitter and antenna package that will get you on air right away.
On Ebay search "FM broadcast transmitter" to see plenty of options similar to the models on Amazon (but perhaps with the ability to buy more anonymously).
Add a microphone, mixer and some sound sources (CD player, computer or MP3 player) and you're good to go.
Of course, there's more to learn about maximizing your tranmission range (we'll add docs to this website to help out), but this is a good start.
Updated Feb. 15, 2018
Thanks to voracious commercial radio companies and Christian radio behemoths, good frequencies are getting harder to find. We've done some of that work for you.
You want a frequency that is at least .4 MHz away from another station on either side. The reason why you want this distance is so that you don't interfere with that station nearby your transmitter, but also so that they don't interfere with you, increasing your chances of being heard. Also, if you do interfere with a licensed station that just increases the likelihood of complaints and for the FCC to get off their butts to come looking for you.
In central Portland, in a roughly 5 mile radius from downtown, there are some decent frequencies for free radio -- here's the rundown:
This part's simple, just do these things in order:
Note that antennas work best outdoors, mounted as high as possible, away from obstructions like buildings, trees and (especially) power lines. Remember, antennas conduct electricity well, so really do stay away from power lines and don't broadcast during electrical storms unless you've properly grounded your antenna.
There's no perfection here. It's more important to broacast than to have the perfect broadcast. So do your best to find a good location and go.
Yes, yes, broadcasting without a license on the FM dial is technically against the law. However, so is speeding 5 MPH over the limit, or jaywalking, yet people do those things all the time. Sure, once in a while someone gets caught. But most of the time, not. Free radio is just like that.
Just like speeding, a little bit of caution and forethought goes a long way. The FCC aren't cops and they're not patrolling the airwaves looking for pirates. Instead, they act on complaints, and are very slow to respond. Make yourself hard to identify and find and you'll have a very good chance you'll never be caught.
First thing, don't broadcast 24/7. It's not just a nice way to give others a chance to broadcast, it also means it's less like the FCC will find your station. It's simple: if you're not broadcasting when the FCC goes looking, then you can't be found. Also, the FCC guys don't want to work outside business hours if they don't have to, so broadcasting after 5 PM and on weekends makes you more of a pain to track down. Also, the more unpredictable your broadcasts are, the harder they are to track down, too.
Change locations or go mobile. Broadcasting from different locations means more work for anyone who wants to find you. All of these transmitters we mentioned above run on 12V DC which and so they can be easily adapted to run from your car's 12V outlet. Or you can get a 12v mobile battery like the ones made to jump car batteries if you don't want to be tied to a car.
Be careful with publicity. It's natural to want people to tune in to your station, but loose lips sink ships. Take care with who knows who runs your station. Use psuedonyms and stay anonymous. Also, don't talk to the press. It may seem like a great idea to have the Willamette Week or Portland Mercury spread the word, even if they promise anonymity. But don't think for a second that article won't land right on the desk of the local FCC office director making your station public enemy #1. Good publicity for you is bad publicity for the FCC, and will give them every incentive to step up efforts to find you and shut you down.
Use secure communications. You don't need a website, but if you feel the need to set one up don't use a Blogspot site associated with your Google or Gmail account. And sure as shit don't use Facebook. That's because it's so hard to figure out what digital fingerprints you've left behind with these services. We use Neocities because it's pretty clean and run by cool people. Same precautions go for email and other social media. For email we use ProtonMail because it was set up by Swiss scientists to be secure. Of course, we don't trust our government, so we also access it using "incognito" mode in our browser over a VPN. For free/inexpensive solutions consider the Opera browser with free VPN built in or the Tor browser. Don't put your station's email on your primary smartphone, and while you're at it, consider getting a burner phone to use for anything broadcast related, while keeping your primary phone turned off (or at least with GPS off and in airline mode) while broadcasting.
Don't worry. Follow this advice and it's unlikely you'll come face to face with an employee of the FCC. Remember, they're not cops. If someone comes to your door saying they're from the FCC, don't talk to them. Don't let them in. Don't answer their questions. They can't arrest you. In the the most extreme cases they can get a warrant and show up with cops, but that only happens after they've made quite a few unsuccessful visits.
So in the unlikely event the FCC shows up to your broadcast location, and you've succesfully kept your mouth shut and not let them in, after they go away shut down the transmitter and relocate your station. Maybe consider changing the name and frequency the next time you broadcast so that it seems like a whole new station. Keep the FCC playing Whack-a-Mole, because nobody ever wins that stupid game.