Every Man a King of All Media


Some veterans of the micro radio movement have taken on a new project, low-power unlicensed television. One possible inspiration: Italy's recent boom in pirate TV.

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  1. Isn’t this supposed to have been reported by Edison Carter?

  2. No, he’s working on the blipverts story. You must be looking for the TiVo thread…

  3. I seem to remember pirate TV playing a role in the Polish anti-communism movement as well as undermining Chinese official denials about Tiananmen Square.

  4. Hmm… Blogs + Pirate TV…possibly an interesting combination. I sure would tune in to H&R TV or an InstaBroadcast.

  5. It’s about time. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. The old FCC argument about a finite number of frequencies certainly won’t hold any water because there aren’t that many broadcast stations in most markets – there’s plenty of room in the spectrum. However, I still think the real future for independent media lies with whoever offers streaming video blogging first. If we can ever get to a point where high quality video streaming is available at a halfway decent price, and incorporate that into a blog style site with the functionality of a Blackboard or WebCT style environment – WHeeeee!

  6. I agree with you, Potts — and I also think these pirate stations will be hobbled by the fact that they aren’t on cable. Still, power to them.

    There’s a sporadic history of unlicensed TV in America, but no movement as organized as the ’90s radio microbroadcasters. Somewhere in my files I have a memoir about a pirate TV station a guy operated in the ’70s — it defied the FCC while managing to get some grants from some other wing of the government. That story always tickled me…

  7. I don’t get it. We have public access channels on cable that can’t cost much, so I’d think that pirates would do better in that sort of concept. Is that just not bucking the system enough?

  8. Depends on where you live, Jason. Some towns have public access channels; some don’t. Some of the ones that do are very restrictive about what can go on the air; some are pretty laissez-faire.

    Also, a program that airs on both pirate TV and public access would be available both to viewers who have cable and to viewers who don’t. Whether that’s worth it depends on how much of a potential audience the show has.

  9. Jason, the public access station here in Charlotte is pretty restrictive. I’ve looked into doing some production there… They are only open from 9-5 on weekdays, and even though I’ve been in the production industry for over five years, I’d still have to pay to take their course for amateur producers. On top of all that, I’m in the bible belt, and not only are the content rules stifling, I couldn’t even get a program in edgewise between all of the religious crackpots.

  10. Heh, I follow now, at least that part. I’m flexing my ignorance here, but how exactly do public access channels work? Is it just a slot held open on the dial, or do public dollars fund them somehow? What if some pirates got together and said ‘we want a crappy local slot to amuse ourselves with, and we agree not to be more perverse than Cinemax’? I wonder how much that would cost …

  11. My question would be… Is higher potential for accidentally coming across the pirate broadcast what makes it better than a webcam and a microphone?

    Cuz right now you can do an audio/video stream via webcam pretty damn cheap. I haven’t tried Netmeeting with more than a dozen people at once, but it accomplishes the same thing.

  12. I think normally, most public access stations are local non-profit groups that the existing cable monopoly in the area allows to broadcast on one of its channels. I’m not sure, however if this is a result of legislation or the public relations departments of the cable companies. I do know that the access station here receives no taxpayer support, they exist through private foundations and fundraising drives. Stations such as the ones that originate from community colleges and some universities are also considered public “educational” access stations, and are paid for with the public money at those institutions, but usually have their space on the cable system donated by the cable companies. The way to do what you are saying would probably be to organize a large group of local indie media producers and flood the public access station in your area with content. Schedule every available timeslot, every production time, etc.

  13. I’m flexing my ignorance here, but how exactly do public access channels work? Is it just a slot held open on the dial, or do public dollars fund them somehow?

    It varies from place to place, but towns frequently require cable companies to have one or more public access channel as a condition of their franchise with the city. The FCC used to require cable companies in all communities above a certain size to have such channels, but I think this rule was struck down in the late ’70s or early ’80s.

  14. Well, the “Public Access” channel here in Columbus OH is nothing more than a shuffling of Powerpoint slides noting church events. It was essentially

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