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Micro Radio Manifesto

Tetsuo Kogawa

Micro radio used to be a compromise to restrain oneself from using higher power transmitter because of the budget or the regulation. The first conscious micro radio started in the mid-1970s in Italy. As Felix Guattari wrote, "des millions et des millions d'Alice en puissance", over a thousand of micro free radio stations appeared along with the 'Autonomia' movement in Italy and then influenced other countries especially France. In Australia, the situation was different. Under the clever decision of Whitlam government, many cities started to have a new type of multi-lingual and multi-cultural community radio stations in the late 70s. In Japan, "Mini FM" boom began in the early 80s. It was a totally different type of micro radio: radio with literally micro-powered transmitter. It was a miracle that such a micro radio did work as a radio. So, the micro radio scene of the 80s was a mixture of the Italian free radio and a new element of the technological paradox.

After the late 80s, micro "pirate" stations in the US went into a new legal struggle against the authority for popular demands: Napoleon Williams' Black Liberation Radio in Illinois and then Stephen Dunifer's Free Radio Berkeley were famous. In 2000, FCC started a new license category "LPFM" (Low power FM). This means that the micro radio in the US is institutionalized and also that those who transmit without license are considered as illegal. The early dream of micro radio paradise is over. Even such a micro enclave is now controlled by the system. It would be no surprise because nowadays every control invades into not only individual but also cerebral space. However, I still believe that micro radio can be located in different levels from the institutionalized space.

What do you intend to say by micro? In the core of the movements, it should have connoted ia meaning different from mere size of transmitting power and service area. It connotes something qualitatively different. Big or small in physical size is not so important. Therefore the same thing could happen at a big radio station as what we did in a micro radio. Micro radio is an alternative to mass medium and global communications that could cover the globe with the qualitatively same and patterned information. Now that our microscopic space is under surveillance, micro radio should pay attention to more micro but qualitatively more 'micro' area. In order understand this, you may experimaentally use a very low-power transmitter. Theoretically you can do the same thing by high-power transmitter but it will deceive your perception what the micro is becase you have been surrounded by numerous high-power transmissions. We have to use a kind of "phenomenological bracketting" to perceive what the things are.

LPFM covers up to 100 watts. "Community FM" in Japan (which was legally introduced as an institutionalized "Mini FM") allows 10 watts now (initially up to 1 watt). I think even these power levels are too much for micro radio. What about one watt? What about below one watt? Such a micro-power radio station could cover only a street block radius or only a housing complex. Why not? Leon Theremin showed the minimum example of micro radio. His invention is not only a musical instrument but also a micro radio.

Given the age of various global means such as the satellite communications and the Internet, micro radio can concentrate itself into its more authentic territory: microscopic airwave space.

Why don't you go to a radio station just as you did to theatres. Micro radio theatre could be possible. The airwaves cover only a housing space. That is enough. I have been organizing micro radio party. This is an attempt to change a space to a qualitatively different by a micro transmitter.
Let's start with your own familiar space. Change in a tiny space could resonate to larger space but without microscopic change no radical change would be possible.

Alternative medium tends to establish its own physical "home base." But, as Hakim Bey argues, the today's alternative "home base" is relevant only as "Temporary Autonomous Zone (T.A.Z.)." There is an another way: a method of "in exile". After WBAI was controlled by commercial money, some of the programs such as "Democratic Now" started their program with a and a micro radio. Democratic Now rented a space in Lower East Side of New York and their program was broadcast as "WBAI in Exile". I think that in a sense radical radio is always did a good job n a certain sort of "exile": Radio Veritas, Manila in the 80s and B92 in the 90s. iInternet is basically translocal medium. Different from printing medium, the space exits temporally and is out of geographical-physical location. Who cares where you are transmitting. You can maintain a "permanent" space with your lisners as long as you and your listners agree with communicating. When I met Amy Goodman of Democratic Now and asked if ther style using "low-tech" (their facilities and studio space) might derive from the micro radio culture, she denied my question as if I had not enough appreciated their activity. Of course it was not what I meant. Although WBAI is coming back to an authentic radical radio station again, the "in exile" form of collaboration (where independent micro units in exile can link together) is much more newer and viable. Given various "global" technology of linkage and relay, micro radio is enough in size for the unit of radio station.

As a means to cover larger area, airwaves are wasteful and not ecological. Big radio is no more necessary. Sooner or later, large and global communication technologies will be integrated into the Internet. Radio, television and telephone will become local nodes to it. Thus globalists will discard such exiting medium. A new type of multi-media terminal linking to the internet will appear. So it is the time when radio and television (and even telephone) must re-find their own emancipating possibility. Micro radio station will re-find a possibility of getting-together space such as theatre and club. It will not reject global medium but will use them as a linking and networking means. By translocal micro medium, even global medium could become polymorphous and diverse (not only in the contents but also in the style to let people encounter).

Tetsuo Kogawa (November 24, 2002/May 7, 2003)

Mini FM as an Unique Form of Micro Radio

Theory and History of Mini FM:"Toward Polymorphous Radio" by Tetsuo Kogawa
14 years of Radio Home Run, Tokyo
"Mini FM in Hornby Island" by Patrick Ready
Radio Party

Workshop + Party
Workshop + Parformance + Party
Performance + Party
Technological Information

How to make a micro radio transmitter
Diagrams of FM Micro Radio transmitter
3D VRML object of FM Micro Radio transmitter (needs VRML-Player)

Micro Radio Links
THE THING FM project
FCC's Low Power FM Broadcasting Policy
Art's Theremin Page
Active Mini-FM Stations - Pirate/Free Radio Net Links

people media open_source logbook links fmedia_jingle fmedia_jingle