Ham Radio News: Citizen Radio, Dipole Antennas

In this installment of his regular column, the author relates details of a recent conversation about citizen radio and provide technical tips about dipole antennas.


| September/October 1974



029 copthorne macdonald - citizens radio

Copthorne Macdonald, founder of New Directions Radio, is a long time advocate of citizens radio. 


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

During a recent New Directions Roundtable session, we talked with good guy Nicholas Johnson about citizen radio and control television in the U.S. Nick—a former FCC Commissioner who currently heads the National Citizens' Committee for Broadcasting—is a long-time proponent of getting the media out of the hands of big money and into the hands of the people. As he pointed out, the real "product" marketed by the communications industry is the listening audience ... which is sold to advertisers as so much per thousand head. Any action which tends to upset this state of affairs will therefore be fought by the networks and by the FCC, which takes the position that commercial stations are operating in the public interest.

Public Broadcasting, alternative radio such as the Pacifica stations, audience participation via telephone, and the use of ham rigs for serious communication are, Nick thinks, steps in the right direction. His book, How to Talk Back to Your Television Set (published in hard cover by Little, Brown and Company in 1970 at $5.75 and available in paperback from Bantam Press for 95¢), contains other ideas for citizen action.

Here's one area where grassroots projects might be effective: Among the members of our society who have least access to electronic communications media are those groups which have been shortchanged in other areas too: native peoples, the poor, Blacks, Chicanos, etc. Because such cultural minorities are commonly much less into the written word than the average middle class American, possession of audio-visual devices such as radio and TV is that much more important to them.

Billy Mitchell, who works on the Mohawk Nation's newspaper, Akwesasne Notes, has asked whether we can help our Red brothers—who are scattered all over the country—get it together via radio. I pass the question along to you and would like to hear from those who have ideas and/or the desire to get involved.

Canada is carrying out a lot of interesting activities along these lines, including the establishment of a radio and videotape network—RAVEN—to link Indian groups in British Columbia ... and the installation of hundreds of small TV and radio transmitters in isolated areas. I asked Nick Johnson about the possibility of the FCC's authorizing similar short-range, low-cost, "community" TV stations. He said that the Commission had already been approached with this idea and had voted it down. Unfortunately, Nick sees little hope of any such development in the near future. (After all, we have to keep watching those commercial channels so we can be sold!)

Now to a couple of good words I'd like to pass along. First, here's a suggestion from Curt Barnes (WB6 EUN): If you try for a license, take the Advanced Class test at the same time you tackle your General exam. You have nothing to lose, since failing the higher level has no effect on your passing the General, and at least you'll have met the exam face to face. If you do pass, another bonus is that you'll get the higher-class license at no additional cost (whereas coming back later to take the Advanced test would cost another $9.00).





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