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Run your own radio station!

Run your own radio station!

By: Ian Freeman

Have you ever wondered what it takes to start your own radio station?  Allow me to explain.  I am the program director of LRN.FM, the Liberty Radio Network.  LRN.FM airs liberty-oriented talk programming 24/7, including “Declare Your Independence” with Ernest Hancock, Antiwar Radio, and Free Talk Live on weekdays, as well as other great, live weekend programs.  LRN.FM was designed to make starting your radio station as easy as possible.  Running a radio station can be very effective activism at a very low cost " a fifty-watt transmitter is less costly than some lightbulbs, but can reach everyone in a large area that has a radio, and that is a LOT of people.  Yes, risk of aggression from the FCC is involved, or in some cases like Florida, local police.  Few things are worth doing that aren’t risky, though, so if you’re ready to take your activism to the airwaves, this is the guide for you.  I’m going to share with you a page from LRN.FM’s site with explicit detail regarding how to start your own radio station.  You can see the page and click all the useful links at

Thank you for your interest in broadcasting the ideas of liberty, and your courage! Ian Freeman

1. Choose your audio delivery method:
LRN.FM is available 24/7 to your radio station via two primary delivery methods: Ku-band Satellite and Internet Streaming.
A. Free-to-Air Ku-band Satellite

Run your own station!Pros: Our Ku-band free-to-air satellite channel goes everywhere in North America the internet can’t reach. “Free-to-air” means all you need is an affordable dish and receiver, there is no monthly cost. (Click to see a detailed signal map with minimum dish width for your location.) LRN.FM is sent with no encryption, hence the term “free-to-air”. Satellite delivery is lower delay than internet delivery and has no increased bandwidth costs, meaning there is no limit to the amount of satellite receivers can be in use. Whether it’s 1,000 or 1,000,000, our satellite costs are the same. Not so with internet, where each additional user contributes to an increase in cost. Satellite reception is possible anywhere that has a view of the Southern sky.

Cons: Subject to rain-fade. Heavy rain can knock out your signal, meaning dead-air, though a larger dish may help remedy this in rain-heavy areas. (There are ways to detect silence and remedy that, but at this time it requires extra equipment. Ask in the forum if you are interested.) Only works with a view of the Southern sky and the appropriate availability of dish space.

B. Internet Streaming

Pros: Our broadband stream is as reliable as your internet connection. (We’ve got two connections at the network, so our stream is pretty reliable.) Affordable receiving equipment is available with backup options to prevent dead-air.

Cons: High-delay. Monthly costs for your internet connection. Limited to areas with internet access.

2. Choose your receiving equipment:

Micro broadcasting can be done with a micro budget, but spending a little more on quality equipment can go a long way. Here are some suggested hardware options for various budgets (not including necessary cables):

A. Micro Budget

Satellite: Receiving equipment can be very affordable. New and used Free-to-Air receivers can be found for under $100. Here are some receivers at Amazon. You’ll also need a dish that is at least 30″ to receive Ku-band.

Internet: You can use an existing computer to receive our stream, but that requires running a computer 24/7, so a better idea might be a cheap internet radio which would consume less power and be dedicated to audio receiving. Operating system issues, reboots, or other such problems will not afflict a dedicated audio receiver.

B. Medium Budget

Satellite: You don’t need to pay much more to get a receiver with decent audio connections. At the time of this writing the rackmountable GeoSatPro DSR-R100 with balanced XLR outputs was only $185. Larger satellite dishes don’t cost much more and will collect more signal, meaning less chance of rain fade. (Though, even the minimum 30″ dish doesn’t tend to rain fade until very heavy rain, from my experience.) Also, you’ll need a larger dish if you are in the weaker signal areas shown on our signal map.

Internet: The internet radios I linked to in the micro budget section are good, but professional-level equipment doesn’t cost much more. As of this writing, you can get the Barix Extreamer 100 for $195 and free shipping. The Extreamer will feed audio 24/7 from our stream, and if for some reason our stream fails, it can fall back to other streams or a flash drive that you plug into the front of the unit loaded with MP3s. This nearly eliminates the possibility of dead air (unless the unit itself fails, which is highly unlikely as this is a professional, solid-state device). For the backup MP3s LRN.FM recommends using MP3s that are of an introduction-to-liberty theme. Here are some links to good MP3s, including audio versions of Wes Bertrand’s “Complete Liberty”, The Tannehills’ “The Market For Liberty”, Dr. Mary Ruwart’s “Healing Our World”Spooner’s “No Treason” (or this version from Mises), Bastiat’s “The Law”, and the Liberty Radio Underground. Wondering how to hook your Extreamer up via wifi? Read about one possible solution here on the Free Radio Forum.

C. Large Budget

Satellite: TBA " I haven’t found a better unit than the rackmountable GeoSatPro DSR-R100 with balanced XLR outputs that I describe in the medium budget section, so until I do, that will occupy this space.

Internet: In the medium budget section above I introduced you to the Extreamer 100. Well, Barix has now released the Extreamer 500, which you can purchase through Broadcast Supply World for just over $500. (As of this writing on 9/25/10, it is not listed yet on their site at, so you’ll have to call them.) The 500 is a more professional version of the 100 and includes the all-important balanced audio outputs, which are a big help if you have a professional-grade transmitter with balanced inputs. You’ll need to install the streaming client firmware available through Barix’s site to get it to tune in LRN.FM.

3. Choose your broadcasting equipment:

Here are some suggested hardware options for various budgets (not including necessary cables):

A. Micro Budget

Transmitter & Antenna: At the micro budget level, when you buy a transmitter, it usually comes with an antenna and cabling. I’ve heard good things about Hlly products, but have no experience with them. There are a few Chinese manufacturers offering transmitters on ebay in addition to Hlly. IMPORTANT NOTE: In order to be a good neighbor and broadcaster, you need to have a low pass filter in addition to your transmitter. Most of the “cheapie” transmitters do not have this part inside them, so you’ll need one separate from your transmitter. Here’s one from Ramsey Electronics available as a kit or assembled.

B. Medium-Large Budget

Transmitter: As mentioned above, HLLY and the other manufacturers on ebay sell a variety of tranmitters at different power levels. Plus, for REAL professional FM transmitters, see this thread on the Free Radio Forum. As noted above, please ensure your transmitter has a low-pass filter in it, or you’ll need to get one. The more you spend, the more wattage you’ll get, but watts aren’t the most important factor in FM transmission " the most important factor is antenna height.

Antenna: A good omnidirectional antenna is a 5/8 wave like this one from Ramsey. It can handle up to 200 watts and you can find a similar version from Comet for less elsewhere. You can of course find other antennas that can handle more watts and also are directional, if you are wanting to pay more.

4. Final Steps
A. Find an open channel

First, use this handy tool, then drive around listening to that station to make sure it is actually clear.

B. Install and configure your equipment.

Remember to tune your antenna for the frequency you’ve chosen or you will get poor SWR. NEVER power your transmitter up without an appropriate antenna attached! Also, make sure you are not over-modulating as you could potentially interfere with an adjacent channel and attract negative attention. Additionally, make sure to ensure that your neighbors can receive channels adjacent to yours and that you are not interfering. Take a cheap radio outside your home and check reception on other existing channels. If it’s clear in your yard, it’s probably clear in your neighbor’s home. If you know your neighbors, you can ask them if they’ve been receiving any unusual interference on their favorite stations. More useful technical information here at and also on the Free Radio Forum.

C. Power it up!

Wait " you ARE using an Uninterruptable Power Supply, right? Regardless of your budget, this is an important tool to protect your investment. The more you spend, the more watts your UPS can handle, and the longer it will stay online during a power outage.

D. Let us know you’re out there.

If you’re using LRN for your station, please email LRN at LRN.FM and let us know so we can add your station to our affiliates list. Don’t forget to update us if you have a frequency change, pull our programming, or go off-the-air.

E. Join the Free Radio Forum.

Be sure to join the Free Radio Forum for more discussion about broadcasting LRN.FM including suggestions for handling the FCC.

5. Options and Expansion:

Here are some ideas for how to go beyond LRN.FM and launch your own local show(s):

A. Micro Budget

Adding a local show on-the-cheap: Grab an affordable mixer, mics and cables. Plug them all in and add your existing LRN.FM feed as a source on your mixer. When you want to go live-and-local, just turn up the mics, turn down LRN, and go. The output of your mixer should feed your transmitter. Don’t forget to also feed your computer so you can record your show for internet release or even stream it over your own internet stream, which I’ll address in the next section. Many mixers sold now make feeding a computer easy, via USB connection.

B. Medium / Large Budget

Equipment: You can spend more and get mic processors, process your entire station’s audio, purchase and install radio automation software to insert local commercials or PSAs, as per our Network Clock. Automation software ranges from free to cheap-to-midrange to very expensive.

Studio: At some point you’ll want to deaden the sound in your studio. There are various ways of doing this at various price ranges. LRN.FM’s studio uses ATSAcoustics sound panels.

Streaming your Station: got a web server? Install Shoutcast or Icecast and stream your station online.

Promotion and Community Involvement: Get a website up, promote your station locally via fliers, word-of-mouth and other advertising. If you’re doing live-and-local content and filling your programming gaps with LRN, then you’ve moved into the realm of being a community station so get out and volunteer, raise money for charity, run PSAs, or whatever will get you and your station integrated with the goodwill of the community.

Have fun!

First to name all four activist, know where this was and when gets 1 year free Full Subscription to FreedomsPhoenix Multi-Media/Tool Package.
Email with answer!

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