For Stockwell Park Tenant Management Association

Media Centre.
February 2001

23 Bennett Street,

Bath, Avon, BA1 2QL

Email: Homepage:



1. Introduction

2. Pirate FM Radio Broadcasting

3. Avoiding Restrictions

4. Web Radio Broadcasting

5. Web TV Broadcasting

6. IEEE 802.11 Licence Exempt Hardware

7. Communal Aerial Systems

8. The MP3 Radio Server:

9. TV WEB "InterMedia TV" (a new innovation)


11.Glossary of Terms



1. Introduction:

1.1 These notes have been written to outline alternative technical and physical possibilities for local Community Radio Broadcasting in the United Kingdom circa 2001.

1.2 Particular focus is given to support for the Media Centre at Stockwell Park Community Centre, Brixton, London, for which a Feasibility Study was undertaken in 1992.

2. Pirate FM Radio Broadcasting

2.1 Small FM Broadcast Radio Transmitters tunable in the range 88 – 106 MHz can be purchased for as little as £16. A good quality FM broadcast antenna or home-made ½ wave dipole will give good housing project/estate-wide signal coverage.

2.2 Use of such equipment for any broadcasting purposes in the U.K. has been a criminal offence since 1988.

3. Avoiding Restrictions

3.1 While crude but effective transmitting equipment is both inexpensive and simple to build, previous government regulations make it impossible to economically broadcast not-for-profit media on the airwaves as a legal undertaking.

3.2 For some programme makers there have always been alternative distribution methods such as through the production of CDs and Video Tapes but these have (and may always be) prohibitively expensive for "free" "educational" and "public service" broadcast media delivery.

3.3 Modern technology in the form of Internet Webcasting and WLANS makes these past restrictions less and less of a problem.

4. Web Radio Broadcasting

4.1 Recently the introduction of Internet Webcasting has made it possible to broadcast FM quality hi-fi stereo radio programmes to PC sound card /adapters anywhere in the world to and from a modern computer terminal, at the cost of a continuously provided internet connection.

4.2 For some subscribers, local calls and hence internet connections are provided free of tolls…. Webcasting is then very affordable.

5. Web TV Broadcasting

5.1 The imminent introduction (today in 2001) of "Broadband Internet Access" promises the same possibilities which currently exist for Web Radio & MP3 but now with high definition MPEG Web television.

6. IEEE 802.11 Licence Exempt Hardware

6.1 The current development of licence-exempt BROADBAND WIRELESS NETWORKS means that it is not unlawful to wirelessly broadcast computer data within a network – such a network can open internet connections and connect as a client to an Internet Webcaster.

6.2 A WLAN transmitting antenna can in effect be a "community media transmitter" (in fact capable of locally distributing several TV programmes and hundreds of FM quality channels at the same time on each of 12 WLAN channels. But initially requiring a PC with WLAN Card installed to decode and listen to the programmes from).

7. Communal Aerial Systems

7.1 Some communities such as Housing Projects/Estates have their own older internal Radio & TV distribution wiring already in place.

7.2 For community broadcasting, this is an enormously valuable asset for any "honest not-for-profit operator" in the community who needs to supply dozens of "free" television and radio programmes at the least possible cost.

7.3 Where hard wiring is available and under collective control, very low power FM Stereo Radio & TV Channel carriers can be inserted in the large gaps between the few (5 or more) locally used channels.

7.4 A small distribution unit in the rooftop circuitry will "inject" whatever new Radio and Television Programmes are required.

7.5 Providing this is not a "commercial service" private systems do not require licencing or external regulation as commercial cable companies, except possibly within the context of copyright and the performing rights licencing agencies.

7.6 A normal U.K. TV has 45 channels numbered from 23 to 68 but there are only 5 or 6 different terrestrial programmes available, leaving many available for "community media" or throughput of popular satellite channels .

7.7 Community Radio Programmes can be generated on FM frequencies between 88-105MHz providing they are confined to a few hundred microvolts within the communal antenna distribution system.

8. The MP3 Radio Server (a new innovation):

8.1 With any means of "broadcasting" the dedication and workload of keeping up a continuous programme feed 24hrs per day is problematic.

8.2 As a new concept in delivering community radio, the requirement for minute by minute station "minding" can be delegated to an up-to-date computer with a sound card, network access and a large hard disk in a system which can be remotely accessed.

8.3 A modern PC can directly store radio programs in 128Kbsec sampling MP3 format at about 16KB/per sec or 1.4GB/ per day. Each 10 GB of Hard Disk can therefore carry 7 Days and Nights of continuous broadcast FM stereo quality programmes.

8.4 Using a simple master timing, batch menu, MP3 Scheduling Programme the MP3 files can be "called" and "output" on a published Broadcasting Schedule which automatically repeats every week with split-second timing….

8.5 Individual franchised Producers of recorded programme can have access to different "time slots" to which they are tasked to upload a new programme on the weekly schedule. Should they default, the current week’s programme slot is simply filled in by a repeat of last week’s scheduled programme!…

8.6 This system can offer considerable autonomy, creative independence and "eclectic ownership" of airtime among a large body of trusted volunteers.

8.7 The same master timing batch menu MP3 Scheduling Programme can elect to switch in other audio programme sources. (such as a desk feed off a LIVE LOCAL VENUE, as NEWS STUDIO or any other radio station such as The BBC World Service off the internet).

8.8 Such a set-up (like automatic vending) can make 24 hour station management much less onerous and labourintensive and a more casual and part time (2/5) affair.

9. TV WEB "InterMedia TV" (a new innovation):

9.1 It will be impractical for the immediate future to store more than a few hours of broad bandwidth high quality television on an affordable PC.

9.2 Between Radio and (real) Television there exists a historically evolutionary intermediate option for community broadcasting called "InterMedia TV".

9.3 A low cost PC computer with a TV Output Adapter Card can generate TV programme in the form of a continual "Power Point" programme (slide-show screen presentation) or animated web pages of sound and images. which can be broadcast over an entire housing project/estate’s TV distribution network.

9.4 Similar in concept but with quality colour images and fine text, but much superior to "Teletext"; TV WEB can be used with a mixture of small ads, public information, with superior fixed and occasional "bursts" of high bandwidth moving images….

9.5 Being a HTML display it can include animations and quite good movie clips (anything in fact which can be displayed on a 480 x 640 VGA screen can be broadcast as InterMedia and received on a home TV set ).

9.6 These "InterMedia TV programme channels" can be administered and uploaded to the server as with a website (like the MP3 Radio Server).

9.7 The sound channel can be that normally attached to a web page or can be another "community radio channel programme".

9.8 It is logical to "simulcast" any community FM Radio on a spare TV channel (with only say an electronically generated test-card).

9.9 The equipment and especially Hard Disk Requirements of a (24 hour day / 7 day per week) INTERMEDIA TV SERVER are variable but can be managed to be similar to the previously described MP3 Radio Server.


10.1 The technical innovation of licence exempt Wireless LANS (WLANs) releasing LAN interconnections from buildings, makes it possible to develop something entirely new in ICT namely "Amateur and Community LANs".

10.2 Community WLANs are not-for-profit, local community owned and managed Social ICT broadband networks. They introduce the welcome prospect of completely profit-free broadband internet access and therein: NEW LOCAL RADIO, TELEVISION, PHONE AND VIDEO COMMUNICATION INITIATIVES....... delivered via a local small community owned co-operative, business or club.

10.3 Profit free high speed broadband access can give access to high quality video media for all sections of the community such as the very young, sick, elderly, unemployed and disadvantaged.

10.4 Profit free high speed broadband access additionally offers quality internet based face-to-face conferencing, counseling and cosmopolitan initiatives in culture and education which would otherwise for many years to come be the exclusive gift of wealthy upmarket consumers and businesses alone.

10.5 Profit free high speed broadband will be of enormous permanent benefit to children and young people and poorly resourced lower schools without their own telephones, ISDN or 'DSL etc.

10.6 Profit free high speed broadband can offer attractive permanent alternative educational advantages to rebellious, offending children and young people presently excluded from regular learning.

10.7 Profit free high speed broadband can enhance "teleworking" just by its speed and immediate realization of quality face-to-face video.

10.8 Profit free high speed broadband can encourage interest and self- training in all aspects of Community Media Programme Making, Management and Resourcing Solutions.

10.9 Profit free high speed broadband by facilitating Community Broadcasting can encourage greater local interest in all aspects of the Audio Visual and Performing Arts since it provides a voracious outlet for all works and activities.

10.10 Profit free high speed broadband can encourage interest and self- training in all aspects of technical Computer Network Administration and Systems Development as widespread enthusiast activities (like Ham Radio) hitherto not seen perhaps since the Amateur BBS FidoNet BBS days of the 1980s and early 1990s.

10.11 This provision of profit free high speed broadband access to a network can attract new participation in modern neighbourhood community development.

10.12 Community WLANs offer tarriff free mobile local telephone handsets and the lowest cost internet access.

10.13 Initial studies show that our not-for-profit ethic can deliver end userconnections to high speed broadband for 7% of the existing commercial costs.

10.14 By being provided at real cost low cost wireless broadband community internet can reduce our dependence on the remote decisions of commercial companies as well as bringing broadband to communities that thorough geography or price cannot or will not be reached by cable or 'DSL services.

11. Glossary of Terms

BIT   Binary Digit. Smallest computer information element.

Co-operative  An alternative user owned and controlled system of social ownership.

DSL   Digital Subscriber Line (up to 2Mb/sec)

FM   Frequency Modulation (VHF Radio Broadcast system)

GB    Giga-Byte (1000 million binary words)

Hard Disk   The principal on-board data storage device(s) of a PC.

Hi-Fi   Hi-Fidelity (music quality) stereo sound reproduction

HTML   Hyper-Text Markup Language – Text coding used to link

pages and images on the internet or within a document.

ICT    Information & Communications Technology

IEEE 802.11     International protocol standard for licence-free WLANs

INTERMEDIA    A transitional low bandwidth Internet based Broacast Media
between Text and full bandwidth high definition fast motion television.

ISDN    Integrated Speech & Data Network (128Kb/sec)

KB    Kilo-Byte (1000 binary words = 1000 text characters)

Kb    Kilo-bit  (1000 binary digits)

LAN   Local Area Network – Typically 10 or 100 Mb/sec cable
inter-connection system for PCs.

Media    General term for transmitted Audio, TV and Data

Mb/sec   Million BITs per second

MHz   Million Hertz or oscillatory cycles per second

MP3   Music compression standard.

PC    IBM Personal Computer - Compatible Computer

SERVER  Computer "serving" others ("clients") with data.

SIMULCAST   Broadcasting the same programme on different bands

STEREO  Dual left & right audio channels

Teleworking / Teleworker    Working at a distance (at home) made possible using modern ICT video conferencing / telepresence etc.

TV    Television & Sound (as received on domestic set).

VGA Basic low resolution computer screen, equivalent to TV.

WEB  World Wide Web – Universal Network of Resources..

WEBCASTING  Broadcasting media digitally intended for direct real-time
decoding by users Radio or Television programmes.

WLAN  Wireless Local Area Network

Henry O’Tani
Altec Scientific & Technical Services

February 2001

Email: Homepage: WLAN: