Radio Free Minnesota

Taking back the airwaves one-twenty-fifth of a watt at a time

Keri Carlson

The Federal Communications Commission only permits one-twenty-fifth of a watt power level to be broadcast without a license for FM radio. That equals approximately 100 feet of broadcasting. Not exactly enough to start a revolution, considering the Twin Cities’ most powerful station has 100,000 watts.

Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the radio spectrum has become dominated by huge corporations, and thus, pretty crappy. Even with XM – the supposed savior of radio – only a select few get their voices heard.

The Walker Art Center’s artists in residence, Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, want to put radio back into the hands of the people, where it’s suppose to be.

To do this, they’re not burning down radio stations, but stickin’ it to the man (or at least FCC Chairman Michael Powell) by working within the system. They’re taking the inch of freedom the FCC allows and extending it into a mile down University Avenue.

Allora and Calzadilla have been distributing one-milliwatt radio stations since their exhibit “Radio Re-volt: One Person.ooOne Watt” began in July.

To celebrate the close of the exhibit with a bang, more than 50 homes, businesses and community centers along University Avenue will broadcast on the frequency 97.7 FM.

Each transmitter’s signal might not travel very far on its own, but with a community working together, independent radio can happen.

For now, Allora and Calzadilla’s project might be limited to a street. But they prove, despite radio’s repressive regulations, that if you want to be heard, you can find an outlet.

Tune in today and hear the sounds of democracy.