Burning Man Needs A News Radio ONLY station! in 2008

Burning Man Needs A News Radio ONLY station! in 2008

Postby ecomain » Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:18 pm

There are so many reasons for a dedicated news station. The discussions on eplaya following the 2007 event illustrate how much confusion there was around not knowing who, what and where events were. Even with a good guide, radio seems to be the only viable mass information dissemination option for the spontaneous events occurring.

There also wasn't much useful info on the radio covering exodus. If we get a news station together, let me be the first to volunteer to sit in a crows nest to cover exodus properly. Sitting in line for three hours, the burning questions (pardon the pun) are: "Why is that lane moving faster? Should I change lanes to get around something? Are there any naked people to look at? and, Is someone holding up the line that needs to be pummeled? A little traffic info could help exodus a lot. The two radio stations existing in '07 didn't have a view of it and just played music most the time.

There's lots of music at the theme camps and most people bring their own, so I'm not sure we need 'radio' played on the airwaves. Most the time I listened to the radio, I was hoping to learn about events. There wasn't much info on the radio that I wanted. And BMIR hardly ever had music I liked anyway. It seems ironic that they play music at all with "information radio" in the name.

So I propose a news radio station that operates with two core caveats:

(1) A minimum of every 45 minutes, spend 10-15 minutes listing the events and locations coming up the next hour. And review the times for the major events so nobody misses them. For example, how many people knew exactly what time the Oil Derek fireworks were supposed to begin in '07? I sure as hell didn't. When it started, I ran out of the porta potty in haste with toilet paper stuck to my shoe, falling and groveling and cursing like Charleton Heston at the end of the old ‘Planet of the Apes’ when he finally loses all hope for civilization.

(2) Cover exodus with the objective of assisting the flow.

Other content could include: insider guides, live coverage of events, day-after theme camp party testimonials, acts or camps explaining upcoming events, cop watch (they are watching us, let's give back some of that love), interviews with the makers of art cars and exhibits. All of this would make a better time capsule when the streaming audio is stored on the website after the event. Some streaming is happening, but I'd like more extensive coverage and interaction on the radio.

Could anyone with experience with radio on the playa tell me what it takes to set up a temporary radio station? An FCC license, I presume. How difficult is it to obtain one? Anyone else want to volunteer to set up and run a news radio station in 2008? If so, let's DO IT!
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Cop Watch

Postby ecomain » Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:34 pm

I want to add more to the "Cop Watch" concept for news radio. Pretty much every Burner is irritated by the way John Law targets us having fun out in the middle of nowhere. They sneak among us, scrutinizing us, judging us, staring us down, bringing down our mood. I was a good boy in '07, not breaking any laws I was aware of and it still really annoyed me.

We put up with it because we have to. They inserted themselves into our scene.

I'm not sure how much trouble we'd get into for this, but think about how fun the following would be to pull off:

Ask burners to inform news radio when they ID an undercover cop. We have our own undercover people roaming around. We triangulate, then follow the cop on a live audio feed while OUR counter-agent gives a live report on what the cop looks like and where it is going so that the cover is completely blown. Maybe our counteragent has one of those Rhino GPS devices so the DJ can help liven the report with locaton updates and headings between descriptions.

Run five of these random live feeds each day. Wouldn't it be awesome to legally stick it back to them?

We could further inconvenience cops by interviewing them constantly, even if they aren't on the air. Does anyone have any other ideas like this?
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Postby Eric » Fri Sep 14, 2007 10:11 pm

The stations at Burning Man are basically pirate radio. There was a threat a few years ago (I think 2003?) when the FCC was threating the stations in BRC, but I don't think anything came of it.

You might want to hunt around and see if you can find some of the staff of BMIR, they can probably answer your questions better than anyone. There might be a contact on the main Burning Man website.

Oh- IDing undercover cops is just stupid. They're out there doing their jobs, and if someone is stupid enough to think that local, state & Federal laws no longer apply out there pretty much gets a Darwin as far as I'm concerned.

Be smart in your usage of anything illegal and you probably won't be bothered. Think that you're in Anything Goes World (in the middle of Nevada, no less), and you're an idiot. I would also pretty much guarantee that if you did "out" undercover officers that the FCC would shut you down. Quickly.
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Sat Sep 15, 2007 12:29 am

I can't remember where the information is but I think there is a legal wattage range where you do not need a license to transmit. It is a really small wattage but my gut reaction is if you put up your transmitter on the outer ring @ 6:00 you could hit most of the exodus line and a good portion of the city. Roving reporters with two way radios would be cool and you could even randomly pick chanels on the talk about frequencies and CB just to see what crazy talk you could come up with. Tunable fm transmitters are available on Ebay and the price seems reasonable. Sounds like an excellent project. I hate to rain on your parade but I think fucking with the cops is generally a bad idea although I totally understand where you are coming from.
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Postby hsdavis » Sat Sep 15, 2007 2:39 am

I think that BMIR would love to have someone who would provide news for the various events. I'm sure if you approach them with this info, they would be very receptive to broadcasting all the various information on events and exodus. After all, they are BMIR!
By the way, great ideas on everything.
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Postby Lifeisshort » Thu Sep 20, 2007 5:06 pm

This is an excellent Idea. I missed so many activities because I did not know where and when the events were. God knows that schedule "in booklet form" was next to impossible to figure out what was happening and where.
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Postby TheFunkHole » Wed Sep 26, 2007 4:14 pm

Great idea! I'd participate in such a thing for the next burn. I'm a big fan of the current radio station, and was thinking the same thing at BM this year.

The events book was a little difficult to handle out on the playa. I'm sure there are good reasons for doing it the way they did, but it was rough. I'd like to personally see more events next time, and talk radio is a great way to spread the word on the street.

If anything, they could give a minute or two warning for the strong winds and camps could batton down the hatches and possibly pre-emptive strike some potential moop.

Our camp always had the radio on during the daytime.

* You could have some music on in the background, in case anyone ever ran out of things to say.

* I'd like to hear some "Mocku-Talk" skits, fake commercials for magical cures of herpes, Harvey's Used Art Car Emporium, Anti-Drug PSA's, Gay- 2 - Straight Conversion Company LLC, Dust Storm Cleanup Squad, and the like.

There must be some mediocre voice actors at BM. This would play well with the '08 theme. Give the gift of humorous audio, the only trace it leaves is in your mushy brain.
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Postby robotland » Tue Oct 16, 2007 7:07 am

I want an NPR affiliate...Some programming suggestions:

"Art Car Talk"
"This American Dream Life"
"A Playa Home Companion"
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Postby theCryptofishist » Tue Oct 16, 2007 10:51 am

You forgot "Dusty Air."
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Re: Cop Watch

Postby HughMungus » Tue Oct 16, 2007 1:23 pm

ecomain wrote:I want to add more to the "Cop Watch" concept for news radio. Pretty much every Burner is irritated by the way John Law targets us having fun out in the middle of nowhere. They sneak among us, scrutinizing us, judging us, staring us down, bringing down our mood. I was a good boy in '07, not breaking any laws I was aware of and it still really annoyed me.


Love the news radio/event information idea except for this part.
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Postby Teo del Fuego » Tue Oct 16, 2007 1:40 pm

robotland wrote:I want an NPR affiliate...Some programming suggestions:

"Art Car Talk"
"This American Dream Life"
"A Playa Home Companion"


That's not only FUNNY as hell, but something that would be a GREAT IDEA. Somebody DO IT!

BTW, there was a camp this year and last that was podcasting This American Life on the Playa.
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News Radio?

Postby Rockstar » Tue Oct 16, 2007 2:54 pm

We've run a radio station at the event for 8 years.

During that time we have tried several times to get a REAL news show together. The problem has been that it is near impossible to verify news that comes to us from Participants. Since we would want to be putting out news as factual as possible, we would want factual information. We get a lot of third or fourth hand news stories that can sometimes be way off base from what really went on. We decided that unless we could independently verify it then it would not get broadcast.

That left us with depending on the Burning Man Project for news. However we have always felt they may pre-screen the news and press releases to get rid of or water down controversial issues that they may not want the public to know about. In 2006 BMIR asked us to simulcast the BMIR news at 5pm. But that interfered with some key time slots that we let our senior DJs use. We asked them this year if the could record it to CD and we would play it later in an open time slot, but we never saw it happen. The project has Media Mecca where the default would news teams hook up with the Project get press release and info about issues and things going on about the event. However the Project has never been particularly receptive about sharing that outlet with the radio stations inside the event.

A number of years ago, Maybe around 1998-99 one station was pulling news directly off a police scanner. That did not go over well with the LEOS. If I remember correctly from other peoples accounts they were paid a visit and told nicely to stop, which they did.

All that leaves the Playa stations pretty much blind inside the event for real news. We either have to hunt it down, talk to a person who was directly involved with the news story or spend ours trying to track people down to verify it. With all that, we just pretty much gave up.

If you look at the BM theme camps site you will see Electra FM is open for any theme camp, village or Artist to either drop us off a PSA or come in for an interview so people can learn about that is going on. We get less than 10 prerecorded PSA's a year and we put those in a play list loop. We have always been receptive to getting the word out to the general public about what is happening. However it is up to the people to let us know. If we don’t know about it we cant tell other people.

For 2007 we actually though of just doing a quick run through on daily happenings from the "What When, Where" guide the give us at the gate, to remind people. We scrapped that idea because the guide some how got jacked around and the Tuesday events were reprinted for Thursday. Because of that huge error we didn’t know how much of the rest of the guide was wrong.

A lot of people have a misconception of what it really takes to run a radio station on the Playa. A lot of people have an idea that you buy a transmitter, hook it to an antenna put a mic and ipod to it and you are all set. That is far from reality. Running a radio station and make it all work and make the content listenable is a huge time and money consuming project. It usually costs me about $3000.00 a year to run Electra FM for 10 days, that's just the station, not the rest of the camp. This year we dumped over $5000.00 into it. With the time and money outlay after that we just don’t have to ability to go out and beg people to tell us what they are doing so we can put it out on the air. We hope they take the time to come tell us instead.


However if someone wanted to be a roving reporter and do real news that was factual and verifiable and not turn it into just another controversial editorial hit piece on an artist or the project we'd be more than happy to run it.
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Re: Cop Watch

Postby Rockstar » Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:17 pm

"Run five of these random live feeds each day. Wouldn't it be awesome to legally stick it back to them?"

Legally stick it to them? To be legal and Part 15 compliant without a license your antenna can have no more than 150microvolts of radiated power in the FM band. Or in simpler terms less than 1/10th of a watt transmitter power. That equates to about 100 yards of signal range. I Dont think you have much of an audience.
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Postby Rockstar » Tue Oct 16, 2007 3:36 pm

Eric wrote:I would also pretty much guarantee that if you did "out" undercover officers that the FCC would shut you down. Quickly.


That the understatement of the year. If he wants to do battle with the cops on the airwaves, they ALWAYS win! Not only would they shut that station down, they would hit all the rest of them at the same time.

Picking a fight with Federal Law Enforcement officers is pure outright stupidity, even on the airwaves. In the very least they could arrest on multiple charges of interfearing with the duties of a Federal and State law enforcement officers.

He might have a VERY slight chance of winning the case in court but not after a couple years of legal issues and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

However if you have lots of money to spend on lawyers and dont mind setting in Jail for months or years to find out if you are right then go for it.
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Postby mister jason » Tue Oct 16, 2007 4:19 pm

What Rockstar said. You're free to do what you like, but if outing cops gets attention from the FCC focused on our station I'll take it very personally.

That bit aside, great thoughts. We typically do a *ton* of event coverage, news, etc. In the past, we've used the What, Where, When guide as a jumping off point for gathering event info. This year's guide was literally impossible to use, so our event coverage ended up being a lot more sparse. (disappointing)

We try to verify news brought to us, but ordinarily we simply throw in the caveat that you shouldn't believe everything you hear on the playa without verifying it yourself. It can be fun to coax the rumor mill along, too.

The NPR-themed stuff has potential to be good. Anyone who's interested in pushing forward with that, feel free to get in touch. We can make it happen. We're always open to input and contributions from our fellow burners. It makes for great radio. (and less work for us.) Trust me, it's no small undertaking to get a quality signal out with good coverage 24 hrs/day on the playa. :)

Putting it simply...if you want to hear more news coverage, pitch in and it can happen.
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Postby Bobzilla » Tue Oct 16, 2007 4:45 pm

Bobzilla, BMIR Station Manager here. We actually had quite a bit of Exodus information on the air starting Saturday night. Sunday night on throughout Monday we had even more. I was checking in with Odwally, Exodus Manager and BlueCross (when Odwally was sleeping) on an hourly basis. We passed everything they had to tell us along to our listeners. I know we did this as I was up all night Sunday through Monday late afternoon constantly checking in with the gate. At around 7P on Monday they declared Exodus over and we had no further info to give listeners

Why one lane was moving faster than another was not information we were provided with. The information we got was how long from gate road to the pavement and if any particular time was a good time to leave.

We also run a daily NewsBurn at 515P produced by Media Mecca.


Someone mentioned NPR type pograms. We have run Art Car Talk for several years now and did so again this year as well as This Playa Life.

We also have Ask Miss Burning Manners in addition to daily interview shows. We also did Kidsville Takes Over BMIR this year where some of BRC's youngest citizens took over the airwaves. Live broadcasts from the Center Camp Cafe Mainstage also took place. We broadcast the Gooferman gig as well as the Gamelan X gig.

As for events, it's very tough. BMIR is open from Noon to 4P every day during the event for people to come in and record PSA's promoting their events, but people need to come to us. We do get a fair amount of PSA's submitted ahead of time as well from people who have worked with us year in and out. As you know, Camps often plan things that don't happen due to any number of factors. That's one reason we don't just rad out of the Who, What, When, Where guide.

You can hear archives of our 2007 programming streaming at www.bmir.org


Of course we are always looking for ways to improve our programming. Please feel free to contact me at any time at Bobzilla@pobox.com

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Postby Bobzilla » Tue Oct 16, 2007 5:23 pm

Oh and like most people said hassling the cops is a bad idea. As far as the FCC is concerned, they don't get out of bed until someone complains. Hassling the cops and BLM is sure to make that happen. In addition I actually have a FCC license and I don't want to loose it. So lets keep the FCC as far away as possible and leave the feds and cops alone. Just my 2 cents
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Postby HughMungus » Tue Oct 16, 2007 7:38 pm

mister jason wrote:What Rockstar said. You're free to do what you like, but if outing cops gets attention from the FCC focused on our station I'll take it very personally.

That bit aside, great thoughts. We typically do a *ton* of event coverage, news, etc. In the past, we've used the What, Where, When guide as a jumping off point for gathering event info. This year's guide was literally impossible to use, so our event coverage ended up being a lot more sparse. (disappointing)

We try to verify news brought to us, but ordinarily we simply throw in the caveat that you shouldn't believe everything you hear on the playa without verifying it yourself. It can be fun to coax the rumor mill along, too.

The NPR-themed stuff has potential to be good. Anyone who's interested in pushing forward with that, feel free to get in touch. We can make it happen. We're always open to input and contributions from our fellow burners. It makes for great radio. (and less work for us.) Trust me, it's no small undertaking to get a quality signal out with good coverage 24 hrs/day on the playa. :)

Putting it simply...if you want to hear more news coverage, pitch in and it can happen.


I might not be speaking for others here but when I first saw this idea I wasn't thinking of it as a way to disseminate *news* but more of an information service. One aspect would be reports on what's coming up today and where. Another part would be people coming in to talk about their projects which might make people want to go see them. And another part maybe people coming in to talk about what they've seen and why they think other people should go see/do it.
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Postby Valkyrie » Thu Oct 18, 2007 5:07 pm

So what you're saying, Rockstar, is you need an entirely different crew to go out and gather the news, on top of the staff to set up and run the station? Yeah, I can see how that could easily at least double the size of the people-investment in the project. And getting people to do the unglamorous footwork, too, is tough.
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Postby Rockstar » Sun Oct 21, 2007 11:16 pm

Valkyrie wrote:So what you're saying, Rockstar, is you need an entirely different crew to go out and gather the news, on top of the staff to set up and run the station? Yeah, I can see how that could easily at least double the size of the people-investment in the project. And getting people to do the unglamorous footwork, too, is tough.


I guess it all depends on what the station is after and their programming format. I know that our DJ's put a lot of work into thier shows and probably are not up to doing more time with radio station news. Some start setting up play lists several months before they get there. We feel pretty lucky if we can get 16 hours of straight through live DJ's without having to run an automated play list at any point in the day. Once they end thier shift they generally have other things they want to do besides rounding up news stories. I concentrate on keeping the grid running and all the equipment running. The Dj's do the shows and I sometimes fill in for someone who doesnt show up. After all that, I want to do something else for the rest of the day besides beiung chained to the camp and the radio station.

So yeah if one really wanted to do real news then some sort of dedicated news team would be the most effective. Maybe several hours out in the city gathering stories and interviews, maybe an hour distilling it to usable news and then someone to run a news show.

It is sad to me that we get more info about what is happening or did happen at BM to put out on the air by going on line and reading the Reno or SFgate website articles than we can get from sources inside the event. I'd be super happy if we could just get access to official press releases from the BLM media liason or the Project itself.
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Re: News Radio?

Postby HughMungus » Mon Oct 22, 2007 7:14 pm

Rockstar wrote:With the time and money outlay after that we just don’t have to ability to go out and beg people to tell us what they are doing so we can put it out on the air. We hope they take the time to come tell us instead.


You can't mention that on the air? Seems to me that this way, the people who are actually listening to radio would be the ones who have an interest in being publicized on the radio (as opposed to you having to go out and tell people about it in person).

However if someone wanted to be a roving reporter and do real news that was factual and verifiable and not turn it into just another controversial editorial hit piece on an artist or the project we'd be more than happy to run it.


So you're not interested in anything other than actual, factual news? Seems there would be a lot more information to disseminate than that.

Edit: I just re-read the topic of this post. Is there actually enough hard, verifiable news happening on the playa? Sounds pretty dry. Besides, who wants to hear just news, anyway? We're supposed to be on vacation.
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Postby Valkyrie » Mon Oct 22, 2007 9:23 pm

Rockstar wrote:I know that our DJ's put a lot of work into thier shows and probably are not up to doing more time with radio station news. Some start setting up play lists several months before they get there.

I think this is really important. One of the frustrations I had with even the newspapers was that it wasn't really "new" news. Most folks want to have the prep work done in advance so that they can actually enjoy the fruits of their labor out on the playa. (And enjoy the fruits of other people's labor too.) That's probably the biggest challenge you face...

...although there are a lot of folks who show up and are willing and wanting to pitch in... Maybe something like a playa newswire service (think Associated Press or United Press International) that provides near-real-time factual information, written and/or recorded or readable news clips that all the stations and papers could use. Advance prep work could be training a cadre of editor/recruiters and establishing reliability/ethical standards in addition to establishing relationships with the authorities and the news distributors.

The media outlets shouldn't have to be the only source of news... it doesn't work that way in the real world...


I also think it'd be nice to have "news magazine" type shows, where you have interesting interviews with important people and stuff like that. It could also act as a clearinghouse for eye-witnesses to come to give voice to the things they've seen, if only they knew where to go... There's a lot of possibility there.
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Re: News Radio?

Postby K-mom » Wed Nov 07, 2007 12:27 am

Rockstar wrote: Running a radio station and make it all work and make the content listenable is a huge time and money consuming project. It usually costs me about $3000.00 a year to run Electra FM for 10 days, that's just the station, not the rest of the camp. This year we dumped over $5000.00 into it.


What did you spend all that $$ on ?
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Postby lonestoner916 » Thu Mar 13, 2008 4:18 am

* I'd like to hear some "Mocku-Talk" skits, fake commercials for magical cures of herpes, Harvey's Used Art Car Emporium, Anti-Drug PSA's, Gay- 2 - Straight Conversion Company LLC, Dust Storm Cleanup Squad, and the like.

There must be some mediocre voice actors at BM. This would play well with the '08 theme. Give the gift of humorous audio, the only trace it leaves is in your mushy brain."


I had an idea for a talk show with song selections from the guests, and like you said, fake commercials, maybe some bogus announcements, "Free tacos under the man!" shit like that. (I'm going to pitch it to BMIR, see if I can get a couple hours of airtime... Also, the other guy was right about Exodus coverage last year, it needs some improvement.
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