Thursday, April 3, 2014

Part 15 for Dummies - Prologue

Just a quick introduction (of sorts) for those who never heard of Part 15 Radio Station and would like to know more..

What is a Part 15 Radio Station?

A Part 15 Station is known also as:
a Micro-broadcast station...
a Low Power station...
a Community Station..
a Local Area Broadcast..
a Flea Powered Station
..and other names..
But that doesn't really answer the question does it?

Ok, let's start over.. 

What is a Part 15 Station?..
A Part 15 station is the only method in which an AM or FM broadcast on the public airways can legally be established in consistent operation without the requirement of a license.
The broadcasted signal of a Part 15 station can be received on any standard AM or FM radio.
There is no requirement to inform the FCC or other official organization of the operational status, programming content, or even existence of this form of pubic broadcast, Nor does the FCC seek out, or keep record of these types of radio stations.
A Part 15 station may operate as a profit or non-profit entity, as in; the station operation may be for business or pleasure, and may also be publicly advertised.
A Part 15 broadcast station is, essentially, a public radio station.

How can a Public Radio Station operate without a license?
Well, to answer that question, let's start with what a Part 15 station is not.. It is not a 'full power radio station', - nor is it even a 'low power station', (although it is sometimes referred to as such).
And, to be clear; it is not a pirate radio station either.
Actually it's not even a real radio station at all..
So what is it?
It it is often, and may well best be defined as a micro or flea powered station, but officially, even those definitions are inaccurate..

So what is it?
The FCC's official description of broadcast stations such as this is defined as an "Intentional Radiator" (but having no relation with heating or cooling!). 

The answer to the question is...
A Part 15 station is an Intentional Radiator.

Understand?.. No?

Ok, let's go over what that means...
The term Intentional Radiator basically means what the names implies; An intentional broadcast of a signal using radio waves... (in this case, the signal is audio).

So then, how is that any different from any other radio station on the dial?
Actually, it's not, it's pretty much the exact same thing. - However,  there are a couple major differences; an Intentional Radiator "station" has a maximum allowable input power of only 100 milliwatts. That's right, 0.1 watt. Not even enough to power a small light bulb!

Fortunately radio waves can be quite versatile, and it really doesn't take much power to emit a worthwhile signal. Even with such a miniscule amount as 100mw a lot can be legally accomplished with proper location, a little engineering, and a little luck from mother nature.  
See a recent article in a Radio World: Can You Do a Lot with 1 Tenth of a Watt?

No matter what you call it; a low power station, micro station, flea station.. They are all just slang terms used by Part 15 broadcasters. "Local Area Broadcast" sounds the best to me, but I also like "Flea Powered Station". A flea is tiny just like our signals are tiny. The term "flea-powered" just sounds better... because when you think about it, the term intentional radiator sounds a little threatening!! These are only flea powered radio stations, So put your Geiger counters away!.

Is this a new kind of broadcasting?..
It is a rather unique form of broadcasting, but no, it's nothing new. This kind of broadcasting has been around a long time and more common then many realize. Perhaps the most highly utilized form of these type transmitters are those like the "Talking House's", which have been consistently used by reality companies for the last 40 years or so. Another famous use is Talking Billboards, and Campground Radio stations. These transmitters also are commonly used at historic sites, shopping plazas, car lots, restaurants, sporting events, drive-in theaters, and many other settings and situations...

Click on the following videos for some past high profile examples...

ABC - Part15 Promotes Batman!
Click here for ABC Video
Click here for CNN Video
NBC - Part15 Broadcasting
Click here for NBC Video
These stations while functioning in an unlicensed operation are authorized by the FCC to provide any kind of service or information desired, be it commercial or noncommercial content. Any form of station identification may be used, providing it does not infringe on a licensed station.
There is no limitation on how many transmitters are installed to cover a given area.
The primary stipulation is to adhere to the power and antenna limits expressed by the FCC. Compliance with the FCC's regulations is the sole requirement to legally broadcast.

This Introduction to Part 15 sucks...
 Where can I find a better one?
There's a lot of information available on the internet concerning part 15 broadcasting, but be careful; some sources offer information which is, to say the least, questionable with the validity of their content..

Legal Licensed-Free Low-Power Radio Broadcasting
The best available and reputable source for an introduction to Part 15 Broadcasting, is as it provides specific and accurate information concerning this hobby. This site also features a well structured and informative forum which you can join.

Unlicensed, legal, low-power radio broadcasting
Probably the most popular, longest lasting and continuously active Part 15 forum on the internet is This forum tends to have a more relaxed and casual atmosphere, yet usually still maintains an accurate and useful presentation concerning the hobby, all the while holding true to the FCC rules and regulations of legal unlicensed broadcasting.

Part 15 Stations Of America - Google Maps

Map Of Known Part 15 Radio Stations In The United States

 Official FCC website links of interest concerning Part15:
 Part 15 is the Section found under Title 47 of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Rules and Regulations, which govern the permissions that enable our stations to legally operate a public broadcast.
Access to the official FCC Rules]  [and specifically to Part 15 devices]
[Part 15 potentials to bring new and novel applications to rural America]
[Understanding FCC Part 15 Regulations for Low Power, Non-Licensed Transmitters]

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