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Pirate radio set to go live for Olympics

A pirate radio station is set to broadcast from VIVO Media Arts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 13, as part of their 2010: Safe Assembly forums.

According to the website, the initial broadcast, The Evening News, will feature a roster of critical Olympics observers, including the outspoken activist and UBC professor Chris Shaw, author of Five Ring Circus, Harsha Wallia of the Olympics Resistance Network, and Micheal Vonn of the BC Civil Liberties Association.

Professors Roger Farr and Reg Johanson from Capilano University are also scheduled to provide poetry and commentary on "security and suppression."

"We wanted [anyone] to use it how they see fit," explains Alex Muir of Soundscapes Co-Op radio. He is the technical guru behind the modest station, which includes a mixing desk, an audio compressor, and a transmitter. "The symbols and signs of [the Olympics] are so carefully minced over that it's a political thing to have people address through this media form." He describes it as an opportunity for the public "to react."

The signal will have a tentative range of about 6 kilometers, but "it's a matter of [antenna] length" says Nicholas Perrin, a member of the broadcast collective.

"We're close to the Olympic Village . . . if we hit Strathcona and Main Street, great," says Muir.

Muir and his small team of collaborators are hoping for a "clandestine news source . . . something you could happen upon."

The intention is to provide an alternative view of what being host to the International Olympics Committee really means, says Muir.

The broadcast crew believes that their signal will be allowed by the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission, which normally restricts radio signal usage to licensed broadcasters, due to an exemption clause that allows for low-power signals at special events, such as the CBC's September broadcast from the Surrey Museum. The clause prohibits unlicensed broadcast, however, and according to section 9, restricts "programming that is religious or political in nature."

According to an email from Lauren Ehrenworth, a media relations officer for Industry Canada, these types of broadcast can "cause interference to existing public safety radio operations and aeronautical radio navigation and communications and could interfere with reception from properly licensed radio broadcasting stations in the surrounding area."

Ehrenworth makes it clear that it is their objective to "achieve voluntary compliance through an approach of cooperation and education with the operator(s) as a first step in redressing the situation."

The future of this pirate broadcast does not just depend on radio, however. The VIVO website will stream the signal for the duration of the games, regardless. The main frequency itself, 91.5 FM, can also be adjusted if the need arises.

Kevin Murray is covering the Olympics as part of his practicum at The Tyee.

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