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A journal of social practice & professional engagement for the Antioch community
 

Tom Amrhein, ’20: Low Power Radio Builds Across the Country

For the past three months I have worked for International Media Action (I.M.A.), a non-profit based out of Philadelphia. I.M.A.’s primary focus is to build communications infrastructure for small community groups around the world. Their engineer who does this work is Antioch alumnus Pete Tridish. Prior to working for International Media Action, Pete lobbied the United States congress with Prometheus Radio Project to prevent the possibility of corporate absorption of media outlets across the country, and to open up a portion of the FM spectrum to low power radio stations. The reason low power FM is important, is because it is affordable compared to high power radio stations like WYSO in Yellow Springs. The costs of starting a high powered radio station are prohibitively immense for small community groups, such as farm workers unions and black nationalist organizations that do not receive any major funding accept what their own members can provide.

Together, Pete and I worked in Chicago, Philadelphia, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Houston to build and do maintenance on low power stations. At first, I sometimes felt in the way. Because Pete builds all parts of the station, from production desk to erecting the radio tower, there are a lot of different construction techniques and areas of expertise that he employs regularly in his work. This naturally provided enormous opportunities for me to learn and understand these processes, but becoming a part of a process as large and complex as this one took time. Even by the end of my co-op, there were times when I felt as though I was not doing enough. However, in retrospect, I learned more than I ever could have imagined during these jobs. From planning and purchasing materials, to running romex through walls and wiring switches, to pouring and setting a radio tower into a 3 ft. by 4 ft. cylinder of concrete, to programming the automation systems, I realize now that I have enough knowledge to build a basic radio station myself. I know all the parts and pieces that go into it, and although there are a plethora of technical features to be learned, my knowledge base has been formed.

 

-Thomas Amrhein, ’20

WQEU-LP Chicago’s antenna being mounted!

 

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Thomas Amrhein is a Media Arts major at Antioch College. He works primarily with audio, creating stories, podcasts, and music. He also makes a point to work with his hands and body as much as possible. Thomas uses these two platforms to navigate collaboration with different people, on different projects.

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