Teen Spirit and Radio Pa’lante – Low Power FM and its challenges

Geek Culture

For our teens (14 year olds) the local low power FM community radio, WCOM, has been a great treat, an opportunity to work with technology, music, law (once or twice) and as it turns out with architecture and engineering. When the completely teen programed and teen run show, Teen Spirit, started a year ago, none of the teens had had any radio experience.

But with some good guidance from their middle school math teacher, Dr. Boyd Blackburn, the teens were soon able to take control of their show and to teach others how to run the station effectively. 

Now all of them take turns running the boards, speaking on air, selecting music, answering the phones, chatting with listeners on IM and taking care of emergencies.

Today’s biggest emergency was how to deal with a leaky roof just after tropical depression Barry passed over. The teens developed a particularly innovative system using duct tape and garbage bags to funnel the water into trash bins for later emptying.

Most often they run the show off of their computers and iPods adding a few CDs. The teens learn the basics of sound engineering and the mystery of connector standards — or lack thereof — and some electricity and wiring.

The teens have invited bands into the small studio, done radio interviews and helped out with remote broadcasts.

Today’s playlist included an a capella version of "Smells like Teen Spirit" sung by a local group the Clef Hangers, a remix by RX of Tony Blair singing/talking the Clash’s "Should I Stay or Should I Go," System of a Down, New Order, Green Day covering John Lennon’s "Working Class Hero," Chumbawamba, an instrumental track from Harry Potter and the Prisioner of Azkaban, The Old Ceremony (with an announcement that they’ll be playing here in a couple of weekend) and "Party Like A Rock Star."

WCOM also hosts another teen show in Spanish, Radio Pa’lante, run by high school students, which includes interviews on subjects of particular interest to Carrboro’s Latino community as well as music.

Thanks to internet radio streams, their friends from camp, their aunts in Colorado and their grandparents outside of the US can listen in to the shows despite the small reach of the 100 Watt Wonder, WCOM 103.5, located in Carrboro, NC.

Radio has been a great way for teens to engage in community and in their own formation of culture and communication as well as some great geeky problem solving and self-reliance.

Teen Spirit is on air from 1 – 3 pm EDT every Sunday. Radio Pa’lante airs Fridays from 5 – 6 pm EDT.

Both shows can be heard online until June 15 unless legislation is passed that will allow the internet stream to continue at a reasonable cost. See Save Net Radio for details.

Please let us know about other LPFM teen-run shows in the comments.

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