Continuing with our "Future of Radio" series on internet radio, RFC takes a look today at Free Radio SAIC.
Billed as "experimental radio from The School of the Art Institute Chicago," Radio Free SAIC strives to be a forum for free expression bringing diverse ideas, unique opinions, and creative concepts to a listening audience.
Many students have tried throughout the years to start a radio station at the school, but the crowded nature of Chicago's airwaves have always made this task virtually impossible.
However, thanks to the popularity of the Internet and the increasing availability of broadband technology, students at the Art Institute were finally able to get a station of their own.
The idea of Free Radio SAIC was initialized during the spring 1999 semester by a group of Chicago Building residents who initiated the task of registering Free Radio SAIC as an official student group. The organization soon came together and by the end of 1999, Free Radio SAIC was conducting pilot broadcasts through the school's closed-circuit TV system. The station continued to broadcast via closed-circuit TV sporadically throughout the next year, but organizers still sought to reach a broader audience via a "real" broadcast available to those outside of the school.
In the summer of 2000, time was spent researching the possibilities of obtaining a Low Power FM license, a new classification recently introduced by the FCC, or streaming audio over the internet. Even with the FCC's new low power licenses available, Free Radio SAIC organizers found out what many student radio proprietors had learned in the past...broadcasting via FM in a city as congested as Chicago is a dead-end.
So, with FM broadcasting firmly out of question, the organization concentrated its efforts toward the Internet, and by the fall 2000 semester, Free Radio SAIC began broadcasting to the world via streaming audio.
Since that time, the station has continued its Internet broadcasts, and today the station boasts a line-up of 24 live DJs broadcasting 36 hours of original programming per week. In addition to its streaming audio broadcasts, the Free Radio SAIC homepage also features music reviews, links to other college radio webstreams, and updated station news in Blog form. Like many other student-run stations, Free Radio SAIC does not broadcast live 24/7 and is off the air during the summer and other semester breaks. However, you can always check out your favorite DJs or programs on their web site anytime via their archived audio streams.
Check out the site for yourself at http://www.artic.edu/webspaces/freeradio/. Aesthically, it's probably the best non-commercial radio web site in the city and overall the station provides yet another great way to hear and discover new sounds in Chicago.