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Radio XY - English Bay

We are OFF THE AIR. (I moved to the Bay Area!) But this page is fun to keep around.

88.9 FM

We have a very limited broadcast range (*) because we broadcast at Canada's legal maximum for unlicenced FM transmissions. (more on this below)

Our best reception is in the vicinity of the 1600 block of Harwood and Burnaby streets, the 1700 block of Beach Ave., and the adjacent park. Best car reception as you drive is along 1600 Burnaby. To hear for a longer duration, you can park in the 2 hr parking zone on Bidwell St. next to the park. Car radio reception is quite good in these areas, but walkman reception is terrible pretty much everywhere. Of course, if you come to the park for a picnic, a portable with an antenna should be good enough.

Also, the reception in your apartment could be OK even if you're farther away. The above guidelines were for on-the-ground reception, but it's quite possible that the line-of-sight to your apartment is better. This map should give a rough indication of the reception boundaries. If you do live in the English Bay area of the West End, try tuning in. Hey, you never know?

Map: Radio XY footprint
Radio XY - Reception Boundaries

It's fun to try to tune in on FM, but of course 99.9% of you will hear us best on our internet broadcast (see the link at right)!

Behind The Scenes

The music is stored digitally on my dedicated server computer and is channeled from the PC into a Panaxis ACC100 FM transmitter, where it is piped out to the world through a tiny 22" loose wire, taped to my apartment window. I could of course use a much better antenna, but that would void the legal status of my station. Which brings me to my next topic...

Unlicenced FM Transmitters in Canada

Much information is available on the Internet about the FCC and pirate / unlicensed broadcasting in the U.S. But what about Canada?

I first found out how to broadcast on the FM band in the early 90's, reading a newsgroup called I couldn't believe you could just send away for a kit like that! But then, I wondered, how much trouble would I get into? There was a lot of chatter about the FCC, and I soon discovered that there was a very low legal limit. But the main problem (said the pirates) was not the FCC but the fact that BMI/ASCAP might sue your ass if you played copyrighted music, even to only a few potential listneres. But again, BMI/ASCAP are American, and I wanted Canadian info.

Many times the question of Canadian micro/pirate/unlicensed broadcasting came up, and nobody had an answer. A few years went by, and I hadn't read the newsgroup. Recently, I did a Deja News search in the group. More questions, and incredibly, still no replies! Well, not exactly. One fellow in Winnipeg runs a "low power" (but probably 100x more than RadioXY...) FM station under a "special events" license, and has info on how to get one of these. But this still doesn't address the issue that I and many others are apparently interested in - setting up a very low power, unlicensed operation.

One day, I decided to do the digging myself. Now, it's not like I hadn't tried before - but in the past I deemed that the CRTC site simply did not have this information - and perhaps Canada had no policy at all for microbroadcasters. But at last, I found it! It's not the CRTC, but Industry Canada that regulates this, and they do actually have a web page (in Adobe Acrobat format) that specifies precisely the legal maximum for FM broadcasting. It turns out that it's the same as the FCC - 250 uV/m at 3 m. In other words, you can use any transmitter that is FCC certified.

I use the Panaxis ACC100. It comes prebuilt, including a PLL tuner and a low-pass harmonic filter for $195 US (1999 prices). See The output is in mono, but that's actually a good thing, because it increases your apparent range by not causing the flickering stereo sound you'd otherwise suffer near the reception boundary.

Using this equipment, your broadcast range will be about 1/4 mile. At RadioXY, even though we have a clear line of site, it quickly fades away after this distance with even the best receivers.

Note that even though you don't need a government license to broadcast, you still must pay a fee to SOCAN to play any music. This fee is incredibly small for noncommercial stations - only 1.9% of your operating costs... which are almost zero!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

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