Satellite telemetry: It isn’t just for weather forecasting and missile defense anymore… Several weeks ago the University of Montana announced that its college radio station, 89.9 KBGA, had been selected as one of 40 stations nationwide that will provide weekly programming for the soon-to-be launched Sirius Satellite Radio, one of two companies vying for dominance in the nascent satellite radio market. For the uninitiated among you who don’t spend your weekends thumbing through telecommunications trade magazines or perusing the diode display rack at Radio Shack, satellite pay radio is the latest in space-based digital technology that beams a radio signal directly into your house or car from a constellation of geosynchronous satellites. For a monthly fee, subscribers can graze a wide variety of music, news, sports, weather and miscellaneous chit-chat originating from nearly anywhere around the globe, with the promise of 100 channels of commercially uninterrupted, static-free reception. Sirius is racing to catch up with XM Satellite Radio, which in October began offering its own 100-channel service in select cities across the country. Reportedly, KBGA’s contribution to the radio space race will include a weekly two-and-a-half-minute report on top requested songs, “as well as trends and stories from around the University of Montana and the Missoula community.”
Still, we’re not recommending you rush out and buy a $250+ satellite radio receiver just yet: According to Sirius, service won’t begin until February 14, 2002 and then only in Houston, Denver and Phoenix (i.e., places where commuters spend hours stuck in rush-hour traffic.) And, if the pace of fiber optic technology and feature film releases serve as indicators, Missoula should be getting satellite radio in, oh, about a decade. Just another crag in Montana’s Digital Divide.
Big sounds from the big house… So, what forms of programming might one day beam from space into your back seat subwoofers, besides pork belly futures from Des Moines and hourly traffic reports from Bangkok? How about “all prison, all the time?” A non-profit media center known as Appalshop in Whitesburg, Ky. will soon be hosting a radio call-in show for prisoners incarcerated in rural central Appalachia. On Dec. 18, the incarcerated community of central Appalachia will get to hear holiday greetings from their children via the airways of WMMT-FM, a community-run radio station. “The producers of WMMT have seen that the incarcerated in the coalfields of central Appalachia are part of the community and need to have their issues aired without having to use negative methods of expression,” reads a press release written by “T.W.,” an inmate at Wallens Ridge State Prison in Wise, Va. Presumably, “negative methods of expression” include staging cell block riots, throwing flaming toilet paper at the screws and making annoying telemarketing calls during dinner. The program is designed to provide some comfort during the holiday season to families who cannot afford to call or travel to visit their incarcerated loved ones. Last year, WMMT radio hosts accepted toll-free calls to and from male and female prisoners, as well as family greetings from as far away as Connecticut, New Mexico and Puerto Rico. “This year,” writes T.W., “children in Wyoming, the Virgin Islands, new Mexico and Washington, D.C. have fathers in rent-a-cells at two southwest Virginia super-max prisons. For those children, holidays visits to their parents are often impossible, and a phone call can mean a lot.” Hey, glad we can make your extended stay at the Hotel Taxdollar more enjoyable.