Patriot satellite dish

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The patriot radio community was originally heavily involved in C Band satellite. These are the original satellites that began to be commercially available in the 1970's. C Band is notably characterized by the large mesh and solid dishes still widely seen in rural locations. These dishes are large (generally a minimum of 5', and running up to 12') and are mounted on heavy iron poles that require concrete foundations. In many cases, such dishes are too heavy for rooftop installation.

C Band satellite was originally analog television, and the earliest patriot networks, such as Jeff Baker's Amerinet (for details on the Baker saga, and the demise of the early patriot network Amerinet Broadcasting, after his clash with Shortwave broadcaster Steve Quayle, see volume 3 of the Shortwave Wars books). The early C Band nets, which included the original Republic Radio before the name was stolen 3 times, utilized the audio sub-carrier of the TV satellites. This enabled modest cost satellite radio reception by any backyard dish owner in the country.

As C Band began to seek more revenue through the emerging digital revolution, fewer and fewer C Band transponders (essentially uplink channels) were available, and when the FCC set deadlines for satellite transmission to move to digital, the end of C Band (and patriot radio on those satellites) was in view. Because C Band has been on the birds for decades, several digital C Band schemes are still being attempted, including 4DTV, which requires a new, and rather expensive receiver be installed.

Because the patriot community, and those seeking alternative radio sources, also watched their television programming via satellite (mostly because rural, non-cabled areas were the primary demographic for big dish satellite), the emergence of vsats (very small aperture terminals) sounded the death knell of C Band.

Vsats, which utilized the new ku band technology, were largely embraced by well heeled Direct Broadcast Service (DBS) providers such as DirecTV and DishNetwork. Commercial data transmission heavily jumped (most gas station chains are now linked via vsats, for example) and the big broadcast networks invested heavily for news gathering and remotes. NBC, for example was the first to add ku band for news bureaus and scrambled network feeds to affiliates.

A short time later, the new subscription radio services such as XM and Sirius began, but these systems were closed to all but the largest existing mainstream radio networks. Although there has been some movement in this area, the XM/Sirius nets have now joined with DirecTV and DishNet, and have kept the small, special interest, networks (such as patriot, or alternative Christian) from access to their large installed customer base. In short, the big money in media continues to block alternative views.

Ironically, the XM and Sirius approach to satellite is actually a high quality broadcast compressed digital stream, so the same quality radio can be accomplished over the Internet - and indeed, several of the patriot nets are sending out high quality audio streams. Furthermore, the XM/Sirius model are subscription based, which poses a marketing challenge for patriot radio.

In recent times, several nets have offered stream archives on subscription, so it may be they are conforming their business practices in order to eventually move to systems such as those offered by XM and Sirius.

It's also worth noting the podcast approach, which is essentially just an archived audio stream with a specific way to access the programming on the Internet, has impacted patriot radio. I believe the ipod and cell phone revolution will eventually swallow XM and Sirius for they are practically the same technology. For example, Francis Steffan of the American Voice Radio network (AVR) reports he has long haul truckers that listen to AVR on their cell phones. Such a distribution methodology can now access millions of cell phones - which also have the advantage of being able to make phone calls!

However, the satellites themselves have enormous capacity, so after arranging the satellite capacity to the large DBS operators, the large aerospace satellite firm owners (Hughes, Comsat, Intelsat, and others) began selling bandwidth to private networks with a special interest constituency. This is where over the air Internet Service Providers (ISP's) arrived as well. Basically, the satellites began selling high dollar capacity to anyone with the money, and this opened the satellite door to patriot radio - a door that had been shut with the departure of analog...

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