Powering community media North of 60

Tagish-based open-source technology guru and founder of Open Broadcaster, “Radio” Rob Hopkins is a driving force behind the use of this technology in northern Canada

A group of broadcasters and open-source technology enthusiasts are having get-together at the Days Inn in Whitehorse on March 23.
The open-source North 60 conference brings together professionals from different walks of life – including local businesses, First Nations government, community radio stations, independent coders and freelance journalists – to explore how open-source works with broadcasting. The conference is being organized by CJUC “The Juice” 92.5 FM in Whitehorse and Open Broadcaster, a company based in Tagish that offers hardware, software and streaming solutions for broadcasters.

Tagish resident Rob “Radio Rob” Hopkins is a driving force behind the use of this technology in northern Canada. He is an open-source technology guru and founder of Open Broadcaster. He describes the technology as, “a radio station in a box… It does what the million-dollar systems do, but with open-source.” Hopkins says that open-source is especially useful for end users in remote areas who are interested in radio broadcasting because it allows people to run radio a station from the comfort of their home computers, “without having to go to the studio at -40ºC.”

The technology is different from traditional radio in that it requires less maintenance and is accessible through the web.
“The audience gets to participate and choose programming they actually want to hear from comfort of their homes,” said Hopkins.

The conference is open to anyone with an interest in open-source technology and broadcasting. It includes five speakers and demonstrations. Hopkins and special guest Elliot Christian will be there to talk about local and international emergency alerting with open-source technology. Bill Polonsky at CJUC Community Radio in Whitehorse will talk about his work with open-source.

Bob Miller, of Computerisms, will talk about the different practical applications of the technology; including the Carcross-Tagish First Nation’s use of open-source in the context of First Nations Governance.

There will be a panel discussion to discuss using such an open-source platform. Among the panelists will be What’s Up Yukon Publisher Tammy Beese. Beese brings the perspective of an end user – a business owner who is running the operations with an open-source network. She uses the open-source network to have smooth daily transactions between the staff in the bricks-and-mortar office, and staff working from home (in the Yukon and around the world).

The conference will also feature a few soft tech demos, and coding, fundraising and module development will all be discussed.
Although technical language will definitely be used at the conference, anyone interested in engaging with open-source technology is welcome. It’s free to attend and lunch will be provided.

The conference takes place at the Whitehorse Days Inn on Friday, March 23 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information go to the CJUC “The Juice” 92.5 FM website: www.CJUCFM.com and click on “Events.” To register call 457-2582 or email [email protected]

Open-source technology in the North

Open-source technology has an impressive track record in the Canadian North. Notable open-source projects include CJUC 92.5 FM in Whitehorse, which was one of Rob Hopkin’s first Open Broadcaster partnerships.

Open Broadcaster is also involved with New North Networks in Inuvik. They’re all about participatory media. According to the Open Broadcaster website, thanks to their technology, “Inuvik residents are able to share and upload smartphone videos and pictures to a server, which then assembles this content into local programming…”

Various indigenous language projects utilize open-source technology as a way of helping keep their languages living.

The Nuxalk Nation of Q’umk’uts’ (Bella Coola, British Columbia) partnered with Open Broadcaster to set up a non-profit community radio station. The station, called CKNN Nuxalk Radio – 91.1 FM, is managed by the Nuxalk Radio Committee with the goal of revitalizing the Nuxalk language.

There are emergency response uses for the technology, as well. In August 2013 as part of Operation NANOOK, the Yukon Government and the City of Whitehorse collaborated with the Canadian Armed Forces in an emergency response drill. During the operation the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization tested the Pelmorex Public Alerting System with CFET Radio 106.7 FM in Tagish, which is powered by Open Broadcaster.

Hopkins said that the challenges and rewards of working in the North are unique.

“There’s a lot of interest in radio here, but people couldn’t afford to do it. With open-source technology remote communities are able to have their own programming, that reflects their reality instead of having to listen to radio that’s based in Vancouver, for example,” Hopkins said.

More than 100 customers currently use Hopkins’ system.

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