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Monday, December 18, 2006

Linux software for radio stations launches

From Jonathan Marks in Broadcast & Podcast Gadgets:
I am currently looking at this piece of software as one possibile solution for a radio station in West Africa. One challenge with the Open-Source project like this is that the developers cannot offer a 24 hour service, like other guys do for Linux. But I have met the people behind this project and know them to be passionate about getting it right.

Community radio stations in Sierra Leone and in other emerging democracies will be powered by the latest release of the free and open source Campcaster software, which was released on December 7th 2006. Campcaster is free and open source software that turns a PC running the free Linux operating system into an essential tool for radio broadcasting. In a user-friendly way, it enables both automated broadcast at preset dates and times, as well as allowing “live” playout from the studio. At the same time, it also enables the exchange of radio program material both online and off-line, and provides a stable, secure, extensible archive server for storing, searching and retrieving program content.

Campcaster 1.1, code-named “Freetown,” was built with conditions in difficult environments such as Sierra Leone in mind. It provides very stable playout, and because it runs on Linux, there are fewer problems with viruses, spyware and malware.

Campcaster's relevance is not limited to the developing world: stations in the developed world are starting to adapt the system to their own needs. For example, Vienna, Austria's Radio Orange is adapting Campcaster's playout system to work with its existing digital archive, while in Hungary, a network of independent radio stations is integrating Campcaster's storage server into its IKRA project, a generic public website engine for radio stations.

Because all of the Campcaster software is free and open source, stations are free to adapt it to their individual needs, but are strongly encouraged to share their efforts with others.

“Campcaster provides features that used to be only available in extremely expensive commercial radio systems,” says Sava Tatić, Managing Director of the Media Development Loan Fund's Center for Advanced Media, Prague (CAMP), which coordinates the Campware Initiative. “We believe there is a strong north-south aspect to using and extending Campcaster,” Tatić added. “Every time a station in North America or Europe adapts and extends Campcaster, stations in places like Sierra Leone benefit.”

An international team of software developers, user interface designers, media activists and radio professionals have worked for more than 12 months on the 1.1 “Freetown” release. Campware representatives have coordinated their work with the Cornet community radio network on the software, and members of the development team will travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone later this month to provide training to partners implementing and servicing Campcaster locally.

Campcaster 1.1 “Freetown” is the latest release from the Media Development Loan Fund's Campware Initiative, which creates free and open source tools for independent media in emerging democracies. Initial funding for Campcaster has been provided by a grant from the Open Society Institute. The tools are all free and available for download at the Campware website at www.campware.org. Developers and technically-minded users can visit the developers' page at http://code.campware.org/projects/campcaster.

Douglas Arellanes Head of Research and Development on the project tells me that he and programmer Ferenc Gerlits are now in Freetown, Sierra Leone to install Campcaster at the Cornet network of community radio stations. They already have confirmation that a number of other stations have already begun installing and extending Campcaster, and they will regularly update the Campware site as we hear about new implementations.

Next on their release program (in addition to bugfix releases) is Campcaster 1.2, which is code-named "Kotor" because they are planning to implement it at Skala Radio in Kotor, Montenegro. The main feature will be integration with Campsite, which will allow stations to create and manage news broadcasts in an effective and user-friendly manner.

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