A quarter of Londoners living in the boroughs of Hackney, Lambeth and Haringey regularly tune into pirate radio stations, according to new research. Some 40 per cent of listeners told Ofcom, the media watchdog which conducted the study, that illegal radio broadcasts offered more to the community than its commercial and BBC …
Stop Pirates? Make 'em legal.
Canada figured this out decades ago. Make it easy and practical to licence legal non-commercial stations and pirate activity drops to near zero.
If you licence them they need to do the engineering study to show that they won't interfere with other broadcasters. Problem solved.
Several years back Canada took things a step further with "Developmental" radio licences. Fill in a ten page form, provide an engineering brief to support the channel that you want to broadcast on, and you get a 5 watt unrestricted licence for three years.
If at the end of three years you're still on the air, you can apply for a full power licence. Easy and legal.
What's with pirate radio?
I don't think I've ever come across any mentions of pirate radio in Australia. I'm sure we do get plenty of dodgy radio broadcasts, but I've never heard of anyone running anything like a real radio station.
But I can see how it would be a problem. Radio equipment needs to be set up by qualified people, properly calibrated and operating in a frequency range that has been allocated for the area.
The US Option
The FCC started a non-commercial license for community stations 9 years ago. Due to the fact that they made the rules so arcane and impossible to follow, and that the application process takes 3 years, there are no stations that have completed the license program.
Is that the Brixton Broadcasting Corporation?
Pirates are essential
The high cost of licensing for legal stations means that pirates are essential for pushing underground music. Look at when Kiss went legal, it used to be a credible underground station, but is now indistinguishable from almost every other commercial station because they have to pander to the lowest common denominator to get advertising revenue.
Pirates make some of their money from advertising (such as club nights and the like) but also from the 'subs' that the DJs pay to play on the station and keep it afloat. Most pirates, despite what some sections of the mainstream media might say, are not 'fronts' for organised crime and drug dealing, but are run by people with a genuine love for music who shouldn't be criminalised.
Choice of frequency
When driving in and around London, it always amuses/confuses me that some of the pirate operators are broadcasting on or very near to the frequency of national staions, like BBC Radio1.
With all the unused frequencies on the FM band, they choose to go head to head against a BBC channel with massive broadcast power.
Anyone know why this is?
Does it make them harder to detect?
On the emergency service communications: I don't see how broadcasting on the FM band interferes with their radios, unless the pirate station is set up badly with poor equipment and broadcasting spurious signals all over the frequency range.
Surely in the days of live music streaming over t'internet, the use of actual "Pirate Radio" must be in decline?
The 'net solution is legal, cheaper and has a much bigger reach. I'm sure da kidz could set up a service to stream out to these new fangled 'multimedia' mobile phones I hear so much about these days...
Choice of Frequency
Pirates choose frequencies close to existing stations so that listeners will stumble across them accidentally, in much the same way as supermarkets put new products on aisle ends so you will stumble across them.
Many years ago when I used to work on a very imaginativly named station called IBC (Illegal Broadcasting Corporation) we used to piggybag Radio One's frequency with a 10 watt mobile transmitter, we had less success at drowning out Radio One than the dodgy taxi rank.
"It said that illegal broadcasts can cause havoc with emergency service communication systems "
If that were the case, then surely I would be able to pick up emergency services on my FM radio, which I can't, and haven't been ableto since I ued to listen to the rozzers on my airband set in the eighties.
A quick flick through the memory banks on my AOR scanner show no current emergency services frequencies in the FM broadcast bands, but then since MASC and subsequently TETRA were introduced I haven't played with it half so much, so maybe I missed something ?
They can cause havoc with aeronautical communications due to the fact that the transmitters aren't very good at broadcasting on the one frequency. It's a major headache when one sets up and bleeds onto Heathrow frequencies for example. The FM broadcast doesn't get picked up properly on the AM radios, but it sure interferes and makes normal communications almost impossible. Ofcom work with the Aviation authorities and concentrate on rapidly shutting down the transmitters rather than catching the culprits, but unfortunately this means they're free to set up again and again.
About That Internet Solution
True that streaming music over the internet is another means of fulfilling some of the desires that motivate pirate broadcasters, but it's not available in cars; it can be too broad in coverage - FM pirates tend to have a small and loyal following of locals; and it doesn't fulfill the basic craving to tinker with technology and electronics that is an essential part of pirate radio. Part of the fun is overcoming the challenges of setting up a workable rig. Another part of the appeal is outsmarting the agency authorised to police the airwaves.
Streaming digital tracks is in essence too easy and too available. Also, in the US, it's about to become too expensive, what with the bloodsuckers from the recording industry winning that last court battle on royalties.
Here In My Car
In response to Geoff Gale:
If listening to Pirate Radio in cars is such a big thing, use something like slingplayer to get the music to your 'phone, then use your newly legal in car transmitter to get those kickin' choonz out of your car speakers. Possibly at high decibels. With the windows down. At midnight.
Win / Win / Win. ;o)