back to article Pastor la vista, baby! FCC enforcers shut down church pirate radio

Open up! It's the FCC! The words that every pirate radio station fears. This time, however, those words landed on a man of god: Pastor Yvon Grand-Champ. Grand-Champ ("big field" in French) had been hunted down by US comms watchdog the FCC's most fearless and intrepid investigators – its region-one enforcement agents, known as …

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F and M?

Fuckingover Mostpeople?

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Happy

Re: F and M?

'round here it stands for "Fucking Managlement" .

Typically uttered with a note of despair. Usually used in conjunction with rolling of the eyes or a fingered salute in the direction of the managler concerned.

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Re: F and M?

There is a bank with those letters. I think it's F & M Trust, but can't be arsed to look it up...

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Bullies

often pick on the weak, not those multi-billion dollar corporations. Wonder why?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bullies

Sorry, you talking about the churches or the FCC there?

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Mushroom

Re: Bullies

"multi-billion dollar corporations."

That'll be the Church.

In the UK you often see the begging bowl out for the CoE saying how poor and impoverished they are, Oooo we can't afford to repair our roof...poor us.....

Yet they sit on £12-14 BILLION worth of stocks and shares...Oh but it's a separate entity...Oh fuck off.

<RANT OVER>...for now.

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Re: Bullies

And what about the Catholic Church? It's worth how much, world-wide? And yet they still insist on tithes from the poorest of the poor in the third-world (whatever that means these days).

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What a waste of time. The FCC is in the sway of NAB and ClearChannel (IHeartRadio), who have destroyed the commercial medium. Pirates are more interesting.

I live in the Boston area and when I go into the less-wealthy areas of the city (and Mattapan is possibly the poorest part of the city itself; it's not a suburb, and it's not gentrifying like so much of the city), I can hear several pirate stations. Most are broadcasting in Haitian Krio, which sounds sort of like French. Occasionally English. There is sometimes a high-powered English-language station on 87.7. One station operated there for years, with a signal that could be heard well for 10 miles and faintly a lot farther (I once picked it up into Worcester), and a studio quite visible to the public. Eventually the FCC found the transmitter. Another station then picked up the channel... and both of them sound better than a lot of commercial stations.

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To be fair ...

... that map, and list of numbers-per-state-in-the-lower-48 (apparently Alaska and Hawai'i don't have an issue with pirate radio!) contains take-downs dating back to half way into the first term of TheShrub's administration.

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Re: To be fair ...

That's because this article isn't really about pirate radio so much. IMO it's about the desirability of Net Neutrality, like so many El Reg articles lately. But once again expounding on the many qualities of NN, or once more saying the Trump admin are bullies for stopping it, isn't getting the job done.

So there's a need for other "hooks" to use, and hey, there's pirate radio stations being shut down every so often, and it's the FCC doing it too!

What perfect setup. The FCC grows horns when anyone tries to horn in on THEIR turf, but all those poor cable farmers are to be left to the tender mercies of the status quo.

This stuff writes itself!

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Re: To be fair ...

Well, Mr John, The Reg is an online news site and it can't write the same article with the same words over and over, so it looks for new events to be able to run a theme. I think Net Neutrality is a fair and equal way of ensuring that corporations don't continue to shut out everyone but their own monopolies or cartels. El Reg brings to my attention where Governemnt agencies are siding with corporations and not helping ordinary Americans. Do you think their facts are incorrect, or is it their tone and approach you don't care for?

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Re: To be fair ...

I'm still undecided about NN, because I haven't taken the time to really study it. So yes it is the tone and approach I object to.

I've essayed a few jabs at supporters to see what's what, and the responses (here at least) tend to indicate most of them aren't very sophisticated thinkers (present company excepted). As a result my default assumption is that NN might have more negatives than positives. It also goes against market forces, and when governments try to mess with those forces the results are often not good.

For instance, supporters assume the pipes are zero-sum, but that's not the case. If big bandwidth users are willing to pay more for additional bandwidth, the market will respond by building out more infrastructure in order to sop up that extra profit.

Supporters however, suggest that it will instead throttle down the small users. That sort of thing generally doesn't happen in a free market. I see this "We'll be made to do with less so the fatcats can hog it up" attitude as a scare tactic to get more supporters.

But I could be wrong about it. The modern world is very complex, and perhaps NN is the future. If so, so be it. But let NN win on its merits, not because of a slick campaign to make the FCC proclaim it to be law.

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Re: To be fair ...

But the users are not google etc. they are the residential customers.

If a customer buys a service that allows XX bandwidth, then it makes no difference to the ISP where the customer uses that allocation.

If the ISP offers unmetered access, then the same principle applies, and if the ISP has a problem with that it's their fault for over-selling.

Trying to charge netflix more because a paying customer *requests* data from netflix is double-dipping

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To be fair ...

Where real Net Neutrality comes into play is when an ISP is prohibited from artificially throttling access to a competitor. I have no problem with regulations prohibiting that as it maintains a level playing field – however that isn’t the definition that the FCC tried to apply.

The double-dipping you mention isn't happening, even without Net Neutrality. Nobody is trying to charge Netflix more -- unless Netflix wants a direct pipe into their network or to colocate equipment in their server rooms. Personally I don't have a problem with that, and I have serious concerns about the business ethics of those who do. If it drives up the cost of Netflix so be it, because right now the people who DON'T use Netflix are actually underwriting the cost for those who do.

Also, a residential customer doesn't buy XX bandwidth, they buy access to a pool of bandwidth. There is a big difference, as purchasing dedicated bandwidth is well outside the financial means of most residential customers. If you want a dedicated, guaranteed 45 Mbit channel to the Internet then you can shell out the cash for a DS3 – otherwise you can get a broadband connection and split up the cost with the rest of the residential customers like the rest of us.

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Re: To be fair ...

Um, no one on NN rejects charging for packets. They reject charging for specific packets.

Charging for more bandwidth is not in opposition for NN.

Charging both Netflix and the customer for bandwidth is against NN, as both were already paying for those packets/bandwidth etc.

If more bandwidth = more cost, then charging all companies the same would be fair. Having nodes/servers/routers that cost more to route through is fine, providing, again, it's a fair competition for allowing anyone to bid/pay to use it.

NN stops people opening your mail, and charging you more if it's from a woman, or checking who the sending company is, and charging you more if it's from Amazon (but the same size, shape and weight, distance and cost as any other sender).

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Re: To be fair ...

You've just ignored everything he said.

Here, let me help.

Customer A = just browses recipes and facebook

Customer B = Heavy Netflix / YouTube User and torrents.

Provider = X amount of Bandwidth per months.

Currently customer A is subsidising Customer B.

If that wasn't the case, and everyone acted like Customer B, then you would end up paying substantially more.

That's the reality under NN.

You think it's great, because you are customer B.

Screw all those Customer A types that are subsidising you.

Right?

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Re: To be fair ...

ISP's in the 90's oversold dialup connections at an average of 14+ to 1 (AoL was 20+ to 1 for a while there) to make a profit and only added modem racks when the customer busy complaints added up to a certain percentage. That's the reality. Bandwidth and hardware cost money and your customer A has *always* subsidized not only customer B, but bandwidth/hardware upgrades at the ISP level.

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Re: To be fair ...

So, am I to understand that NN will codify this inequity toward Customer A?

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Facepalm

Re: To be fair ...

Customer A or customer B can pay for what they use. Or the company can apply an averaged price so A and B are the same.

Is there anything wrong with customers paying either for their use, or the same price? Either way is an option, either way is "fair".

Breaking NN means a company can charge a customer based on their name, the colour of the webpage, or the brand of their shoes... instead of, charging for... THE SERVICE PROVIDED.

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I remember the North Sea pirates of the '60s, so much better than anything anyone else has ever put on air in the UK. When the Beeb/gov finally got them closed down and started Radio 1 it was all downhill from there on in. Capital and a couple of other stations were good in the beginning but the last time I listened to Capital radio in London it was 70% ads and pointless yak instead of good music.

Most pirate stations whatever their style and content have to be better than licenced stations in order to get listeners, usually they are operated and run by people who believe and are passionate in what they are doing rather than having a job in radio.

Some of my nephews were running garage stations in the '90s, good music and commentary while just staying ahead of the BoT.

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I wouldn't say it was ALL downhill.

Auntie Beeb did wind up with John Peel, after all.

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Re: I wouldn't say it was ALL downhill.

And Kenny Everett. Briefly. Several times. They, like everyone else, we're serial Everett hirers / firers.

Sadly missed, both of them.

We could certainly do with Kenny's documentary series being back on air. I reckon some world politicians would be appalled at the continued atrocities being committed by the Thargoids, and would set out to do something about it. That's something we need them to do.

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Anonymous Coward

Most pirate stations whatever their style and content have to be better than licenced stations in order to get listeners, usually they are operated and run by people who believe and are passionate in what they are doing rather than having a job in radio.

AFAIK it's not actually very expensive or difficult in the UK to get a transmission licence for a local, low power FM station. One suspects that part of what makes them "better" is the whole living dangerously on the edge thing.

As well as stamping all over the airwaves, pirates cause other problems, often causing criminal damage breaking into sites to plant their remote transmitters (the ones who hang an aerial out the bedroom window are easily caught...). And they fight over good sites, destroying each others equipment if Ofcom haven't got there first. One lot shoved another's aerials down the sewerage stack of the apartment block it was sat on, caused several floors below to be flooded by sewerage.

They might be transmitting interesting radio, but mainly they're criminal vandals who don't give a damn about the misery and expense they cause to everyone else.

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"AFAIK it's not actually very expensive or difficult in the UK to get a transmission licence for a local, low power FM station. One suspects that part of what makes them "better" is the whole living dangerously on the edge thing."

As it's something I try to do each year... (legally I might add)

The cost is about £5-6k/month

That includes the FM license and the music licensing, as well as a pittance to buy in national news for 2 minutes an hour.

Recent loss of grants for youth work has left us in a position where we are now online only. The music licensing is far cheaper than for FM, and of course there are no FM licenses.

Buying the right mobile phone contract, at the right time, to allow for 24/7 streaming is the new challenge...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

Really? For what kind of organisation, licence, etc? Please provide more detail (an advertisement will do :)).

For a short term Restricted Service Licence for FM radio Ofcon have an up front application fee of £400, and if granted the subsequent licence for up to 1W on FM radio is £10/day, or £30/day for up to 25W. Or did I miss something?

The Ofcom tariff can be found at e.g.

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0034/57976/tariff-tables-2016-17.pdf

Yes there'[s PPL on top of that where applicable.

I'd be rather more impressed with Ofcon in radio if they actually made some attempt to enforce the 'local content' rules for 'local' radio broadcasters, rather than continuing to encourage the unstoppable rollout of national networks such as Heart/Capital/etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

£30/day for up to 25W. Or did I miss something?

Music licensing fees.Those are the real killers and, since they're ignored by the pirates, that can make the pirate stations seem better; they don't have the performing rights restrictions.

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Re: john Peel

And Whisphering Bob Harris

As a student at Polytechnic of Central London from '72 to '75 I saw many top artists going in and out of the Beeb.

Most evenngs, Sounds of the Seventies was a must listen to. Capital had Nicky Horne on earlier which wasn't bad.

The big thing was going to the Paris Studios and getting in free to a gig that would later be broadcast.

Saw BJH a couple of times.

In those days the musice scene was very fluid. No booking up (and paying the booking fee extorsion) 6 or nine months in advance. Saw Hawkwind at Finsbury Park by paying on the night.

Them were the days.

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Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

PPL, PRS, News ... I've got all the radio transmission kit (except the STL, which is now harder to get because of rf licensing changes - but adds another £600 or more onto the costs).

FM is an expensive proposition for a charity - we just can't afford it any more :(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

My initial reading of the 2017 PPL/PRS joint rules and prices for an Ofcon-licenced not-for-profit community radio station [1] seems to suggest that in total they want around £1600 a year (total for both PPL and PRS) for a station with a Net Broadcasting Revenue of (say) under £500K/year, albeit with no obvious 'pro-rata' for short term licences.

Around £30 a week for legitimate music if you're on air all year round? Are there any additional music-related costs for a non-profit community station?

Does £30/week sound plausible? Does it sound *sensible*?

That's still a lot less than £5K/month, so what's missing? Different category of station?

I can clearly see why it might not sound sensible for a small charity to be paying £30/week into the hands of the music rights holders rather than the people that the charity is supposed to be helping, but maybe that's another story.

Apologies in advance if I'm missing something here.

[1] http://www.ppluk.com/communityradio - then follow the link under "How much does a licence cost?" to "joint licence summary". Or go direct to

http://www.ppluk.com/Global/PPL%20and%20PRS%20for%20Music%20Joint%20Licence%20for%20Community%20Radio%20-%20Summary%20(2017).pdf

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Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

I'm not sure what range 1W FM buys but I'd guess it's very short. An upgrade to more reasonable 25W at £30/day adds up to thousands per year (in line with what other OP said). Probably not a pocket change an amateur radio operation could afford. Again, I have no idea how this compared against cost of running Internet radio, but there you get lost among thousands of wanna be broadcaster (like yourself) and have to pay for bandwidth before you get hit with net neutrality issues.

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Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

"enforce the 'local content' rules for 'local' radio broadcasters, rather than continuing to encourage the unstoppable rollout of national networks such as Heart/Capital/etc."

That's probably a bit difficult to do in an atmosphere of the BBC reducing the local content of their local stations.

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Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

25W at 25m altitude (which is the standard restriction) gets up to about 10 miles, with reasonable coverage - given favourable geography it can get a fair way further as well...

1W is obviously significantly lower power, but the transmission strength decays as r^2, so ~2 miles is a likely approximation - not quite a whole town (unless you are in a geographically convenient location)

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Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

"Apologies in advance if I'm missing something here"

We use RSL rather than Community licensing, since we broadcast for 28 days (as constrained by the RSL, we might do 30 odd otherwise).

I haven't looked at this year's fees, but in the past few years it has been a very significant fee, and the PPL/PRS fees were significantly larger for FM than IP broadcast. IIRC the IRN fee was also increased for FM over IP as well. Then you have to link the studio and transmitter, and the radio license for an STL isn't cheap.

As a complete aside... my VPS provider kindly waives excess bandwidth charges for that month as well (which makes it safer from my perspective)... So the comparison is with a two month phone contract, so about £55 for the duration, and the PPL/PRS/IRN online fees (all lower than their FM equivalent)

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Re: I wouldn't say it was ALL downhill.

Sadly, under BBC control, Peel was allocated a "producer" to keep him under control. He was never as innovative or interesting as during the few months he was broadcasting from offshore. Similarly, Kenny Everett was under the thumb of "Auntie", and was only allowed to really let rip when he was on the very early Capital Radio. Everett was an innovative broadcaster and very misunderstood.

British land-based pirates were good in the 70s and 80s, but lost their way when they all became "dance music" clones, financed by raves and drug dealing in the 90s. There are virtually no worthwhile pirates in the UK any more, with the exception of Radio Brittania broadcasting from the top of the pennines, and one or two others around the cities. London has nothing of any note these days, and persistent enforcement actions by OFCOM make most of the ones in the provinces sporadic at best.

Mainland Europe has a lot of pirate activity. France is getting lots on medium wave since their national broadcasters decided to close down there. The Netherlands has a healthy pirate scene, with some of the stations running many kilowatts. Germany suffers under Mutti Merkel and the kids are beginning to make their displeasure known, with many anti-immigrant stations popping up all over the country. Italy is the same chaotic mess that it always was, and Spain has lots of pirates. Greece is pretty active too.

The technology to build and operate clandestine broadcast stations has never been cheaper, and the power semiconductor devices available today are amazing - rugged, lots of gain, and pennies per Watt! Clandestine broadcasters use ever more complex means to conceal their studios and dissociate them from their unattended transmission sites. With some finance and Intelligence, a pirate station can evade the law for years. Their transmitter equipment will periodically be seized by the authorities, but there are seldom arrests and convictions for illicit broadcasting.

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Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

The sad reality of the small licences under OFCOM is that the power levels permitted are barely enough to get over the noise floor - giving a usable range of a kilometre or two in most cities - and their small local long-term licences are so financially restricted that they are impossible to operate without sizeable donations from operators or (if you're lucky) the listeners.

Many of the "community" broadcasters manage to attain audiences that can be counted on your fingers and toes - none will ever be attractive to advertisers - the derisory power levels and antenna restrictions ensure that they can never reach a wide audience.

These licences (RSL and "community") were just a sop to try to close down the pirates. OFCOM don't actually want broadcast radio to be the mass medium it once was. They're doing all they can to kill off innovation and are allowing ever more of the automated, voice-tracked rubbish to fill the bands. They are allowing the three big radio corporations to get away with all sorts of contraventions of the broadcast licence terms, but cracking down on the little, self-financed guys for too little "locally generated" content.

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Re: "The cost is about £5-6k/month"

25W at 25m sets you about a kilometre in reasonably noise-quietening stereo in most British cities. If they're going to be serious about RSL broadcasts, they should be in the low hundreds of Watts for fair coverage in most areas. OFCOM fail to recognise the problems of the raised noise floor (from the proliferation of broadcasters and nasty SMPSUs everywhere).

25W in mono could cover a good chunk of London in the 70s, but these days it goes nowhere.

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Megaphone

Switching to the 2KHz band...

Low power transmitters are actually legal unless they're causing interference. I'd prefer that over the more traditional megaphones mounted on church rooftops.

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Pint

Re: Switching to the 2KHz band...

Placed several "Warning - Radio Frequency Radiation Hazard" diamond signs outside lab building ...

When reading me my rights on an unrelated "punk, I'll knock down your drone if you fly it over me again complaint," sign spooked the police, wouldn't take the invite to come inside ... QR code web URL had similar effect ...

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Megaphone

This is part of their job and it needs to be done

The author of this article really had the "snark" dialed up to 12, and it isn't really helpful.

I'm not a giant fan of the FCC or Pai and his policies, but I do respect the job the FCC is doing as far as enforcement of spectrum allocation goes. If nobody enforces spectrum, then anybody can just broadcast anything, at any power, at any frequency, and so what? Would you like some clown transmitting on cell phone frequencies, so you couldn't use your phone? Especially if you needed to make a 911 call? Or blocking police frequencies, especially when you need the police? (I recall a case where someone was doing exactly that, and was caught by them).

I'm a ham radio operator, and can tell you that the FCC have gone after some really nasty offenders. We had a guy not too far from here who went on racist rants, jammed other stations and was just a total prat. Fortunately, the FCC enforcers paid him a visit and gave him a large fine to convince him of the error of his ways. The spectrum laws do apply to everyone, and they need to be enforced. There isn't really a sensible alternative.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is part of their job and it needs to be done

In addition to widely expanding the possible icons, could ElReg possibly add a way to vote 'sideways'?

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Flame

Re: This is part of their job and it needs to be done

I guess that the point of the "snarkiness" in the article is the way the FCC is hitting hard against a minor, almost inoffensive, nuisance for the public good and, at the same time, letting the telcos and ISPs get away with murder. And IMO it's a very good point.

PAI is just another sociopath, like the guys who chose him for his position.

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Angel

Re: This is part of their job and it needs to be done

How to get a $25K fine

and

Kids can't control dad's radiation fetish ...

http://transition.fcc.gov/eb/Orders/2016/DA-16-1330A1.html

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Re: This is part of their job and it needs to be done

yes, but the article also points out the fickle nature of their enforcement. A light touch when it comes to big rich campaign donors. But for small non-rich offenders, easy targets. This guy cares about a media crusade, the idea that police bands might be compromised never factored into Ajit asshole Pais tiny dickshit head.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is part of their job and it needs to be done

When I were a lad we had one in the north of England dubbed "the whisperer" who would you guessed it whisper rude things mid conversation. I think someone got him in the end and it wasn't the authorities.

I am not surprised it's a worldwide phenomenon.

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Childcatcher

Bigger Fish

Yes, some nutter spewing religious/political rhetoric over the airways is a problem, especially if he's interfering with the emergency services (although there's no indication that either of those things were happening in this instance, I accept that rules must be enforced for everyone, for the sake of the few serious offenders).

However, in the grand scheme of things, a guy spouting "hallelujah" without permission in some muddy backwater, does not exactly constitute a travesty of justice on the scale of, oh say, violating an entire nation's privacy by allowing their private information to be sold to the highest bidder. For example.

I was about to say that the FCC seems to have its priorities backwards, but then I remembered that it too has been sold to the highest bidder. Pretty much just like everything else in the Land of the Fee®.

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Re: Bigger Fish

Boston is a muddy backwater? And here I thought the cleanup after the Big Dig was just about ovah.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bigger Fish

Only an observation from the UK side of the pond, but AFAIK (IANAL) there's a lack of data protection laws in the USA. Given that, I'm guessing the FCC hasn't got a good basis on which it can build a strong legal argument against a data collection scheme created by a telco. At best, they can point out that it's likely to annoy people. Is that about right?

If so, then ultimately the companies can point out that if their customers don't like the terms & conditions, they're welcome to stop using the service.

Of course that's a crazy position to put the public in; US telcos are often local monopolies, and some are seemingly not above the informal use of sabotage to keep it that way. The public often has no choice. How come there's so little competition in many areas of service provision in the USA? Many European countries with their interventionist regulatory tendencies seem to have thriving competitive markets with lots of choice available to the customer.

Do you want the UK to re-colonise the USA? We've got a fab head of state, but I'm afraid our political underlings seem to be a bit shit at the moment, so now might not be the best time.

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Re: Bigger Fish

"Do you want the UK to re-colonise the USA?"

Yes!

(If only for the lulz, watching from the sidelines.)

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Headmaster

Re: "Boston is a muddy backwater?"

The Mattapan ghetto is, yes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bigger Fish

"Do you want the UK to re-colonise the USA?"

Make America Great British Again

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