The “Hidden Den” of Pirate Radio


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Martin Kraft, who writes:

Where’s the hidden den of pirate radio? The Caribbean? The South China Sea? Nope, according to RadioWorld, it’s the New York City metro area:

NYSBA: 76 Pirate Stations in New York, Northern N.J.

A number of pirate stations are operating throughout New York City and Northern New Jersey, according to a recent engineering survey that was recently unveiled by the New York State Broadcasters Association.

According to the survey, 76 stations are currently operating without an FCC license in four primary locations. There are 19 unauthorized stations in the Bronx, N.Y.; 29 in Brooklyn, N.Y.; 13 in Newark, N.J.; and 15 in Paterson, N.J. Brooklyn saw a 58% increase in the number of pirate stations compared to a similar survey conducted in 2015.

The survey does observe that it has likely underestimated the number of pirate stations in the area, and that the total number could be more than 100.

“Like our previous studies, the new survey provides compelling evidence that the FCC needs to address this problem,” said David Donovan, president of the NYSBA. “Last summer, the entire New York Congressional delegation asked the FCC to fix the problem. While the FCC has published an Enforcement Advisory, it needs to devote the manpower and resources to increase its enforcement efforts. Moreover, Congressional action will be important to assist the FCC in these efforts.”

The potential harms associated with pirate stations include: interference to Broadcast Emergency Alert Services; interference to FAA frequencies; and failure to comply with RF radiation rules of licensed broadcast stations.

The survey was conducted by engineering firm Meintel, Sgrignoli and Wallace. The full study can be found here.

Thank you, Martin!

When I visit my buddy David Goren in Brooklyn, I’m simply amazed at the diversity of the pirate radio scene on the FM band. When David isn’t surfing the shortwaves, he’s logging local pirate radio stations. Check out his Facebook page: Flatbush Pirate Decoder. David most recently presented a program on the NYC pirate scene at the 11th HOPE conference–you can download a recording of the presentation here.

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6 thoughts on “The “Hidden Den” of Pirate Radio

  1. Edward

    Other than the potential harm due to interference, They are filling a need in society of conveying information that would not otherwise be met. Maybe there is come common ground to accommodate them that the FCC should look into.

      1. Ike

        Many of these pirates ARE interfering with legit stations (particularly the little non-comms) as well as running commercials for local businesses. The dial is so crowded that it’s difficult for them not to interfere with something, but in the few cases that they’re really not interfering or playing commercials, I agree, the FCC shouldn’t focus on those, but on the ones actually causing problems.

        1. Jay

          I recall and odd situation back before 2007. There was a ten watt station radio Free Brattleboro, in Vermont. It did community type stuff and believe me 10 watts on FM is just so little power how could it ever cause interference into a licensed station’s A or B contours . Impossible. So for ten years FCC pretty much ignored RFB. Then suddenly in darkness broke into the building and grabbed everything in sight.
          This is so unnecessary and abusive. I think FCC must work with legitimate interference and in fact see if the claims are even true. With less funding for this non sense, perhaps FCC will focus on real infringement of spectrum.

    1. jay

      Do you know the FCC? Nope.. most conservative organization ever and they carter to the big wheels, i.e. corporations with loads of political influence. I am told years ago they even busted a 500 milliwatt pirate station some kid had in his bedroom? Duh ?
      They waited ten years to bust Radio Free Brattleboro Vermont. It was a community 10 watt, I heard it in 2007, and it faded out about a mile outside of town. Just a waste and an intimidation to anyone who would use a broadcast frequency without an expensive FCC license.

  2. jay

    I question who find this an FCC important issue. Only direct and harmful interference should any FCC investigations. Billionaires are not entitled to tax payer money to shut every low power station off the air.


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