Category Archives: Pirate Radio

The Internet and community licenses have changed the London pirate radio scene

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Korchin (K2WNW), for sharing the following article from The New York Times:

London’s Radio Pirates Changed Music. Then Came the Internet.

LONDON — In 1993, the illegal radio broadcasters at Kool FM came up with a plan to keep the regulators from raiding their studios.

In those days, the rooftops of South and East London still bristled with unauthorized antennas. Installed by pirate radio stations on top of public housing blocks — the city’s tallest and least secure buildings — they transmitted sounds rarely heard on the BBC or commercial stations. Kool FM was at the heart of the scene, broadcasting jungle, rave, and drum and bass music from the Hackney district of East London.

All the pirates needed was a key to the building — easy to buy off a building worker or tenant — and a cheap transmitter. But they had a problem. Illegal broadcasting is, well, illegal, and, in Britain, pirates can face up to two years in prison, unlimited fines, bans from appearing on legal stations and equipment seizures.

So the pirates at Kool FM covered their studio door with concrete. To get in, they had to scale the outside of the building, jumping from balcony to balcony, said one of the station’s founders, who declined to give his real name but who broadcasts as Eastman. On a recent afternoon, he was standing outside Kool’s current studio in a warehouse on London’s outskirts. Drum and bass sounds from a D.J. called Papa G. emanated from behind the wall.

The regulators rarely bother them now, he said, and capers like the one he described are scarce. In the early 1990s, Kool “was the in thing,” said Eastman. But he estimated that Kool has lost 90 percent of its advertising revenue since its heyday. “We’re struggling because it’s hard to raise money to keep the station going.” Kool has recently rebranded as Kool London, and started focusing more on broadcasting online, though its shows still go out on the old pirate FM frequency.

Kool’s problems are part of a broader trend: Ofcom, the British communications regulator, estimated there are now just 50 pirate stations in London, down from about 100 a decade ago, and hundreds in the 1990s, when stations were constantly starting up and shutting down. Ofcom considers this good news, because illegal broadcasters could interfere with radio frequencies used by emergency services and air traffic control, a spokesman said.[…]

[T]wo things happened that changed the landscape of underground radio: first, the internet, and second, new licenses that encouraged pirates to reinvent themselves along more official lines.[…]

Continue reading the full article at The New York Times.

Stream Kool London here:

Stream Reprezent 107.3 here:

Stream Rinse FM here:

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Catch some shortwave pirate radio action this Labor Day weekend!

Monday, September 3, is Labor Day throughout most of North America; shortwave pirates love to operate on long holiday weekends (though you can hear them most any weekend for that matter).

So, if you’ve never heard a live pirate station on shortwave radio, this is a great opportunity to catch your first pirate.

Don’t know how/where to hear shortwave pirates? Check out this primer!

Post Readers: Feel free to comment with you Labor Day weekend loggings!

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Full text of the PIRATE Act (H.R.5709)

Photo by Michael Maasen

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ulis (K3LU), who shares a link to the full text of the H.R.5709 – PIRATE Act–a bill to “amend the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for enhanced penalties for pirate radio, and for other purposes.”

Here’s an excerpt from the preface of the bill:

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act” or the “PIRATE Act”.

SEC. 2. PIRATE RADIO ENFORCEMENT ENHANCEMENTS.

Title V of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 501 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

“SEC. 511. ENHANCED PENALTIES FOR PIRATE RADIO BROADCASTING; ENFORCEMENT SWEEPS; REPORTING.

“(a) Increased General Penalty.—Any person who willfully and knowingly does or causes or suffers to be done any pirate radio broadcasting shall be subject to a fine of not more than $2,000,000.

“(b) Violation Of This Act, Rules, Or Regulations.—Any person who willfully and knowingly violates this Act or any rule, regulation, restriction, or condition made or imposed by the Commission under authority of this Act, or any rule, regulation, restriction, or condition made or imposed by any international radio or wire communications treaty or convention, or regulations annexed thereto, to which the United States is or may hereafter become party, relating to pirate radio broadcasting shall, in addition to any other penalties provided by law, be subject to a fine of not more than $100,000 for each day during which such offense occurs, in accordance with the limit described in subsection (a).

“(c) Facilitation.—Any person who knowingly and intentionally facilitates pirate radio broadcasting shall be subject to a fine of not more than $2,000,000.

“(d) Annual Report.—Not later than one year after the date of enactment of the PIRATE Act, and annually thereafter, the Commission shall submit to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation a report summarizing the implementation of this section and associated enforcement activities for the previous fiscal year, which may include the efforts by the Commission to enlist the cooperation of Federal, State, and local law enforcement personnel (including United States Attorneys and the United States Marshals Service) for service of process, collection of fines or forfeitures, seizures of equipment, and enforcement of orders.

“(e) Enforcement Sweeps.—

“(1) ANNUAL SWEEPS.—Not less than once each year, the Commission shall assign appropriate enforcement personnel to focus specific and sustained attention on the elimination of pirate radio broadcasting within the top five radio markets identified as prevalent for such broadcasts. Such effort shall include identifying, locating, and taking enforcement actions designed to terminate such operations.

“(2) ADDITIONAL MONITORING.—Within six months after conducting the enforcement sweeps required by paragraph (1), the Commission shall conduct monitoring sweeps to ascertain whether the pirate radio broadcasting identified by enforcement sweeps is continuing to broadcast and whether additional pirate radio broadcasting is occurring.

“(3) NO EFFECT ON REMAINING ENFORCEMENT.—Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the Commission shall not decrease or diminish the regular enforcement efforts targeted to pirate radio broadcast stations for other times of the year.

“(f) State And Local Government Authority.—The Commission may not preempt any State or local law prohibiting pirate radio broadcasting.

“(g) Revision Of Commission Rules Required.—The Commission shall revise its rules to require that, absent good cause, in any case alleging a violation of subsection (a) or (b), the Commission shall proceed directly to issue a ‘Notice of Apparent Liability’ without first issuing a ‘Notice of Unlicensed Operations’.

“(h) Pirate Radio Broadcasting Database.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this section, and semi-annually thereafter, the Commission shall publish a database in a clear and legible format of all licensed radio stations operating in the AM and FM bands. The database shall be easily accessible from the Commission home page through a direct link. The database shall include the following information:

“(A) Each licensed station, listed by the assigned frequency, channel number, or Commission call letters.

“(B) All entities that have received a Notice of Unlicensed Operation, Notice of Apparent Liability, or Forfeiture Order by the Commission.

“(2) CLEAR IDENTIFICATION.—The Commission shall clearly identify in the database—

“(A) each licensed station as a station licensed by the Commission; and

“(B) each entity described in paragraph (1)(B) as operating without a Commission license or authorization.

“(i) Definitions.—In this section:

“(1) PIRATE RADIO BROADCASTING.—The term ‘pirate radio broadcasting’ means the transmission of communications on spectrum frequencies between 535 to 1705 kHz or 87.7 to 108 MHz without a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, but does not include unlicensed operations in compliance with part 15 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations.

“(2) FACILITATES.—The term ‘facilitates’ means providing access to property (and improvements thereon) or providing physical goods or services, including providing housing, facilities, or financing, that directly aid pirate radio broadcasting.

“(3) KNOWINGLY AND INTENTIONALLY.—The term ‘knowingly and intentionally’ means the person was previously served by the Commission with a notice of unlicensed operations, notice of apparent liability, or citation for efforts to facilitate pirate radio broadcasting.”.

Click here to read the full bill at Congress.gov.

Click here to download the bill as a PDF.

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The Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map is live!

I’m happy to announce that my friend and radio producer David Goren has released the Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map: a detailed interactive website exploring the dynamic pirate radio scene in Brooklyn, New York:

“In Brooklyn, when the sun goes down, pirate radio stations fire up their transmitters and take to the air, beaming transgressive, culture-bearing signals into Caribbean, Jewish and Latino neighborhoods. The Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map is an archival home for the sounds of renegade community radio at a crucial turning point in its history.”

The site includes a map and virtual radio pre-loaded with off-air recordings of dozens of pirate radio broadcasters.

Over the past few years, David has put a lot of time and research into this project and I’m pleased to see it come to fruition in such a rich format. You could spend hours exploring the sound map.

Brilliant job, David!

Click here to check out the Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map.

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The “PIRATE Act” promises fines up to $100,000 per day

(Source: Radio World via Mike Hansgen)

Pirate Radio Bill Formally Introduced

Bipartisan legislation designed to thwart and penalize radio pirates and supporters

BY SUSAN ASHWORTH, MAY 9, 2018

Another legislative step has been taken in the effort to fight illegal pirate radio operations.

On May 8, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) formally introduced a bill to Congress designed to thwart and penalize illegal radio operations.

Known as the ‘‘Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement Act,” the PIRATE Act will increase the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on pirate activity by increasing fines, streamlining enforcement and placing liability those who facilitate illegal radio broadcasts.

“It is time to take these pirates off the air by hiking the penalties and working with the Federal Communications Commission on enforcement,” Lance said in a statement. Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly have been able partners in making sure these broadcasts are stopped. This bill will give the FCC even more tools to take down these illegal broadcasts.”

As a commissioner who has long been searching for more Congressional authority to address pirate radio operations, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly commended the effort after the news was announced.

“This bill rightfully increases the penalties, requires regular enforcement sweeps, and augments the tools available to the commission, which are woefully inadequate and outdated, to deal with illegal pirate broadcasters,” O’Rielly said in a statement.[…]

Click here to read the full article via RadioWorld.

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