Tag Archives: Ofcom

Radio Waves: Hacking Satellites, “Close-Knit” Ham Radio Culture, TV Drama Diplomacy, and Ofcom Relaxes Restricted Service Licence

(Image: NASA)

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors BJ Leiderman, London Shortwave, and Michael Bird for the following tips:


Hacker Used £270 of TV Equipment to Eavesdrop on Sensitive Satellite Communications (CBRonline.com)

“Vulnerable systems administration pages and FTP servers were publicly routable from the open internet.

An Oxford University-based security researcher says he used £270 ($300) of home television equipment to capture terabytes of real-world satellite traffic — including sensitive data from “some of the world’s largest organisations.”

James Pavur, a Rhodes Scholar and DPhil student at Oxford, will detail the attack in a session at the Black Hat security conference in early August.

Pavur will also demonstrate that, “under the right conditions” attackers can hijack active sessions via satellite link, a session overview reveals.

The news comes as the number of satellites in orbit is expected to increase from approximately 2,000 today to more than 15,000 by 2030. (Elon Musk’s SpaceX alone has permission to launch 12,000 satellites.)[]

A close-knit culture, with separation at its core (Christian Science Monitor)

Ham radio operators are a global collective with a common aim: to forge human connections in an expanding network. As COVID-19 makes us all ‘distance,’ we wanted to tune in to their world.

You’re logged in, the Zoom meeting underway, and suddenly faces freeze. The best you can do: Reboot the router and cross your fingers. You’re on the phone with a friend, deep in conversation, and the audio gets garbled as the bars on your phone drop from one to none. Technology can fail us at inconvenient times. But imagine a communications technology that could hold up even in the most rugged and remote situations.

It exists, and it’s much older than the smartphone.

Amateur radio, or ham radio, has been around for more than a century, functioning as both workhorse and recreational hobby. After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, amateur operators coordinated communications as cellphone systems became overloaded. They played a key role in Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria took down much of the communications infrastructure. Though there hasn’t been as much of a need during the pandemic – with traditional systems up and running – amateur radio is keeping its own user communities in touch, informed, and emotionally grounded.[]

Australia criticised for TV drama diplomacy (Radio New Zealand)

[Listen to full interview above or at RNZ.]

Australia has been told it should not send low-brow TV dramas and reality shows to the Pacific, but find out what the region really wants.

Canberra has announced plans to stream television content to the Pacific as part of efforts to promote Australia’s relationship with the region, and to counter Chinese influence.

But a spokesperson for advocacy group, Australia Asia Pacific Media Initiative, Sue Ahearn, says sending programmes like Neighbours, Border Force is not the answer.

She believes Australia could provide a much greater service for the Pacific.[]

Update: Licensing drive-in movies and church services (Southgate ARC)

Drive-in movie and church service event organisers could be granted temporary radio licences by Ofcom, which may allow film lovers and congregations to come together while still observing social distancing.

Ofcom has today updated its licensing information to offer guidance to individuals or organisations who may wish to hold these types of events. They require a ‘restricted service licence’ from Ofcom, so that people in their cars can hear the film soundtrack, or what is being said, on their FM car radios.

Given the current coronavirus pandemic, we are waiving the usual 60-day notice period for licence applications. We will also process applications quickly, with the aim of providing an answer to applicants within two weeks of it being received.

We recognise that these events may be a way for communities and congregations to enjoy a film or to worship, while still observing social distancing. In granting any licence, however, we are not authorising the event itself. It is for licensees to ensure that any events are permissible under Covid-19-related laws and guidance.

More information, including on how to apply for a restricted service licence, is available.
Licensing information []


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Small-scale DAB could lead to hundreds of new UK radio stations

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Hundreds of new local digital radio stations could start broadcasting in the UK from next year, under proposals outlined by Ofcom

Ofcom say:

With over 40% of the UK’s radio listening now taking place on the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) platform, today’s proposals mark a major step towards expanding local DAB coverage, giving listeners an even wider choice of new digital radio stations.

Small-scale DAB is cutting-edge technology, pioneered in the UK by an Ofcom engineer. It provides local commercial, community and specialist music stations with a low-cost route to hitting the digital airwaves.

The consultation sets out:

• our proposed spectrum and licensing process;
• our approach to developing a coverage area plan; and
• how we intend to advertise licences and assess applications.

We would like to hear from interested parties by Friday 4 October and intend to start advertising licences early in 2020.

Public consultation information
https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-1/licensing-small-scale-dab-new-powers-and-duties-proposed-by-government

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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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Ofcom charts of UK spectrum allocations

UK-Ofcom-MapMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Colin, who writes:

This chart may be familiar to some, for others like me who has just found it, this will be a very useful one-stop information page for UK spectrum allocations for scanning the bands.

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/static/spectrum/map.html

Thanks, Colin! Ofcom has done a fantastic job making this data accessible. Individual maps for each chunk of spectrum can be downloaded as well.

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Ofcom: Tackling pirate radio

London

This Ofcom press release focuses on the FM pirate radio scene in London–if interested, you might also check out this short documentary on London pirates.

(Source: Ofcom via Southgate ARC)

A new approach to tackling pirate radio has eradicated the problem in one London borough, and could save up to £1 million for Londoners by being rolled out across the capital.

Pirate radio harms local communities and the critical communications used by the emergency services. Ofcom, which manages radio frequencies, is hosting a summit on 3 November to explore the new approach to tackling the problem.

Pirate stations typically use high-rise buildings for their broadcasts, with illegal transmitters installed on rooftops or hidden in lift shafts. This damages residential properties owned by local authorities, disrupting residents’ lives and putting people at risk from falling equipment.

Ofcom has been working in north London, one of the UK’s most affected areas, with public housing body Homes for Haringey. In 2014, 19 pirate radio stations were illegally broadcasting in Haringey. By quickly removing their transmitters and regularly patrolling and securing rooftops, pirate radio has now been eradicated in the borough.

As a result, Homes for Haringey has saved £90,000 in enforcement and maintenance costs over the past year.

On 3 November, Ofcom is meeting with local authorities from across London to share the success of the Homes for Haringey partnership. If this collaborative and proactive approach is rolled out across the capital, local authorities stand to save an estimated total of £1 million per year.

Illegal broadcasting

Clive Corrie, Head of Ofcom’s Spectrum Enforcement team, said: “Illegal broadcasting harms local communities and risks lives by interfering with vital communications used by the emergency services and air traffic control.

“By working in partnership with local authorities, Ofcom is tackling this problem. We also strongly urge those broadcasting illegally to get involved with internet or community radio, a legitimate route on to the airwaves.”

Astrid Kjellberg-Obst, Executive Director of Operations at Homes for Haringey, said: “Pirate radio stations damage people’s homes and can be extremely distressing to our residents.

“We’ve seen huge success in tackling the problem with the measures that we’ve introduced, removing all pirate radio stations from Haringey and saving the borough tens of thousands of pounds in the process. We will continue to work with Ofcom to keep Haringey pirate-free.”

Harmful interference to emergency services

Pirate radio causes interference to critical radio services, including those used by the emergency services and air traffic control.

In 2014, the UK’s air traffic control service NATS has reported 55 cases of communications interference from pirate radio.

Ofcom also receives reports each week from the emergency services and other, legitimate radio services of illegal interference.

Ofcom has powers to seize illegal broadcasting equipment and prosecute those involved.

Accessible, legal alternatives to get on to the airwaves

For anyone wanting to broadcast a radio station, Ofcom offers accessible, legal alternatives to get on to the airwaves. Since 2005, Ofcom has issued community radio licenses, enabling small stations across the UK to get on-air right and serve their local communities. More than 200 community radio services are now broadcasting.

Ofcom is also supporting a new, innovative way for smaller stations to broadcast on digital radio. If tests are successful the system, called ‘small scale DAB’, promises to open up digital radio to smaller broadcasters for a fraction of current costs.

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While Ofcom threatens RT, Voice of Russia launches as “Sputnik”

Sputnik

(November 11, 2014 Screen capture from Sputnik news agency and radio)

As some attentive SWLing Post readers have noted, the Voice of Russia has found a new identitySputnik News Agency and Radio–with a new website/news portal to match. Here’s the message the (former) Voice of Russia posted on their website today:

“Dear readers, we are excited to announce that the Voice of Russia is changing its name and moving over to a new website. We will now be known as Sputnik news agency and radio. You can find all the latest stories from our London bureau here: http://uk.sputniknews.com. Please update your bookmarks and stay with us!”

Meanwhile, The Guardian is reporting that Russia Today has been found guilty of breaching UK broadcasting regulations in their coverage of the Ukraine crisis:

Russia Today, or RT, was summoned to a meeting with Ofcom after it was found guilty of breaching the code governing UK broadcasters in a ruling published on Monday.

The regulator flagged up four separate reports, all broadcast in March this year, all dealing with the situation in Ukraine.

Ofcom said it recognised that RT, which is funded by the Russian government and launched a UK version last month, would “want to present the news from a Russian perspective”.

But it said all news must be presented with “due impartiality … in particular, when reporting on matters of major political controversy”.

[Read the full article at The Guardian online…]

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Southgate ARC notes Ofcom’s approach to FM pirate enforcement

City_of_London(Source: Southgate ARC news)

“The UK communications regulator Ofcom have published information about tackling pirate radio

Although Ofcom have occasionally raided pirate stations operating in the 88-108 MHz band, such enforcement actions have been few and far between.

After the 2008/9 financial year, Ofcom stopped publishing their Prosecution/Formal Warning Statistics and subsequently removed all prosecution statistics from their website, perhaps to hide the fact that they no longer published them. It may be speculated the reason the statistics no longer appeared was because Ofcom had stopped undertaking enforcement action.

Currently in London there are over 25 pirate stations operating in the 88-108 MHz band. Many operate 24/7 so are not exactly difficult for Ofcom to locate if they wished.

In the Pirate Radio page Ofcom point out that they have issued Community Radio licences to former pirate radio stations such as Rinse FM and Kane FM. The inference that may be taken is Ofcom would like pirate radio stations to apply for community radio licences.

Read Ofcom’s pirate radio page at
http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/2013/09/tackling-pirate-radio/

Large amounts of spectrum in 88-108 MHz will be vacated when national broadcasters shutdown their FM transmitters and move to DAB only from 2015 http://www.southgatearc.org/news/june2013/
dcms_dab_radio_reports.htm

2008/9 Ofcom radio prosecution statistics
http://www.southgatearc.org/news/may2010/ofcom_prosecutions.htm

Thanks to Mike Terry and BDXC for spotting this item”

And many thanks to the excellent Southgate ARC for posting this news.

For a brilliant mini-documentary on London pirates, check out this video.

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