Thinking about the closure of the FCC and its effect on licensed operators, also made me think about unlicensed radio operators: a.k.a. pirate radio stations.
Are government shutdowns a potential broadcast opportunity for pirates that might not otherwise take to the air?
I’m curious if anyone noted new shortwave or FM pirate stations during the US government shutdown. Did the respite from FCC enforcement bring anyone out of the woodwork? Please comment!
PS: Can you do us a favor? In comments, please stay on topic (radio) and refrain from political arguments. Many of us appreciate the SWLing Post as a refuge from the toxic back-and-forth prevalent on so many other sites. If you would like to engage in political discourse, please check out Reddit. Thank you!
SWLing Post reader, Chris Smolinski of the HF Underground, has shared data he has collected from listener-submitted pirate radio logs prior to and following the US government shutdown. The results are intriguing.
As frustrated as many are over the US government shutdown, it nonetheless offers one unique benefit to the shortwave radio community, and to pirate radio in particular––no FCC enforcement.
As we mentioned earlier, the FCC’s enforcement arm was shut down along with all other FCC activities that weren’t directly connected with “the protection of life or property.”
The result? Pirates––lots of pirates––on the air! The Jolly Roger flaps in the breeze…
Pirate radio activity since the shutdown has truly been at a record high, with pirates taking to the airwaves throughout the week, and especially on the weekends.
Case in point: this past weekend, the North American “pirate radio grounds” of 6,920-6,970 kHz were packed with pirate radio stations. There were even crowded band conditions; at one point I tweeted that there were no less than three pirates broadcasting simultaneously in just a small chunk of bandwidth on AM. Indeed, there may even have been a fourth that I couldn’t quite detect…An unusual occurrence, to say the least. And with pirate radio’s favorite holiday, Halloween (think War of the Worlds), fast approaching, there’s likely to be more such unusual activity.
Many ham radio operators are aware of the upcoming Wake Island DXpedition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the World War II massacre; everything had been arranged in advance, including payment for the flight to Wake Island. But as the last leg of the operators’ trip to Wake Island relies upon a coordinated venture with the US Air Force, just as many USAF employees suddenly find themselves on furlough, the trip has been placed on hold until the shutdown ends. This is particularly unfortunate in that DXpeditions are pricey ventures; the total cost of the Wake Island DXpedition cost each radio operator $9,000 out-of-pocket, for a grand total of $140,000 US.
I received the following message from the DXpedition on Wednesday:
Those of us on the Wake Atoll DXpedition team were scheduled to depart today for Hawaii, on our way to Wake Island Friday.
However, because of the U.S. Government shutdown yesterday, the DXpedition has been delayed. The USAF is preoccupied with sequestration activities and many staff personnel have been furloughed.
We are hoping this is a short-term delay, as we continue to pursue the approval process. As soon as a revised schedule is finalized, new dates will be posted on the Wake DXpedition website.
In the meantime, thanks to all for your continued support.
John Miller, K6MM
Yesterday, the DXpedition actually caught the attention of the Reuters news service:
For anyone questioning the reach of the federal government shutdown, consider Wake Island.
Not much more than military-plane refueling and classified operations occur on the unincorporated U.S. territory, a coral atoll located between Hawaii and Guam, about 6,700 miles (10,780 kilometers) from the legislative standoff in Washington.
That was about to change this week with the arrival of a dozen ham-radio operators who thought they’d won approval for a two-week commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the World War II massacre of almost 100 U.S. civilian contractors on Wake Island by the Japanese on Oct. 7, 1943.
Instead, after months of preparation, the trip is on ice because of a paperwork delay the group attributes to the partial federal shutdown, which started Oct. 1 as Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on a stopgap spending measure.
“They made it sound like it was just unfortunate timing,” said Craig Thompson, 61, one of the expedition’s leaders. “At the level that it was at, they were focused on what they had to do to shut down government, to prepare their budgets and deal with all of the other changes that were going on.”
The operation was of special interest to tens of thousands of ham operators inside and outside the U.S. The hobbyists collect contacts with all countries and islands in a practice known as DXing. Because Wake Island hasn’t had a major radio expedition since 1998, there’s great demand for its confirmation of a contact there.
All the paperwork was in place, except for final travel orders that needed one last Pentagon signature, said Thompson, an electronics company owner from central Illinois who is a veteran of radio expeditions to other remote locales, including Midway Island and Swains Island in thePacific Ocean.
[…]The U.S. Air Force manages Wake and access is restricted. The group was to fly commercial on Oct. 2 to Honolulu, where they would have then boarded a military flight today to Wake.
The decision to cancel was made late on Oct. 1 after determining the group probably wouldn’t get final approval in time to catch the second flight, flown once every two weeks.
I noted at least seven pirate radio loggings here in North America on Wednesday, October 1–the first day of the US government shutdown. This is a remarkable number of pirate loggings for a weekday night.
The American Forces Network’s Pacific transmitting site, Diego Garcia, will have reduced radio broadcasts due to the US government shutdown. The following is a statement from their Facebook page:
“In light of the government shutdown, because of mandatory staff reductions at the AFN broadcast center, AFN will reduce television services to the news and pentagon channels only. AFN radio will carry some football games live on the voice. We’ll keep you updated as the situation progresses.”
AFN Diego Garcia broadcasts on 12,579 kHz and 4,319 kHz . Many thanks to Sudipta Ghose for the tip!
At least for now, it would appear, “programming of the U.S. international media networks will continue for overseas audiences” according to the BBG website and CNN.
I expect many VOA listener entertainment programs (those focused on music, arts and culture) will play archived material during the furlough. News programs should continue to deliver up-to-date information.
However, the shutdown will unfortunately have some affect on VOA Radiograms, as producer/presenter Dr. Kim Elliott will be on furlough as of 15:00 UTC today. In an email to the VOA Radiogram community, Elliott states:
You probably have heard the news about the US government shutdown. Congress has not sent to the White House an appropriations resolution that would allow continued funding of US government operations.
While VOA will remain on the air to provide news in its 42 languages, I will be on furlough during the shutdown and may not be able to produce a new VOA Radiogram for the weekend of 5-6 October. If the shutdown continues through the weekend, the transmitters, if they are on the air during the four half-hours of VOA Radiogram, will probably broadcast last weekend’s program, number 28, again.
After about 1500 UTC today, 1 October 2013, I will not be able to use this email account to send or receive emails until the shutdown ends.
The VOA Radiogram website, voaradiogram.net, will remain online during the shutdown, but I will not be able to update it after 1500 UTC today. I have already posted on that website some interesting results from the past weekend’s program.
Thanks to all of you who sent reception reports for VOA Radiogram during the weekend of 28-29 September. I will respond to all of your emails but will not be able to do so until after the shutdown.