back to article Ofcom cracks down on London pirates

Ofcom has shut down 22 pirate radio stations in a combined operation with Hackney, Haringey, Tower Hamlets, and Islington boroughs, arresting three people, raiding one studio, and writing angry letters to 20 night clubs whose advertising was funding the broadcasts. The regulator's last crackdown was in 2005, when it closed the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    comminicating with drugists

    "Apparently, stations are also used to communicate with drug dealers, by playing specific songs to indicate shipments, and to fund the drug trade."

    that sounds like a load of bollocks someone's made up after watching too many war films or something.

  2. brainwrong


    You forgot to mention that pirate radio stations also fund crime.

    Oh, sorry, this is ofcom misinformation that you're quoting, not the police.

  3. ben

    Pirates be gone, make way for the old pros

    Thank god these people with their original taste in music have been banished, now I can settle down to more Chris Moyles. I just love the fatman and his crazy rude comments and all that great manufactured music.

  4. Dave Burns

    This made me laugh!

    "Apparently, stations are also used to communicate with drug dealers, by playing specific songs to indicate shipments, and to fund the drug trade."

    I work closely with a pirate radio station and this sort of thing does NOT happen, we reguarly play anti-gun/knife/drink-driving adverts and all the djs pay a small fee to play on the station. We also run a no drinking or smoking policy in the studio. We dont make any money from the station we only cover costs and we do this because there is a lack of radio stations around that play music the youth culture want to listen to. If we did make any money from it I would probably spend it on shipping drugs into the country via my columbian mansion where I live with my 17 whores.

  5. Martin


    I'm not against pirate radio in principle, but in practice they DO interfere with legitimate radio stations, so much so that sometimes they are unreceiveable. I have experienced this myself in the London area. It doesn't help when some uneducated tosspot in the pirate studio turns all the gains up to 11, resulting in the FM signal transmitted using far more bandwidth than necessary.

  6. John

    So many unlicenced

    The fact that there are still so many Unlicensed stations shows that government legislation, is still way behind modern day broadcasting requirements. Historically since 1969 people have been broadcasting music that they want to hear, from land based secret locations. Its about time in 2008 that OFCOM woke up and started offering affordable licences for small organisations that want to provide a service for their target audience, the current schemes for Analogue and Digital radio, only allow organisations with deep pockets and large budgets to play at radio.

    Local Radio Stations, that cover small areas often become automated or run by volunteers, to remain on air due the expense of staff and licenses and lack of advertising revenue.

    As long as it cost thousands ( sometimes millions) of pounds a year to bid in auctions for local radio licences.. pirates will remain, regardless of OFCOM or police action.

  7. Lickass McClippers

    Funding drugists? Or funding terrorism?

    Surely they've missed a trick here. I thought the usual party line these days was to cite terrorism?

    “Apparently, stations are also used to communicate with terrorists, by playing specific songs to indicate attacks, and to fund the religious funda-mental-ism.”

    Bunch of bollocky-wank...

  8. Anonymous Coward

    We must be winning...

    the war on terrorism. Reverting back to the war on drugs with no mention of the terroristas using their pirate stations to signal Jihad probably means that the threat has been neutralised for now.

    "The vengabus is coming and everybody's jumping..." , ah my shipment has arrived. Toodles.

  9. Darren B

    Can Ofcom shut down Luton Airport's ATC

    For interfering with our morning radio listening?

    We regularly have to listen to "chat" en route into Luton when we the clock radio starts up on Radio 1 in the mornings.

    Ok, maybe some of you think that flight XYZ from ABC may be more interesting to wake up to than Chris Moyles but it is actually more annoying when it breaks into the music.

  10. b166er

    The other 4

    Were probably thinking that it shouldn't even be possible to interfere with these emergency services broadcasts, and that perhaps they should be moved to other frequencies.

    I thought these services used TETRA anyway?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Did er... well could

    "One has to wonder what the other four were thinking."

    Those would be the 4 that either understand the technology or have had sufficient dealings with Ofcom to know what a bunch of half-truth telling incapable tossers they are. Their court testimony generally makes extensive use of the word "could" whilst trying to make the jury believe the person did.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I share the authors disbelief of claims that life-safety services are interfered with, they could interfere with almost anything if only a few metres away, but i presume the pirates put their aerials on rooftops.

    most likely is that they will interfre with legitimate (though normally shite) FM broadcasts elswhere in the band, especially if these are already a weak signal.

    the worst sufferers will be the next-door frequencies, (though pirates try to put their station in a quiet part of the band) - and this is the toss-pot effect, if increasing the "deviation" thing make the station "jump out the dial" then which DJ wouldn't?

    Its hard to instil good working practices in pirates

    - mine's the ripped trenchcoat with the bulletholes

  13. Shakje

    Pirate radio stations...

    pay for the heroin which dealers use to hook kids. For God's sakes, think of the children.

  14. Steven Griffiths
    Thumb Up

    Er, something doesn't add up...

    "...shut down 22 pirate radio stations... ...arresting three people, raiding one studio..."

    So that's one arrest per 7 1/3 radio stations right? Sounds like good odds & a lot of people going shopping for parts to get back up & running.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ brainwrong

    Although they may not fund crime themselves, the people who run them in the areas mentioned are usually involved in crime, not least the breaking and entering tower block machine rooms, the deadly traps left for maintaince workers (mains cable to the door handle a speciality) and the violence towards maintaince workers who discover the stations when manned.

    This sadly is not Ofcom propaganda, it comes from people working in Rehab/Refurb on London estates. They now have to provide security for any workers on roofs and plant areas because the problem is so bad.

    The modern 'urban' pirate radio station is a very, very different beast to Radio Caroline.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Harmonic harmony

    When considering interference, there are 4 areas you have to look at:

    1: Selectivity of the receiver (ie how well it rejects neighbouring frequencies). The only thing you can do here is to choose another frequency (unless you want to go round improving everyone elses receivers!)

    2: Bandwidth of the transmitter (as a previous poster mentioned, turning the gain up to 11 which on FM means wider transmit spectrum)

    3: Spurious transmissions from the transmitting equipment: some equipment will put out signals on nearby frequencies that it really shouldn't - they need to invest in some band pass filters.

    4: Harmonics - most radio equipment transmits harmonics (mainly odd) of the transmit frequency, because the frequency is generated digitally it starts off as a square wave which is essentially the main frequency, plus all the odd harmonics (3,5,7,9,11,etc), so the example of the fire service using 462MHz is the fifth harmonic of 92.4MHz. Again, this can be solved with better filters.

    Of course, this comes from a radio engineer and I expect the pirates don't employ those!

  17. TheHempKnight

    @ Martin

    It's not just pirate radio that does that, in Nottingham I find that tinpot local station 96 Trent FM invades the 97-99 range in some areas blocking Radio 1 with their drivel on a regular basis.

  18. Stuart Van Onselen


    Only one comment on that mis-leading poll?

    So most people are concerned that inteference threatens emergency services? Who wouldn't be?!?!?! Pity the poll question "assumes facts not in evidence." Classic advertising practice, which would get the ASA on their asses if it weren't a govt organisation doing the lieing.

    Yes, deliberately misleading people is still, morally speaking, a lie, even if you don't technically utter an untruth.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    what the other four were thinking

    "Bugger off, you lying bastard, you're making it up. Those stations don't interfere with those other non-harmonically related frequencies, and this is just a strong-arm operation to maintain your monopoly of the airwaves and make the big powerful stations that have paid for licences feel they're actually getting something for their money."

  20. Steve

    Analog TV turn off

    Surely this would be a perfect area of the spectrum for all these pirate stations. Given that most of these stations aren't trying to take over the whole of London but rather play music that their local community wants to listen to, you could hand out plenty of Community Radio Transmitter licences by making sure that no neighbouring districts are near the same frequency. Even if there is overlap in the broadcast area, there shouldn't be problems with interference.

    But, I doubt any of the commercial stations will be happy about the competition. The BBC still remember that the only reason they were a success is because they raided all their talent from Caroline and Luxembourg.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Plays havoc with in car iPod transmitters

    I have stopped using my iPod transmitter in london on a Friday/saturday night due to the fact that I cant get a free band to transmit on.

    Other than that, I used to know a few guys who ran a station down in bournemouth and the only reason they wanted to do it was because no-one was playing the music that most of the people (students) wanted to hear while getting ready for a night on the tiles. As such I dont generally have problems with pirate stations.

    Paris, cos she likes to be a Pirate in mens pants...

  22. Luke Wells

    Oh not that old one

    "Apparently, stations are also used to communicate with drug dealers, by playing specific songs to indicate shipments, and to fund the drug trade."

    yes and pirate DVD's fund terrorists etc etc

  23. mike

    problem solved

    Harmonic Harmony said.

    Bandwidth of the transmitter (as a previous poster mentioned, turning the gain up to 11 which on FM means wider transmit spectrum)

    and distorts to hell

    everything you said i agree with surely the thing to do is to give a subband for low power 10watts should be enough unlicenced broadcasts like in the USA (theres is AM/MW) I would suggest 106 - 108

  24. Clive Galway

    Vive la resistance

    I have to say, that the only time I listen to the radio generally, it will be a pirate station.

    Now I am not saying I condone any of the actions people above have accused pirates of doing, but there is clearly a gap between requirements of the public and the shite pumped out by the commercial radio stations.

    It also has to be said that there are a number of pirates out there that seem to be trying to follow broadcasting rules in terms of what is said over the air (Moreso than what I remember from my youth) and pushing an anti gang / drugs / etc message, which, coming from a street-level broadcast, is much more likely to get the message across to the yoof than some govt public information ad on TV.

    Thank god my fave stations were not affected, big up Freeze and SelectUK.

    Anyway, it's not that it is gonna matter much for too long anyway. With the ubiquity of data enabled phones, and all-you-can-eat data rates falling, I doubt the radio will have much on netcasts (in urban areas at least) for much longer, so spectrum will probably cease to be an issue sooner or later.

    Smiley face icon for the rave generation amongst us.

  25. Edward Rose


    Start a govt. petition for a small slice of spectrum. Set aside for 'pirate radio' use only. Should do a good job.

    But, who's paying for the right to play the music on broadcast, that must cost a fortune (although I don't have sympathy for the RIAA etc). Law is the law.

    And again, as an eng. said earlier, harmonics can be a problem on higher frequencies, and some cheap equipment may be known to sing at all sorts of frequencies without it being noticed on the used one.

    ATC breaking on to your radio, chat to the local airport, chat to Ofcom, pretty sure it shouldn't. Pretty sure they'll be made to do something about it.

  26. JK

    Why are pirates called pirates?

    because they AAAAARRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRR

  27. Tony

    Not a patch on "Radio Harry"

    Back in the early 1980's, I used to listen to the sports programme on BBC Radio Bristol. One weekend, there was a problem with what sounded like someone having a conversation that started to overlap the presenters. Eventually, they stopped the radio broadcast and we could hear someone having a phone conversation coming out of the radio.

    It turned out that BBC RB sent their signal across the city to a mast on the outskirts; something went wrong in the exchange and some poor chap called Harry ended up with his phone calls going out on the transmitter.

    It was made worse because he answered the phone with his telephone number; so of course all these sad people started to phone him up - he couldn't understand what was going on. When he was told that he was being broadcast, he burst into a quick refrain of "Rosemary". About half an hour later, he started to get calls from people asking him to sing a bit more!! This all went on for about an hour.

    Eventually, they managed to sort the problem out - no more Harry. The presenters were a bit snotty about it; they then started to get complaints that Harry was better than them, so they quickly dropped the subject.

    However, the bosses at the Beeb saw the funny side - later that year they did a Christamas concert and Harry was asked if he wanted to take part - they dressed him up in a mounties uniform and he had to serenade one of the female presenters! The whold incident was referred to as "Radio Harry" and was the subject of a great number of local jokes for many years after.

  28. u235

    Let the pirates use a DAB Mux

    Because no one else wants to and it might encourage more suckers to buy the soon-to-be-defunct DAB sets. The pirates should be sponsored by Currys & Co so they aren't left with surplus DAB stock along with the pile of HD DVD players.

  29. Ade


    In ya face, literally.

  30. Steve Todd

    Yes, it IS a problem

    I've personaly experienced pirate broadcasts blocking air trafic frequencies in the circuit at Elstree. It's not funny being unable to tell what the tower are trying to tell you because some idiot is using unlicensed transmitter. It would be even less funny if I'd collided with another aircraft because I hadn't heard a warning.

    Licensed air band equipment needs to be checked regularly to ensure that it doesn't exceed power and interference limits. Not so the cheap and cr*ppy kit that pirates use.

  31. Dave Bell

    And why we don't have battlefield laser weapons.

    Ofcom should emply ninja to prowl the rooftops, looking for pirates.

    Anyone want to run a book on who will win?

  32. Anonymous Coward

    @The modern pirate radio station

    "The modern 'urban' pirate radio station is a very, very different beast to Radio Caroline."

    Now here we go again.

    Yeah no doubt there are a number of underworld style radio stations out there who use violence and general unpleasantness in the manner described, but don't fall for the trap of thinking that is the definition of a pirate radio station. There are always a few who have to ruin it for everyone, and thats the case with most aspects of life.

    There are also the associated slimy scumbags who pick up on this phenomenon and use it as leverage to either make money out of it or try to stop others making money which they think should be theirs.

  33. DR
    Thumb Down

    intefererence is possible if not unlikely

    "Ofcom claims the pirate stations interfere with air traffic control and fire brigade radios, ... ...

    Air traffic systems are closer to the FM band (between 108 and 137MHz), so interference is possible, if unlikely."

    without the technical speil it's just summed up in two words, side bands...

    transmissions aren't just on a single frequency, there are other frequencies that are also transmitted, these side bands are different frequencies that decay in power the further they get away from the main broadcast frequency...

    since 108 is extremly close to the consumer airspace of FM radio, unmonitored unlicensed stations transmitting on whatever frequency they like it not just "possible if not unlikey", it's "possible and highly likely"...

    also if you set up a radio station and pay for your airspace, you've bought spectrum, that's yours to transmit on, why should you have to put up with people stealing your airspace and degrading the commercial service that you are offering?

    @dave bell...

    yes another pirates vs. ninjas debate... just what the internet needs :)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wot - no Airwave?

    So why doesn't the fire brigade use didigtal encrypted radio with CRC checks like the police do? Errmmm

  35. Remy Redert

    @Steve Todd

    The control tower frankly needs to do nothing whatsoever. All modern (and most not so modern) aircraft are fitted out with anti-collision systems which will overrule anything ATC says anyways.

    Your anti-collision system tells you to descend then you bloody well descend, not like the Russians who followed ATC instructions while the aircrew coming towards them followed the instructions of their on-board equipment.

    Now ofcourse, if you can't hear the tower, landing/take-off does become a problem, but mid-air collisions won't be.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pirate radio in London

    There are a lot of people commenting here about interference, as if it never happens. I don't remember much about radio transmission from uni, but I do remember about side bands, where, as previously mentioned, you get transmission spikes up and down the spectrum. The types of transmitter that are used by pirates probably don't meet the required standards...

    As an aside, the frequency that radio4 transmits on in Reading is (was?) a pirate radio station in London. Also, the frequency that radio 4 transmits on in London was a pirate radio station for about 2-300meters on the train leaving Reading for a few weeks, really clear and pissed all over radio4. Not good.

  37. Martin Usher

    Low Power FM?

    In the US we're allowed to run low power radio transmitters without licenses subject to not interfering with licensed users. Its also quite easy to get a license for a somewhat more powerful station, especially if you're a non-profit.

    This interference thing is just so much noise. The government swiped half the FM band anyway, the kinds of transmissions that might use it are legacy (you get a lot better service out of a cellphone) and generally they're more interested in restricting public use than anything else -- all the death and destruction scenarios are just so much hot air.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Steve Todd: I built about 50 of them

    Many, many years ago I built a few, and when word went around that the stations I built got less police attention I ended up building quite a few more.

    The reason they were left alone was very simple: I had friends at the local airport and I knew thus first hand just how dangerous interference could be. I thus always made sure I had a nice bandpass filtered end stage - worked a treat..

    Sometimes the problem isn't malice - it's lack of knowledge.

  39. Barnaby Self

    @ Edward Rose

    Having known a few pirate broadcasters, the music they play is more likely to be white label stuff and music they have produced than the gash that the RIAA/MPAA et al are interested in so no royalty fees need paying. In fact most of the producers are pushing to get their music played to get some airtime!

  40. Paul

    abandon FM for DAB, DVB-H or DVB-T

    I think the time has come to move all national stations to DAB, DVB-H or DVB-T and keep FM behind for local radio stations with very low power for their communities.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    This couldn't have been Ofcom

    They couldn't organise a ..... brewery. Unless this was a first.

    Sounds more like the ASA - they do the really tough stuff.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    It wasn't was the drug dealers

    "illegal broadcasters often use violence to gain access to the roof-tops they need to site their transmitters"


    Cop: How did that transmitter end up on your roof?

    Dud: Ummm... some scary guys broke in here and installed it and told me they were mean drug dealers and they would come back if I told the police.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That should have said:

    As an aside, the frequency that radio4 transmits on in Reading is (was?) a pirate radio station in London. Also, the frequency that radio 4 transmits on in London was a pirate radio station for about 2-300meters on the train leaving Paddington for a few weeks, really clear and pissed all over radio4. Not good.

    @Martin Usher - You can also use the same FM transmitters in the uk (due to a recent change in the law) and can fairly easily get a transmission licence for a temporary radio station, provided you can demonstrate the requisite knowledge of transmission systems and broadcast practices.

    As for using cell phones, they are line of site and importantly point to point - they don't broadcast, which is often essential for emergency services radio systems.

  44. Steve Todd

    @Remy Redert

    The system you are referring to is called TCAS, and it's not fitted to anything smaller than executive jets. It's designed for in transit flight, not on approach to an airfield (where there's a higher traffic density), it's advisory rather than taking control and it relies on the other aircraft having a mode C (altitude reporting) radar transponder fitted and active, which many smaller aircraft don't have.

    Please don't try to talk about subjects on which you have no idea.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    We could stop all this criminal activity...

    ...with the simple introduction of biometric ID cards

  46. Mark SPLINTER

    Music Industry = Organised Crime

    So the commercial broadcasting mafia is annoyed that the government regulation mafia isn't doing enough to crack down on the nonprofit broadcasting mafia interrupting the transmission of the messages of the advertising mafia.

    Paying your taxes funds organised crime. So basically, you're either with the tax evaders, or you're with the terrorists. What a mixed up world we live in.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Here we go again

    Media brainwashing.. This is one of the problems with society - the constant barge of non-factual scaremongering.. Oh no there's another pirate transmitter! ****! Planes will start falling from the sky!


    Most of the time, transmitters used by pirates are clean of harmonics and spurious emissions. Using poor equipment means a poor signal and interference, which inturn will bring attention to the unlicensed station, which is not what they want. You will find that the very small minority who occasionally cause interference are most likely using stolen equipment from another station which has been retuned to another frequency by some incompetent jerk.. Or they have loaded their transmitter into a poorly matched aerial.

    Unfortunately, not everyone in the 'underground' radio world has all the technical knowledge, but equipment, once set up, does not often develop a fault of its own. Cases of serious interference from unlicensed broadcasters are few and far between, it is unfair to constantly blame 'pirates' for other people's problems. 2 pieces of equipment can in certain conditions interfere with each other, something which cannot always be predicted.

  48. Anonymous Coward

    Commercial Stations & The CRCA

    They are scared of unlicensed stations. Commercial Radio lose a lot of listeners to unlicensed stations because they churn out the same old durge, day in day out. The 'pirates' (and I must say that term is rather derogatory considering their ethical position in this modern world) do not 'steal' listeners. You cannot steal what does not belong to you. Listeners will listen to whatever they choose. And a lot of them prefer unlicensed stations because they offer variety, something different from the mainstream, delivered in a non-patronising, non-marketed way.

    The CRCA take out lawsuits against pirate operators in an attempt to curtail their activities. But that is a fruitless gesture and only reinforces public opinion that the music & radio industry is motivated by greed.

  49. John Band

    Yay, it's more 'but this is *modern* bad stuff, not like the old bad stuff'

    "The modern 'urban' pirate radio station is a very, very different beast to Radio Caroline."

    Similarly, modern cannabis will turn you into an axe-wielding pyschopath with one drag. And modern terrorists will kill us all unless we can lock them up without trial.

    The scary thing is that 60% of people fall for this utter nonsense (and more than 0% of the people in this thread, who should know better).

  50. Anonymous Coward

    Pirates are not Gentlemen!

    Whilst I am not in principle adverse to public broadcasting, why do Pirates feel they have right to break into sites, destroy private property, steal electricity and sabotage installations?

    I work for one of the mobile network operators and I have personally come across sites where our equipment has been damaged, our engineers have been threatened, our electricity supply has been tapped into and in one extreme example, traps were set which had the potential to cause serious harm or even death to any engineer who had the misfortune to be called out to the fault their installation had caused.

    Don't be misled by the romantic swash-buckling Johnny Depp style character, some of these are very nasty people indeed! If you dont want to alienate network site operators, don't do stupid and dangerous things when installing your sites! If you haven't stopped me getting onto one of my sites safely, installed yoour equipment on my property, damaged my equipment or stolen electricity in such a dangerous way that its likely to give me an electric shock then I'm less likely to notice your installation and tip off OFCOM...!!

  51. Anonymous Coward

    A pinch of salt

    Deliberate sabotage of a mobile phone mast is self-destructive. Only an idiot would cause damage to an installation. What you are witnessing is likely to be a thief's attempt to steal a transmitter, or an attack on said station for whatever reason. Not fair on the mast owner or the phone company and it would not happen if the station was not there.. However, most operators are sensible people, there are some who have been co-siting on masts for years without any issues. Those who cause said problems and threaten people deserve all they get and give others a bad name. Not all 'pirates' are scumbags. If we were all on a ship, they'd be walking the plank!

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