back to article Ofcom wins pirate radio components case

Two directors of Broadcast Warehouse, the Croydon-based radio supplier, have pleaded guilty to supplying illegal radio equipment at Croydon Magistrates Court. The firm pleaded guilty to the charges after Broadcast Warehouse components were found within transmitters seized by Ofcom from pirate stations. The components failed …


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  1. Dave Silver badge


    "Broadcast Warehouse supplies radio equipment to many of the new community radio stations and are on Ofcom's published list of suppliers, but in future they're going to have to be a lot more careful about identifying their customers. Perhaps some sort of ID card?"

    Will a Lithuanian one do?

  2. Dave

    Easy to solve

    This one's easy - on receipt of an order, ring ofcom > does this station have a licence? yes >ok, no > get lost.


    My experience of broadcast hire and sales companies have been that they've been pretty tight with staff at ofcom - more often than not they go direct for the tech details before programming up the Tx's (RDS codes, Tx power, carrier frequencies etc), details like that are often mis-communicated.

    As for contractors/resellers, all they need to do is indicate the intended installed site and the same process applies.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Supporting free speech

    So not everyone is Salman Rushdie, then. Strange to see Ofcom acting like the attack dog of Big Media. But look at it this way - and remember how during 7/7 the cellphone network in London was taken down at the request of the police. When the Civil Contingencies Act is finally put into play, the free flow of information via tv, radio, newspapers, intertubes, can be manipulated easily as there are so few crucial sluice gates. Any private individual with a transmitter will be subjected to a terminal fatwa faster than you can say Black helicopter.

  4. Dave Bell
    IT Angle

    Sounds Dodgy

    I remember that, in the early days of VAT, there were three rates, zero, standard, and luxury goods. And the definition of luxury goods got very tangled when you wanted to buy electronic components (this was in the days before pocket calculators. Designers worked with individual transistors.), as some components were classed as luxury items, regardless of what they were going to be assembled into.

    So what are Ofcom claiming to be radio transmitter components? It sounds like they're talking about fairly substantial black-box modules, but go back to the tech of the 1970s, getting outside the usual supply chains, and you could get a real mess. These pirates are likely at the "Which button?" stage of operation knowledge, and if they can't get the modern tech just how much RF crap will they splatter the airwaves with?

  5. Tanuki
    Thumb Up


    If it helps get rid of the clueless (C)rap/Urban/ethnic-music pirates who wind their transmitter's 'deviation' pot up to 11 and subject everyone across a 2.5MHz chunk of spectrum to the splatter from their 'thumpin phat beats' then I can only say about time too.

    Round here we had one such bastard who as well as transmitting on 101.mumble MHz was radiating significant noise-power on half his intended frequency - which made the 50MHz ham band unusable. Ofcom seemed to get to him before the hams-with-nailguns did.

  6. Geoff Gale

    Opening The Door To The Black Market

    I found this piece interesting in a "the more things change, the more they stay the same" kind of way. Piracy of the "public" airwaves is as old as those airwaves. Since broadcasting is a technical venture, and attracts technical types, shutting down such an obvious avenue of equipment will deter only the laziest, least technical and least committed pirates.

    For those pirates who are interested in a low-to-moderate power (< 100w) local FM rig, there are simply scads of old amateur and commercial transmitters available that are easily modifiable, relatively cheap and perfectly legal to purchase. More often than not, that equipment is sold used in less visible channels than a Broadcast Warehouse-type retail setting. For those pirates wanting to haunt the HF airwaves, the selection of equipment is equally broad and availability equally plentiful. For those who want to charge onto the airwaves at higher power levels, there are perhaps a few more limits, but the determined pirate will find what he needs.

    If the pirates don't personally have the tech chops to unlock and modify PLL circuitry in order to change the operating frequency of a particular rig, there are plenty of people who can and will make such modifications for a small fee. Very often techs who work for manufacturers and resellers will do so because their wages are so poor as to encourage this opportunity to make some extra money. Don't even get me started on the the earlier generation of crystal-controlled equipment - a child could make the tweaks needed to get this sfuff working.

    So, hurrah, Ofcom! Way to go! You've gotten a few column inches of press to justify your existence for the year. But really, now, what have you accomplished?

  7. Mike Bronze badge

    ofcom take action!

    great! now that pirate radio stations are dealt with, i guess that lets you free up some more resources for dealing with ISPs with *unlimited **8Mbit internet ***access

    * subject to staying below the limits

    ** if you live inside the exchange

    *** providing you only access the parts we permit using the protocols we permit

  8. Wayland Sothcott

    One rule one one...

    anther rule for another.

    "The components failed to meet the Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment (R&TTE) regulations"

    They look like pretty good components to me. Exceed FCC specs and are acceptable to Ofcom for licensed radio stations. These same components are substandard when used by pirate radio stations, well take it up with the pirates then.

    This maybe a smart move by Ofcom but it's hardly legal.

    There are plenty of designs for radio transmitters that you can buy components and solder them together yourself. Will Maplin be checking what I am using the BC108 transistors for?

    Pirate radio stations don't have the support of the authorities. Therefore they police themselves. If there is a channel dispute then they destroy the competitors equipment. They may also beat up the people and occasionally shoot them. It is in their own interests of safety to have a strong team and not to piss off other stations unless they can take the backlash.

    @Supporting free speech

    Put your name to your words, don't be a coward. Yes Ofcom do want to clamp down on pirate radio and it's not because of interference. You are right it is to control free speech. In the USA people have traditionally been allowed to run free public TV stations. These are also being shut down but in a different way. I have joined a HAM radio club and hope to gain a license. I am dreading the time that they start clamping down on HAM.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Ofcom Spin at others expense

    Poor old BW. Stitched up good and proper by Ofcom spin.

    As I understand it, hundreds of BW transmitters have been commissioned by Ofcom up and down the country. BW also have a strict policy of not selling to pirate broadcasters. However, there is a huge business in stolen up and down the country with transmitters being nicked from legal stations on a monthly basis (almost weekly in Summer with the lighter evenings). One station I know had it's transmitter nicked, and a week later they came back and tried to nick the replacement!

    As I understand it, some printed circuitboards that were not CE marked (as they were intended to end up inside equipment which would be CE marked) ended up in pirate hands. Because these circuitboards were produced by BW, Ofcom is prosecuting them.

    BW had not directly supplied these components to the pirates and the components were supposed to end up inside transmitters that were CE certified.

    I expect BW have rolled over so easily on this because they will take this to appeal and probably win. In all probability some seemingly legit middleman has purchased the components from BW and then has building transmitters and flogging transmitters to pirates.

    Sad face because Ofcom have spun this to make BW look like a bunch of bastards .

  10. doublejay1973

    community radio is no crime

    Shameful to waste time & resources downpressing something so harmless.

    On the rare occaision I drive to London, I love flicking through the frequencies to hear who's playing what and making super-localis0ed annoucements for the people that live in the area.

    It beats the criminally bland, appeal-to-everyone, trite nonsense that nationwide licensed channels transmit 24-7.

  11. g e


    Surely locate him with a quick DX and shove a pin through his antenna coax, shorting his output next time he transmits and cooking his output stage ;o)


    Who's he gonna call?

  12. Gavin Lawrence

    Ofcom Press Release Appears Misleading

    The wording of Ofcom's Press Release is a little mis-leading and omits the judges comment in summing up which stated: "Broadcast Warehouse is a professional company that is not responsible for any interference caused by other individuals misusing its products"

    A statement from Broadcast Warehouse directors published elsewhere clarifies the situation and points out that the legislation used in this case has traditionally only been applied to finished products rather than components (i.e. Ofcom has a view that bare printed circuit boards should carry a CE mark rather than just finished equipment). All BWs finished equipment does bare CE marks, the bare PCBs - designed to be professionally incorporated into apparatus by OEMs didn't.

    Having taken the time to read through the guidance notes for CE Marking / EMC directives on the European Commissions web site, the commissions guidance is that the end-user responsible for inserting the PCBs in a case and producing finished apparatus are the ones responsible for CE marking (as indeed BW does with its finished, rack mounted equipment).

    The evidence from the EC web site would appear to make a compelling defence, but that evidence doesn't appear to have been presented/argued in court - probably for commercial reasons which no doubt led the directors to enter a guilty plea rather than risk increased legal costs.

    Ofcom - while highlighting this as a 'major case' - fails to include in their press release that the number of pieces of equipment that they have siezed containing non-CE marked components manfactured by BW is tiny and thus if this was an attempt to reduce the number of illegal broadcasters is probably negligible.

    Given that Ofcom is commissioning BW equipment on a weekly basis and that BW is on the official suppliers list, it's actually more likely that the only effect here is that more illegal broadcasters will be sourcing broadcasting equipment that is MORE likely to create interference.

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