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Pirates prepare for new battle of airwaves
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Post Pirates prepare for new battle of airwaves Reply with quote
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1297008,00.html

Illegal stations seen as magnet for drugs and crime

Hugh Muir
Saturday September 4, 2004
The Guardian

To listeners, they are the buccaneers of the airwaves. More than 40 years after the first wave of pirate DJs challenged the hegemony of mainstream radio, illegal broadcasters have again seized the initiative.
Broadcasting from secret studios in offices and flats with aerials and transmitters concealed elsewhere, stations such as Flava FM, Y2K, Rinse FM and Flames FM have built a devoted following by playing cutting edge garage, ragga, hip-hop and drum'n'bass.

Estimates suggest that at least 133 illegal stations are operating in London; another 42 are broadcasting from other cities.

But as from this week, the battle to force the pirates off the air is going to be waged as never before. Amid concerns that some of the illicit operations have become a magnet for drugs, crime, vandalism and anti social behaviour, local authorities in London are planning a joint strategy, implementing laws and regulations that may see station owners and even the DJs themselves sent to jail.

The chase between the pirates and the authorities was once akin to cat and mouse, but some now have no qualms about resorting to violence.

One council officer who found men erecting an aerial on the roof of an east London tower block is said to have been dangled over the side of the building by his ankles. Other council officers complain of threats.

Officials claim there is a clear link between the activity of some pirates and the drugs trade, with rave events publicised on radio stations used to distribute heroin and ecstasy. They say the housing estates used as secret bases often become hotbeds of crime, drug abuse and prostitution.

"The common perception is of young guys who just want to play their records," said Michael Manders, housing co-ordinator for the Home Office-funded anti-drug project CrackDown. "But what the police tell us privately is that the major drug dealers are using this as a way of moving their drugs."

During the first meeting of the London pirate radio enforcement practitioners group, one officer told how colleagues discovered one illegal station broadcasting from a crack house. "There were two doors," he said. "One led to the pirate radio and the other to the crack den."

Another official, who declined to be named for fear of reprisals, said: "It is pretty clear to us that when we move a station away from an estate, there is less crime; less anti social behaviour."

The pirates acknowledge the dangers and illegality involved. On its website Flava FM, one of the biggest, salutes those "risking their lives ... erecting 40ft aerials on top of 16 storey tower blocks".

But the boroughs see the process differently. They say some pirates have intimidated tower block residents to gain access to roofs. In some cases access doors have been booby-trapped by wiring them to the electricity supply to prevent enforcement teams reaching aerials and transmitters.

Razors and syringes have been glued to ladders. The councils also have to pay to fix doors, lift shafts, and rubbish chutes damaged by the pirates.

There are wider concerns: pirate transmissions have been known to clash with the output of legitimate broadcasters, but, more dangerously, the frequencies used by hospitals and the emergency services have also been affected.

Heather Mallinder, of Tower Hamlets council, organised this week's meeting and said the boroughs are keen to give budding broadcasters their chance on community radio.

But she said they are also determined to root out the pirates. "At the moment, if a station is shut down in one borough, it just opens up in another. We want to stop that.

"We all have intelligence about stations and the DJs and we will be sharing that. We will seek antisocial behaviour orders which apply Londonwide."

She added: "The DJs pay £30 to go on air for half an hour. They think they will be stars. But they need to know that if they break an Asbo, it could lead to six months in jail."

For seasoned pirates, the rewards can be good. Stations can make up to £3,000 a week by charging their DJs, the record companies and by taking adverts. The exposure allows DJs to charge more when they play in clubs.

Ian, 28, a DJ who was involved in pirate radio for 10 years, has recently been broadcasting with Kane FM, a Surrey station which was given a 28-day temporary licence by Ofcom. He is fiercely defensive of most pirates.

"There are only about six or seven who cause any trouble. The others just want to play music and there is the demand. The view is that pirates are evil and need to be wiped out, but it is just not true."

He said the crackdown will probably fail. "There are about 100 enforcement agents for the whole of the UK and the authorities have been fighting a losing battle against pirates since 1949.

"They should sit down and consider how much easier it would be if they just let people listen to what they want."

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Marko - PCS Electronics
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Sat Sep 04, 2004 8:54 pm View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
marek
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Joined: 31 May 2003
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Post Reply with quote
Hmmm, during all the years I did pirate radio there were no drugs or other criminal offences in connection to the radio transmissions. Maybe a beer or two, but that's all.
It's almost amusing how the counterpart always involve drugs, smuggling, stealing, criminal offences, trafficking etc when they try to scare people off. They use the same tactics about pirate viewing cards, but none of those I've known involved in such activities as radio or pirate cards have been even close to such activities.
Fri Sep 10, 2004 10:30 pm View user's profile Send private message ICQ Number
pcs
Site master
Site master


Joined: 18 Jan 2002
Posts: 3063
Location: Radio Land

Post Reply with quote
I think this is just London syndrome, and maybe not even
that. Newspapers will publish anything, especially when
technical (they lack competence to write about anything
technical).

_________________
Best regards,
Marko - PCS Electronics
--------------------------------------------------------
Turn your PC into a FM radio station!
http://www.pcs-electronics.com
fax +386 4 2316 128
Fri Sep 10, 2004 11:41 pm View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
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