Monday, December 14, 2009

Two pirates shut down

Two pirate radio stations in Huddersfield, England, have been raided and shut down.

Ofcom officials pulled the plug on Vibes and Frontline, which broadcast urban music. The two stations, which had to move premises frequently to avoid being caught, were tracked down by the communications industry regulator to adjacent properties in Almondbury on Wednesday.

A 21-year-old woman was arrested. Larry Stoddart, who was one of the pioneers of pirate radio in Huddersfield in the early 1990s, said about £5,000 or £6,000 of equipment, including transmitters, turntables and amplification equipment, was seized.

He said: “Without pirate radio, it’s going to be a very sour Christmas. “These are the only stations providing music that a lot of people want to listen to. Thousands of people listen to pirate radio. If they are using public money to hound pirate radio, it’s a total waste.”

The stations, which operated on FM frequencies 90.6 and 94.7, mainly played reggae, R ‘n’ B and soul and had been running for about four years. They transmitted primarily at weekends and survived thanks to revenue from advertising by small businesses and promoters of club nights.

The man behind Vibes, known only as ‘The General’, has been involved in pirate radio for 20 years and has become a cult figure in the scene.

He said: “I feel rotten about it to be honest. “We give the community up-to-date information about what’s going on and music that they want to listen to. We play what other radio stations aren’t playing.” But he vowed pirate radio would be back. “I’ve got plans,” he said.

Mr Stoddart, 45, said pirate radio helped to reach young people with important messages. He said: “Our main listeners are teenagers and we provide a lot of messages raising awareness of knife and gun crime, sexually transmitted infections and other issues. We are looking for some sort of legislation that would allow pirate radio to operate – maybe having one station per town or city. They say transmitting pirate radio could bring an aeroplane down, but so could a mobile phone.” He said there would be a campaign to bring pirate radio back.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “Ofcom can confirm that it has carried out a raid on two illegal pirate radio stations. Equipment was seized during the operation and is being retained as evidence. The investigation is ongoing.”

During 2008, Ofcom carried out 36 studio raids, secured 28 prosecutions and 14 formal cautions, removed 489 illegal transmitters and issued 74 written warnings to combat illegal broadcasting activities.

(Source: Huddersfield Daily Examiner, via Radio Netherlands Media Network)