Either there are less pirate radio stations around these days, or they are getting smarter by not getting caught.
Ofcom raids on ‘pirate’ radio stations have more than halved in number over the past five years, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act, and seen by RadioToday.
The previously unpublished data reveals that the number of operations conducted by Ofcom against illegal broadcasters fell from 927 in 2007 to 431 in 2012, with only 39 operations conducted outside London last year.
The number of successful convictions for illegal broadcasting dropped from 37 in 2007 to just seven in 2012. The average fine fell to £225, and average costs awarded down to £350. The maximum penalties that can be imposed at Crown Court are an unlimited fine and two years in prison.
However the number of complaints about interference from pirates also reduced, from 535 in 2010 to 324. Last year saw 67 complaints from licensed broadcasters, including community and RSL stations; and 256 from listeners.
According to the Ofcom data, the last occasion where a pirate endangered ‘safety of life’ was in September 2010, affecting London’s air traffic control centre in Swanwick, Hampshire.
More recently, an incident in 2012 at London City Airport was initially classified as having affected safety of life, but was subsequently downgraded. In total, 42 of last year’s incidents involved aeronautical equipment, while two affected the emergency services.
The figures highlight Ofcom’s struggle to permanently close down illegal stations. One station in London – Shine FM, broadcasting on 87.9FM - was raided 20 times in 2012.
Twelve further stations were raided ten or more times in the year: Blazin FM, déjà vu FM, House FM, Klick, Kool FM, Lightning FM, On Top FM, Origin FM, Playback, TSOL, Vibes FM and WBLS FM.
In total across the year, Ofcom’s operations included 13 raids on studios, and 148 seizures of the main illegal transmitter.
(Source: Radio Today via Garry Stevens Free Radio Board)