FLEX FM is one of London’s best-known radio stations. For 22 years it has broadcast a mixture of house, garage, jungle and techno music; its DJs appear at parties across the city. Yet its primary output is illegal. Flex FM’s studio is in a secret spot in south-west London and its transmitters are hidden at the top of council tower blocks. Every few months Ofcom, Britain’s broadcast regulator, rings up to suggest the station gets a licence, says Daniel James, a DJ. “But that’s not for us.”
Britain has had pirate radio stations since the 1960s, when Radio Caroline broadcast from a ship in the North Sea. In the 1990s unlicensed operators helped drive the rise of British types of dance music such as jungle and garage. Now that anyone can broadcast on the internet, illegal transmissions might seem unnecessary. Yet pirate stations survive, particularly in London. Around 75 broadcast regularly from within the capital, according to Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, and around ten do so 24 hours a day.
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(via Mike Terry, Radioanoraksuk)