Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Tackling pirate radio in London

A new approach to tackling pirate radio has eradicated the problem in one London borough, and could save up to £1 million for Londoners by being rolled out across the capital.

Pirate radio harms local communities and the critical communications used by the emergency services. Ofcom, which manages radio frequencies, is hosting a summit on 3 November to explore the new approach to tackling the problem.

Pirate stations typically use high-rise buildings for their broadcasts, with illegal transmitters installed on rooftops or hidden in lift shafts. This damages residential properties owned by local authorities, disrupting residents' lives and putting people at risk from falling equipment.

Ofcom has been working in north London, one of the UK's most affected areas, with public housing body Homes for Haringey. In 2014, 19 pirate radio stations were illegally broadcasting in Haringey. By quickly removing their transmitters and regularly patrolling and securing rooftops, pirate radio has now been eradicated in the borough.

As a result, Homes for Haringey has saved £90,000 in enforcement and maintenance costs over the past year.
On 3 November, Ofcom is meeting with local authorities from across London to share the success of the Homes for Haringey partnership. If this collaborative and proactive approach is rolled out across the capital, local authorities stand to save an estimated total of £1 million per year.

Illegal broadcasting:

Clive Corrie, Head of Ofcom's Spectrum Enforcement team, said: "Illegal broadcasting harms local communities and risks lives by interfering with vital communications used by the emergency services and air traffic control.

"By working in partnership with local authorities, Ofcom is tackling this problem. We also strongly urge those broadcasting illegally to get involved with internet or community radio, a legitimate route on to the airwaves."

Astrid Kjellberg-Obst, Executive Director of Operations at Homes for Haringey, said: "Pirate radio stations damage people's homes and can be extremely distressing to our residents.

"We've seen huge success in tackling the problem with the measures that we've introduced, removing all pirate radio stations from Haringey and saving the borough tens of thousands of pounds in the process. We will continue to work with Ofcom to keep Haringey pirate-free."

Harmful interference to emergency services:

Pirate radio causes interference to critical radio services, including those used by the emergency services and air traffic control.

In 2014, the UK's air traffic control service NATS has reported 55 cases of communications interference from pirate radio.

Ofcom also receives reports each week from the emergency services and other, legitimate radio services of illegal interference.

Ofcom has powers to seize illegal broadcasting equipment and prosecute those involved.

Accessible, legal alternatives to get on to the airwaves:

For anyone wanting to broadcast a radio station, Ofcom offers accessible, legal alternatives to get on to the airwaves. Since 2005, Ofcom has issued community radio licenses, enabling small stations across the UK to get on-air right and serve their local communities. More than 200 community radio services are now broadcasting.

Ofcom is also supporting a new, innovative way for smaller stations to broadcast on digital radio. If tests are successful the system, called 'small scale DAB', promises to open up digital radio to smaller broadcasters for a fraction of current costs.

(via Mike Terry, BDXC-UK Yahoo group)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your readers might be interested to know that the Community Media Association's Forums have been "buzzing" over chatter to do with this November 3rd OFCOM symposium on pirate radio. The CMA is the successor to the Community Radio Association, which was the plodding "respectable" wing of the community radio movement in the 1980's, when everyone else was pursuing direct action in the shape of pirate broadcasting to effect change. What was interesting, is that many of the users of the CMA's services are ex-pirates, or at least people who recognise that FM pirate radio was absolutely essential in the development of legal community and internet broadcasting. There were a few people on the Forums who wanted "total destruction" of the pirate radio scene, but they ended up looking rather foolish and isolated.

A couple of observations: in fairness to OFCOM, they do have a more nuanced approach than the old DTI, which was just a bunch of self-important government goons often with a personal grudge against young people and alternative music. At least OFCOM have tried to use the proverbial carrot, as well as the stick, and have overseen a liberalisation of broadcasting. Also, it seems that this symposium on closing down pirate radio addressed only FM piracy in the UK. They appear to have much less interest in the shortwave and medium wave free radio scene.