Just updated the Enforcement Action Database and the signs are pretty clear: unlicensed broadcasting has slipped down the priority-list for FCC field agents. Actions against AM/FM and shortwave pirate stations last year were at their lowest level since 2005, the last time fewer than 200 were logged.
Tactically, even the agency’s penchant for paperwork seems to have slackened. Continue reading “FCC Steps Down Anti-Pirate Enforcement”
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai recently spoke at the the Missouri Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention, where he repeated his call for the FCC to undertake an "AM Revitalization Initiative." Telling the assembled broadcasters that "you’ve got a friend in me," he again listed off the possible policy options to help the beleaguered band, one of which includes its complete digitalization.
If Pai is truly a friend of broadcasters and the public interest, and seriously considers digitalization a viable option for AM, he should open the inquiry to alternatives to HD Radio, such as Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM). Continue reading “Expanding the Options for Digital AM”
Shortwave radio enthusiasts gathered in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania earlier this month for the 26th annual Shortwave Listening Fest. The Fest is the longest-running conference of its kind in the United States, and several pirates actually broadcast from the event; the granddaddy of them all is the Voice of Pancho Villa, which has closed out the Fest every year with a special midnight broadcast.
Each Fest also features a pirate radio forum, where shortwave scenesters provide an overview of the state of the band. This year’s forum was moderated by George Zeller, a long-time pirate radio enthusiast who’s written several columns on the subject for a variety of radio publications. Continue reading “Checking the Pulse of Shortwave Piracy”
The Voice of America is set to launch a new communication service on shortwave radio with interesting implications for information flow in crisis situations or under repressive regimes.
Called Radiogram, the service uses digital encoding to transmit text and images via analog shortwave broadcasts. The transmissions themselves sound much like old dial-up modems (at root the technologies are identical, in that both involve the conversion of data to audio), but when decoded on an equipped receiver or computer the text and images appear. Continue reading “VOA's Radiogram Brings New Utility to Shortwave”
My pal Paul Riismandel over at Radio Survivor recently wrote about a new pirate radio-based mockumentary that’s airing on the BBC. People Just Do Nothing profiles the principals behind “Kurupt FM,” a fictitious Garage-format pirate station in the London area.
People Just Do Nothing found its roots in (and lampoons) another pirate radio documentary, Tower Block Dreams. Aired in 2004 on BBC Three, this flick profiled the booming pirate scene in the London area, with special attention on how pirate radio stations helped disenfranchised youth do something more creative with their lives than “thieving and grass dealing.”
People Just Do Nothing‘s main characters, MC Sniper and DJ Beats, are spot-on caricatures of the folks found in Tower Block Dreams. Relatively accurate with regard to the conditions under which pirate radio stations operate, the funny comes when you realize that Sniper and Beats have no real idea what the f*ck they’re doing. It’s a send-up that really drives home the differences between the U.K. and U.S. pirate scenes. Continue reading “Documentaries Give Props to Pirate Radio”
A much-overdue update to the Enforcement Action Database is done. So far in 2011, the FCC has conducted less than 100 enforcement actions – way down from this time last year, when 359 were already on the books.
The major changes to this year’s enforcement trends include an apparent stiffening of fiscal penalties and a diversification of enforcement across all broadcast bands. On the first point, the FCC seems to be increasing fines from the base-penalty of $10,000. Not that this actually works as a deterrent: in cases where an unlicensed broadcaster demonstrates an inability to pay, fines must be radically reduced. Continue reading “FCC Enforcement: Old and New”
The Enforcement Action Database continues to show a relatively lackadaisical year of pirate-hunting shaping up: just 35 actions through mid-April.
Should the trend continue, enforcement activity against unlicensed broadcasters may approach levels not seen since 2005-06, the start of the FCC’s post-LPFM station-hunting campaign. This would signify a significant shift and could be indicative of strategic revisions involving the agency’s spectrum enforcement priorities more generally. Continue reading “FCC Enforcement: Shortwave on Radar?”
The shortwave pirate broadcast community is significantly small enough that most station operators are friends with one another, though the frequency of station broadcasts over the last year has, at times, been high enough that some have accidentally clashed signals. The FCC has not taken a documented enforcement action against a shortwave pirate since 1998, which has also led to the proliferation of stations. This long run of heavy activity has resulted in an increase in the shortwave listening community.
However, shortwave listening may not be for everyone. Audio quality on shortwave can leave a lot to be desired, and in many cases the pirates broadcasting are so weak (less than 100 watts) that hardcore listeners have to endure lots of static and noise, if only to hear a snippet of a show. Continue reading “Sampling Shortwave With Ease Online”
Thanks to Ragnar for recording a session from this year’s Winterfest gathering called the “Year in Pirate Radio” (1:01:48, 21.3 MB). After a somewhat sparse summary of 2005 activity on the AM, FM and shortwave bands, Allan Weiner commandeers the mic and takes questions from the audience. He offers up some interesting observations on the FCC, his offshore pirate escapades, and what it’s like to run a 50,000-watt shortwave station.
In Florida, Rayon Payne aka N$X has established a new web site which includes a complete copy of his demo CD called “Unfinished Bizness,” which intersperses interview clips with material from the pirate days of yore. He’s still on the hunt for an open mic on this side of the law, and he’s still thinking big.
The basic story is here, but this is the synopsis: the annual World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brasil is in full swing. The Forum had an “official” radio station broadcasting from the events, but that was apparently hijacked by NGOs, sucking the community right out of what was to be a community radio project. So a “people’s station” was established, with volunteers from all over the world donating gear and time to making it work. The official station’s burned out two transmitters – so “The Other Radio FM” happens to be the sole voice of the Forum. Continue reading “Social Forum Threatens its Broadcast Voice; Sounds of Shortwave Restored”