Encyclopedia > Pirate radio

  Article Content

Pirate radio

Pirate radio is the unlicensed use of radio spectrum generally reserved for commercial and public use (although shortwave radio[?] pirates are also common in the radio world).

On March 28, 1964, Radio Caroline was established as the first and most famous British pirate radio station, although since 1958 there had already been several ship-based pirates broadcasting to Denmark, The Netherlands and Sweden, and the first pirate radio ship was probably the Rex, a gambling ship that operated off the coast of California in the early 1930s.

a full article on the history of offshore pirate radio would be useful.

This reference will deal with FM Pirate Radio in the US. The basics of pirate radio are simple.

Buy a transmitter (Broadcast Warehouse is one of the best but there are dozens of manufacurers all over the world). We favor the TX150 from Broadcast Warehouse. It's small in size, large in capabilities, professionally built and, although fairly expensive at around US$2500, will give you from 20 to 150 watts of pro level broadcasting wattage.

Deterine how powerful you want to be. The higher the wattage rating on the transmitter, the farther your signal is likely to go. Most pirate radio operators run under 100 watts of power and average around 20-40 watts.

Setting up a station with anything more than 200 watts is difficult due mostly to the cost of equipment. Over 200 watts requires that you start using more specialized and expensive equipment such as CP type antennas that handle higher than 200 watt ratings.

Get an antenna. You can build your own 'J-Pole type antenna from about US$5 of copper pipe from the local hardware store (search J-Pole in google for many designs and plans) or you can buy one. The Comet 5/8 wave antenna is one of the most popular, costs around $100 and has a power (wattage handling) rating of up to 200 watts.

Get your antenna as high as possible. Height=distance for your signal.

Hide your antenna. Trees are great places for antennas. Use camo paint to create a flat finish that matches the envrionment (green for trees, brown for branches, light blue/gray if it's out in the open with sky behind it etc.). The FCC will eventually find it, but make it hard for them. And if you're in an apartment environment, the more difficult it is to find the antenna, the less likely they'll be able to figure out which apartment it's in.

Use 50ohm cable (50 ft. lengths are available at RadioShack for about US$35) to connect your transmitter to your antenna.

Find a frequency that's 'clean'. Clean means that, while driving around in your car, you get pretty much nothing but static on that station in the area you plan to broadcast in. In the USA, there is no quicker way to get a visit from the FCC (the agency that polices our radio waves, among other things) than to step on other 'licensed' stations' signals. Be a good citizen and don't interfere with your neighbors.

Get a cheap mixer. Behringer makes excellent mixers from US$49-$200 that work beautifully for pirate radio. This mixer, with two XLR (a type of pro connector you can get at any pro music store) cables connects directly to the transmitter (in this case the TX150) and will be where all your audio sources converge. Your DJ's will control this mixer to create their shows so make sure you get one big enough (8-12 'inputs') to handle several audio sources.

Get a good mic. A cheap mic sounds cheap- there are many very good mics available now for under $100. The MXL 990 is a great mic that works well with the Behringer mixers. Shure SM57 mices are a great standard that have been around for decades and are tough and sound great.

Get a CD player, or better yet, a pro level daul CD Player. American DJ makes a good one for $199 that works beautifully, however any CD player will work. Same for any audio source you may have from tape to computer. All will go directly into the mixer, along with your mic(s), all controlled by the DJ to create their show.

Get a pre-paid cellular phone. These are untraceable and work well as studio lines. You can also get a nice cellular phone patch cable from Radio Shack for US$20 that allows you to put callers on air.

Get an email address at one of the free services such as Yahoo or Hotmail.

Dealing with the FCC: This is a section onto itself, but surprisingly, you'll find that the FCC is actually a fairly powerless agency if you're determined to stay on the air. They have approx. 400 field agents in the US. These agents are required to police all areas that the FCC are responsible for. This includes cellular, POTS, Cable, and all RF type activity (including things like garage door openers). They're busy. The only time they'll come for you is if someone complains. Usually it's a local radio station, and most often one from Clear Channel (the largest radio station owner in the US) which is known for agressively complaining to the FCC about local pirate stations.

The FCC wants one thing: Compliance. If you turn off your transmitter, they will go away. The first visit will result in a warning. DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR NAME. Without a name, you can't be fined. If you get a warning, move the station location- the next visit will most likely result in another warning if it's at a new location. They can fine you (up to US$11,000 per 'violation'..which they don't define, and up to 1 year in prison). In reality, the prison sentance is a farce. They have never successfully prosecuted someone into prison. Every state in US has thrown out attempts at prison sentences. They also have no way to enforce their fines without the help of other agencies. An FCC field agent is an engineer, not a cop. He or she has no ability to enter your studio without a warrant (which they must obtain from a Federal or local judge). They can't arrest you. They can't do much of anything on their own so the first visit to a new location will ALWAYS result in a warning only. They may ask to look at your equipment. DO NOT LET THEM IN. They will claim they have a right to inspect your equipment. THEY DO NOT. Only if you are licensed do you have to let them inspect your equipment (and then only if you want to keep your license).

They aren't bad guys, really, just in a no-win situation. Be polite with them, but DO NOT let them in without a warrant, and DO NOT give them your name.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
  Featured Article
Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz

... Philosophical Kritik der Schleiermacherschen Glaubenslehre (1836) Psychologie oder Wissenschaft vom subjektiven Geist (1837; 3rd ed., 1863) Kritisch ...

This page was created in 33.4 ms