The People's Republic of China is cracking down of 'Pirate radio' stations that are broadcasting in China's Western regions, such as Tibet and the ethnic Muslim provinces. Pirate radio stations, and stations from across the border in places like Kazakhstan are broadcasting pro-independence, anti-China, and multi-ethnic programming.

The Chinese government openly acknowledges that it is broadcasting interference on 'pirate' frequencies, in order to prevent them from threatening civil order. These independent radio stations are forced to switch frequencies often in order to avoid the jamming, although the Chinese government is becoming faster and faster at finding the new frequencies.

Currently, in America, all frequencies on which a radio signal can be sent are subject to regulation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC’s current policy on FM radio is that anyone operating an FM transmitter must do so with an FCC license, no matter how powerful the transmitter is. Acquiring one of these permits requires the help of a licensed FCC engineer to conduct a survey to make sure that the frequency, power, and placement of your transmitter is up to various codes and will not interfere with other licensed broadcasts. Also, a lawyer is required to help file all the necessary paperwork, and there are filing fees that go along with that. Overall, the process of acquiring an FM broadcast license is extremely expensive, making it nearly impossible for anyone but commercial broadcasters with a large financial backing.

The pirate radio movement in America stands in opposition to the FCC’s current policies. Radio broadcast is seen as a right of all people, especially given its potential for low cost, mass distribution of information. Internet radio is seen as a potential replacement, but the reality is that not everyone can get access to a computer in order to tune in. FM receivers can be purchased for as little as $15, which makes radio a much more democratic means of communication than the internet.

At present, pirate radio transmitters generally fall into the category of “Low Power FM” (LPFM). This means that they use transmitters of no greater strength than 100 watts. Most pirate radio transmitters fall within the 50-100 watt range. Just to give a sense of scale, the average power for most commercial FM transmitters is from 5,000-10,000 watts.

There are currently bills before congress, and cases in the Federal court system working to establish freedom for LPFM transmitters. The FCC already has a system for licensing LPFM stations which is a much lesser process than that required for larger FM stations, but your chances of actually getting a license are slim-to-none. Usually, no more than one LPFM license is issued within any given city at one time.

According to FCC agent Royce E. Leonardson, Compliance Specialist, sanctions for unauthorized operation of a radio station can range from an administrative monetary penalty of up to $11,000 to criminal prosecution with a fine for individual violators of up to $100,000.00 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.

For more info, check out the following website, which contains tons of useful info on pirate radio and LPFM, as well as links to other related sites, including many websites for individual pirate radio stations.

Radio 4 All

To read an article describing an FCC raid on a pirate station in Asheville, NC, check out the following website:
Shortwave Pirate Radio

Shortwave pirate radio broadcasters, unlike LPFM, produce programs designed for international listening. SW pirate radio should not be confused with SW clandestine radio. While both pirate and clandestine stations operate without the tacit authority of national authorities, clandestine stations focus on spy transmissions and propaganda. Most pirate programs contain music and idle commentary.

Shortwave pirate radio began in the mid to late 1960's in response to stodgy BBC domestic programming. Radio Caroline and its ilk broadcasted off Britain in international waters, spinning the singles and B-sides shrugged aside by the Establishment. Moored off the Isle of Man, Radio Caroline blanketed Britain with fresh pop music talent from 1964 to 1967. Eventually shut down by a Parliament caught unaware by innovation, Radio Caroline and other pirate stations forced the BBC to diversify programming. Many of today's pirate broadcasters model their work on the great 1960's offshore broadcasters. Like Radio Caroline, modern SW pirates offer a perspective not shown on other media outlets including SW broadcasting. Perhaps bizarre at times, SW pirates produce patently different programming.

Unlike clandestines who have a whole WRTH section, pirates use a set of unofficial pirate channels outside of SW broadcast bands. The most common frequency channels in kHz:

5000 -- 5900
6975 -- Rarely pirate broadcasts. Most often occupied by Israeli Defense Forces Radio in Hebrew. Features news and music for personnel.
7415 -- WBCQ, once a pirate, now legal for-profit
below 13999 -- above 14500, (around the 20m ham band)
below 26999 -- above 26300 -- the CB pirate Freeband

In general, an occasional scan near amateur radio band boundaries might produce a stray pirate or two. Keep in mind that most pirates are using ham equipment. Certain older transceivers' operating limits fall 200 kHz or so outside each band. Even modern general coverage receivers prohibit transmissions on some frequencies not directly adjacent to ham bands.

Most North American and many European pirates occupy the "6900" corridor. Sparsely populated except for the IDF and some numbers stations, pirates find clear channels without the noise of broadcasters piled high on one another. Pirate stations do not use sophisticated multiple-kilowatt transmitters, so transmission quality is often marred by erratic power drops. To avoid detection, pirate stations stay on for an hour at the most.

Pirate stations do not use interval signals or any identification, so be prepared to suddenly find a strong signal when bandscanning. Pirate stations come in two main genres: the all music station and the talk/humor station. Talk/humor stations specialize in Howard Stern rebroadcasts, Andrew Dice Clay, and satire of FCC officials among other things. All music stations feature any conceivable music genre and some unrecognizable. All music stations include deejay announcements. The level of humor sophistication ranges from infantile to sophisticated.

Listen closely to the DJ or commentator, since he or she will often drop an email address or P.O. Box for QSLs. Many pirate stations send back intricate QSLs, often numbered in series. Stations might also produce commemorative cards for Christmas, Fourth of July, and other holiday and civic events. Many radio hobbyists find the QSLs more interesting than the broadcasts themselves.

Given their illegal status pirate stations operate infrequently. Many can be found from late Friday to late Saturday Universal Time or on major holidays. 0000 UTC corresponds well with most American pirates, with Europeans signing on earlier according to their evening hours. Sign on to pirate enthusiasts' sites for listener logs and chat with the on-air personalities themselves. Many times, stations will post a schedule on hobbyist message boards a day before transmitting.

Serious humor, bored nerds. Listen in on the lunacy that is shortwave pirate radio! --- A nice history of Radio Caroline and other offshore pirates --- The FRN Grapevine, a pirate radio hobbyist board with logs and message boards

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