Being a radio pirate isn’t easy. Going on the air without a license means having to evade the FCC and there’s often the need to broadcast “on the run” – moving from location to location, trying to stay clear of the law.
Shortwave pirates face additional challenges that unlicensed FM stations do not – the range of an FM station’s signal is much, much shorter. FM signals travel in a “line-of-sight” manner – the only receivers that can pick up an FM signal are those that can “see” the transmitting antenna. It takes thousands of watts to cover a few dozen miles on the FM band.
Due to the tendency of shortwave signals to propagate through the atmosphere, it is possible for a 10-watt signal on the shortwave band to travel hundreds – even thousands – of miles.