FCC Steps Down Anti-Pirate Enforcement

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.

FCC Anti-Pirate Enforcement Actions, 1997-2015
Tactically, even the agency’s penchant for paperwork seems to have slackened. Read More

Expanding the Options for Digital AM

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). Read More

Checking the Pulse of Shortwave Piracy

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. Read More

VOA’s Radiogram Brings New Utility to Shortwave

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. Read More

Documentaries Give Props to Pirate Radio

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. Read More