Archived on 6/5/2022

Removal of a pirate radio mast on Sydenham Hill Estate
27 Nov '18

Tweeted today:

27 Nov '18

Ah honestly, what harm does a pirate radio station cause??

Sometimes when I drive back into London I scan the radio channels and hear the unmistakable Lewisham soundtrack - Afro-Caribbean music, charismatic evangelical preachers, grungy experimental electronic music.

We should be proud to live in such a diverse area, and to be able to tune in to such a rich cultural mix on local radio.

28 Nov '18

The same harm it does to any licensed business and it is unregulated. There was one in the SE23/26 area a few years ago sprouting awful racist garbage, totally unregulated.

28 Nov '18

Totally agree. Obviously hate-spreading should be dealt with on its own terms but all the London pirate radio stations I’ve found are just creative musical outlets, and moslty a lot more fun than normal radion stations.

Google the now-professional radio presenters who started out on pirate stations, loads. And they didn’t have to have a media degree to get there.

28 Nov '18

People Just Do Nothing

28 Nov '18

Radio is a fantastic outlet for all, however, why should pirate stations be allowed to operate for free? It’s like buying a pirate DVD or downloading films from dodgy sites. It doesn’t feel a bad thing to do when you do it but it takes money away from legit operators.

Maybe the government should introduce cheaper licenses for radio stations that operate locally and don’t have the reach, or the money, of larger organisations.

28 Nov '18

I’ve listened to pirate radio for nearly 30 years. All it has largely done is provide an outlet for underground music.

Spotify and downloads have made pirate radio less relevant, but still gives a voice, largely for members of the black community who as you imagine don’t get a voice from Capital FM and Magic FM.

28 Nov '18

Interesting split in opinion.

Pirate radio has launched a few careers, and like @Vennerist said, it’s certainly the distinctive sound of Lewisham as you drive around.

I kinda like it for that, although as @LondonDRZ mentioned, pirates hurt commercial radio, and they disrupt radio frequency bands that they shouldn’t be using.

I tend to listen to streaming radio these days, and the whole debate about our constrained and regulated FM radio bands seems increasingly moot. The rise of digital services like Soundcloud, for example, allow anyone to be a creator and reach a large audience worldwide.

Let’s do a straw poll: how do people feel about the removal of this radio mast?

  • Pirate radio is illegal and the police are right to take the mast down
  • Pirate radio is harmless and the police should deal with other priorities
  • No strong opinion either way
  • Other (please comment)

0 voters

28 Nov '18

I do accept your point of view @LondonDRZ but we live in an imperfect city and I feel sometimes these issues cannot be treated in black and white legal/illegal terms. The wider context is relevant, and police time is limited and must be focussed on the crime that causes the most harm

With pirate radio broadcast, energetic young men are off the street and out of trouble

I recall an interview where the pirate radio DJ was asked “what would you be if not for this” and his reply was “in the slammer”

28 Nov '18

Unfortunately, many “pirate” stations use the cheapest possible equipment because of the risk of theft or having it impounded by the “authorities”. Many are operated by people with little regard for the niceties of proper broadcast operation - over-modulation causing interference to adjacent stations, poorly matched antennas and poorly constructed transmitters causing harmonic and spurious emission interference…

There’s little or no chance of the much-vaunted “interference to aircraft or emergency services”, however - these are just scare stories from the “Authorities” in an effort to scare people away from these stations.

Generally, their content is pretty poor - specialist genre music of appeal to a very small minority of the population, poorly presented. Most of them would be better off on the internet.

FM is not the playground that these broadcasters think it is!

28 Nov '18

Actually, putting it like that makes a lot of sense. As I mentioned in an early post, hopefully the government could look into this and find a solution that works for all. Certainly the police have more pressing things to deal with.

28 Nov '18

Interesting article by the New York times on the historic influence of London’s pirate radio stations:

Makes me feel these grass roots outlets of creativity and expression are very important for modern culture.

28 Nov '18

There are already some stations which are providing such a service, which are licensed. Reprezent on 107.3 FM based in Brixton, which has a transmitter in Honor Oak gives young people, especially those of BAME backgrounds a voice, in addition to playing music.

Other legal operators who used to be pirates include Rinse FM (again, another social enterprise skewed towards young people) which has also been at the forefront of some electronic dance/urban genres and Flex FM which launched in August.

29 Nov '18

@rbmartin. Thanks for that, I had no idea. Might have to look them up on the dial !!

1 Dec '18

Where would the fun be in operating a “pirate” radio station if it didn’t run the risk of being shut down by the powers that be? All part of the game… police just doing their jobs. We live in a society with rules and regs…

31 Dec '18

Pirate radio stations play underground music which does not get a look in on commercial stations. They are not taking business away from anyone and serve to gain an amazing amount of exposure for artists working in underground music.
Pirate stations are part of the very fabric of underground music.
If the authorities spend money removing all pirate stations then what do we have? A bunch of samey old establishment stations making money for the chosen few.
Pirate stations make money for underground artists by increasing exposure and sales of music.
The commercial music business is a very tiny tip of a massive iceberg when it comes to music. There is so much unsigned, unheard music out there it is ridiculous. Do people honestly think the 15 tracks selected for rotation by mainstream stations represents music as a whole? If they do they are living in dreamland.
Pirate radio is an institution which must be preserved. Underground music and up and coming artists must be represented.

2 Jan '19

More to the point, have these bozos not heard of the bazillion internet radio stations operating completely freely? Pirate radio indeed! It’s all a bit 1995, no?!