The Netherlands and USA: Sanctions against Pirate Radios: Will they be successful?

Pirate ship in the ocean
Pirate Ship

Since December 2019 The Dutch telecommunication agency (TT-Agentschap Telecom) toughened the penalties for unauthorised radio broadcasting. In the Netherlands, pirate radio stations have been a mass phenomenon since the 60’s. Back then, broadcasters like Radio Caroline introduced beat music on the airwaves. This has resulted in the Dutch being infected with ‘piracy’s virus’ and they started transmitting local folk music, especially in rural areas with radio programmes spoken in dialects. The phenomenon became really big: the Dutch Telecommunication Agency estimated the existence of 10,000 to 60,000 unauthorised broadcasters operating in the country during 1984, this equals to one pirate per 250 inhabitants. The radio stations were operating on shortwave (above the 49 metre band), between 1620 and 1700 kHz (X-Band), and also on FM. The programmes were usually broadcasted on evenings or weekends.

The ‘ghost radio’ signals are going to increase

Pirate Antenna Image
Pirate Image

During 2003, with the first crackdown, the illegal signals decreased by 73% and now, to restrict them further, the minimum penalty has been set at € 2.500.
But why do pirate broadcasters want to transmit over air, when they can easily do it via web?
The reason is the thrill of being caught, according to what one of the protagonists said to Arno Van Der Hoeven, a student that carried out research on this phenomenon in the Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture at Rotterdam University.

The hypothesis is a possible increase of ghost signals: to not being caught by authorities, the radio transmitter and antenna are installed on a tree and remotely controlled. When the inspectors find them, they usually only deactivate the equipment without looking for the signal source.

USA: record penalty reached US$ 450.000

Radio Tele Boston
Radio Tele Boston

Even the United States has its pirate radios. In the US, the coverage area of every radio and television station is set and verified rigorously (due to their model of planning for the over air transmission). And the fines are hefty: the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) imposed a fine of US$ 453.000 to Radio TeleBoston, a station that broadcasts programmes for the Haitian community and operated illegally on 90.1 and 92 MHz (with a total of three transmitters), interfering with other radio stations duly authorised. After some notices have been sent (since 2017), FCC decided to assign the maximum penalty (US$ 151.000) for every transmitter; in the meantime, TeleBoston is asking listeners for donations in order to finance the radio station.

A Radio for Farmers: Farm Radio International

George Atkinson celebration the 40th Anniversary of Farm radio international
George Atkinson, 40th Anniversary
The Logo of Farm Radio International
Farm Radio International Logo

Born in 1975 from a brilliant but simple idea by ​​George Atkinson, journalist for the Canadian national network CBC, Farm Radio International is an organisation that produces radio content and programs aimed at farmers mainly from countries in the sub-Saharan belt. The main focus of the transmissions is on cultivation techniques.

A network of nearly 800 radio stations

To give scientific solidity to the programs, Atkinson had put together a team of scientists, experts from the University of Guelph’s Faculty of Agriculture and had contacted journalists around the world to learn about easy-to-use agricultural techniques. After writing scripts, in order to allow broadcasters to translate them into local dialects, he started sending them by post to broadcasters. That was back in January 1979. Today the organisation provides content to over 780 radio stations in 40 countries and works on projects with 100 broadcasters in 11 countries.

General Motors integrates the SiriusXM music platform on one million cars

Car dashboard

After making its debut in 2018 on the Ram 1500 pick-up truck of FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), the 360L multimedia system of Sirius XM was implemented in a million cars from the GM group (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC). In addition to 200 commercial-free music channels, broadcast via satellite or streaming, a library of 10,000 hours of broadcasting that offers an interactive listening experience is available: while you follow a programme, the system proposes to follow insights (such as an interview with the artist or a concert). Furthermore, listening can continue outside the car, with the myChevrolet, myBuick, myGMC or myCadillac apps, which allow you to set customised listening profiles, which once on board synchronise with the system.

Exclusive events for subscribers only

Sirius Sport

Among the programmes there are also exclusive events, such as the one that will take place on January 15, 2020 in Los Angeles, in The Garage studios of SiriusXM: Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland of Coldplay, accompanied by other artists, will deliver an acoustic performance for a limited audience of platform subscribers; the event will go live between 7 and 10 pm on The Spectrum (channel 28), the replicas on Alt Nation (channel 36).

Global: Music stars are opening web radios

The chance of broadcasting – and being listened – via internet or using apps, without investing any capital to purchase a radio frequency, has made radio broadcasting way more democratic, even if standing out among the crowd of web radios is not easy. However, being noticed is not a big deal for popular music stars: U2, a famous Irish rock band formed in 1976, 170 million records sold worldwide, are working to launch U2X Radio next year. The channel will feature music, interviews and selected live performances of the band; it will be managed by SiriusXM, an American broadcasting company that provides satellite and online radio services. The company, that broadcasts via satellite the signals of more than 140 radio stations (also listenable in cars), has  acquired Pandora Media last year, becoming the world’s largest audio entertainment company.

U2 Radio

Once you go online, you’ll never go back

Tomorrowland World Radio was created to celebrate the fifteenth-year anniversary of the homonymous electronic music festival held in Belgium annually since 2005, with an attendance of 200,000 people from all around the world. The radio, that technically should have been broadcasted only for six months, is now permanent thanks to its success. It is available both on the website and on the app. It features exclusive tracks and programmes, new releases and the most iconic live sets from the past years.

Italians in the game

TRX Radio
Own source

In Italy there is a similar project on-going: Radio TRX, an online radio dedicated to hip hop music, promoted by six of the most famous Italian rappers. (Clementino, Ensi, Fabri Fibra, Gue Pequeno, Marracash and Salmo) The broadcasting of Radio TRX already started two years ago. However, on the 5th of December 2019, an event to relaunch this radio (only available on the official app) took place in the Radio Italia’s Auditorium in Cologno (near Milan).

The six rappers, together with the producer Paola Zukar explained that the main goal of the project is becoming a curator to promote rap music. Even if rap has become a mainstream genre in Italy, listening to it on the radio is not that common. This is a big difference compared to other European countries such as France or Germany, where there are many thematic radio stations, broadcasting rap 24/7.

Italian rap ambassadors

The event started with a short video, made of interviews where the rappers talked about Radio TRX and its future. The role of radio in a world dominated by social media was mentioned. ‘TRX is like a guiding light for rap music’s audience’, said Ensi. ‘A valid alternative to the algorithm that drives the public choice’, mentioned Salmo.
The slogan of the project is ‘Culture’ so, as the rapper Marracash said, leaving everything in the hands of the public leads to superficiality, that doesn’t help music.
For this reasons, Gue Pequeno added, having an editorial made by some of the most important personalities in the rap scene can give a chance to fill this void.
Thanks to TRX Radio, the rappers are able to be curators; they can explain the rap world from inside, and also promote new talents and organise live events.

Six Italian Rappers (Clementino, Ensi, Fabri Fibra, Gue Pequeno, Marracash and Salmo)
Own source
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