PIRATE RADIO STATIONS: Illegal broadcasting is proliferating ‘from the Apennines to the Andes’

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Transmitting without a license is a criminal offence but the desire to start one’s own radio station drives people to break the law in every country. This time we talk about Peru and Italy

PERU: 20,000 enforcement actions to catch a thousand illegal broadcasters 

The antenna of an illegal radio station was destroyed by an enforcement team
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About 5,000 licensed radio stations and 1,000 illegal broadcasters operate in the Andean country. The Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) is very active. In 2020 the ministry has planned 20,000 enforcement actions. They closed down 14 radio stations in the region of Lima in January 2020 and in 2019 they confiscated 1,072 pieces of transmission equipment and closed 200 stations. The fine for those who get caught is 200,000 Peruvian soles (about US$ 58,000). 

ITALY: One of Radio Maria’s antennas was illegal

Radio Maria’s list of frequencies (over 900 in Italy) also includes one in Amalfi, broadcasting on 105.5 MHz from the transmitter site in Conca dei Marini, now under seizure 
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A repeater transmitting on 105.5 MHz, operated by Radio Maria in the province of Salerno, was closed down on June 13th, 2020. After receiving a number of reports from local citizens, the carabinieri in Amalfi confirmed that the radio antenna, that had been installed years ago in the courtyard of a privately owned building in Via dei Naviganti in Conca dei Marini, a municipality on the Amalfi coast, did not have a license. The Regional Environmental Protection Agency (Arpac) in Campania also established (after multiple inspections) that the electromagnetic emissions exceeded the limits allowed by the law. As a result the radio station was subject to criminal seizure. The broadcaster’s lawyers opposed the shutdown but the appeal at the Court of Appeal in Salerno was rejected. 

Record number of criminal charges for a pirate in Palermo

The antenna of the illegal broadcaster: a simple dipole antenna on the roof of a house in the hills of Ciaculli in the suburbs of Palermo 
Source: Press office of the Carabinieri provincial command in Palermo

The phenomenon of illegal radio stations is limited on the peninsula because they not only face fines, but also criminal charges. On June 11th, 2020, the carabinieri assisted by officials of the Ministry of Economic Development (the body that carries out enforcement actions) deactivated a radio station that modulated on 97.4 MHz. The owner was charged on three counts: The first for violation of the electronics communication code (the transmitter was not licensed): the second for damage (it interfered with the frequency of a licensed radio station) by broadcasting from a residential building on a hill. In fact, it interfered with RMC – Radio Monte Carlo transmitting on 97.6 MHz from Via Barone Manfredi 8, in Monreale. However, what really takes the biscuit is that the whole building (where the owner had set up studios and put an antenna on the roof) was illegally connected to the city’s electricity grid. In this way, the 44-year-old man was charged with the third count of theft of electrical energy. 

In another city on Sicily, a radio station, that only broadcast music without commentary, appeared in Syracuse in April 2020. It modulated on 88.6 MHz and later moved to 93.8 MHz. We have recently been informed that it has now been shut down. 

Another closedown one week later

A photograph of the ‘studio’. On the left, with his back to the camera, an officer from the Radio Monitoring unit in the Ministry of Economic Development 
Source: Press office of the Carabinieri provincial command in Palermo

After the enforcement action in Ciaculli, investigations were continued in the province of Palermo. These led to the deactivation of another unlicensed radio station a week later, this time in Pioppo, a part of the municipality of Monreale. The transmitter operated in the same way as a licensed commercial radio by not only broadcasting music but also commercials. It caused interference with the frequencies of two national networks: RMC Radio Monte Carlo and R101.

CORONAVIRUS: Boom in web and pirate radio stations

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With the shutdown of businesses and stringent measures limiting movement in a large number of countries, there are those who are putting their energy into opening web radios. Pirate radio stations are opening up on air and those already functioning are raising their transmission power during this present state of emergency, knowing full well that it is highly improbable that the authorities will be checking.

Ireland: Two women from the world of show business found Radio Quarantine

Kate McKeown, live from home
Kate McKeown, live from home
Image directly received from
Kate McKeown

“After having wasted hour after hour following the news on the imminent end of the world, we had had enough of it and decided to put our energy into making the lives of those having to stay at home more bearable”.  So Anna-Rose Charleton, a film producer who had had all her work cancelled, and the London singer actress Kate McKeown, who had been forced to return to Dublin because of the Coronavirus outbreak, set up the Quaran Team, a team of experts under the guidance of Maitiú Charleton, Anna-Rosa’s quarantine partner, and started webcasting. The programmes go on air from Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 09.00 pm GMT with music, news and guests from the show business world. They focus on listener participation and try to involve people who have a talent or a story to tell.

Quarantine FM Logo
Logo of Radio Quarantine
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Click here to listen to Radio Quarantine. You can also find them on the following channels. Instagram: @quarantinefm
Twitter: @FmQuarantine
Tik Tok: @quarantinefm
Facebook: @FmQuarantine 

New ‘pirate’ radio stations set up and some increase transmission power

Having a lot more time on their hands is also spurring radio stations to go on air without authorisation. In Italy, on March 20th, 2020 it was reported that Radio Zona Rossa was transmitting on 6330 kHz on shortwave. The name was inspired by a programme invented by Radio Codogna but it concerns an autonomous radio station and its own programme. In Great Britain, a group on Facebook reported that Fusion FM, a pirate radio station near Birmingham, had a more powerful signal than those from authorised broadcasters. There is no change in Madrid, where there are a great number of unauthorised radio stations, but the authorities do not carry out checks.

Online FM broadcast monitoring station in Madrid, Spain
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