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Pirate Radio Round-Up: Syrian opposition stations; Protests grow over jailed Irish radio activist; FCC enforcement in 2013; more

There’s been quite a bit about unlicensed radio in the news lately. So it’s time for a pirate radio round-up: NY Times reports on Syrian opposition stations; Protest grow in Ireland over jailed peace and radio activist; FCC’s 2013 enforcement tallied up; When pirate radio ruled an English seaside town.

NY Times Reports on Syrian Opposition Stations

Last week the New York Times covered the Instanbul-based Radio Watan which is broadcast by “pirate transmitters in pockets across Syria,” along with “more than dozen opposition radio stations that have sprung up since the revolt against the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.” The article notes that some of the stations, most of which produce programming in Turkey, have received support from the US government.

We have been following reports on opposition radio stations in Syria, including a station that was raided by an al Qaeda group in October of last year and earlier reports from last fall of “at least a dozen FM radio stations” operating in Syria since the war began.

Irish Peace and Radio Activist Margaretta D’Arcy Jailed

Protests are growing in Ireland over the imprisonment of writer, filmmaker, peace activist and radio activist Margaretta D’Arcy. She was given a three-month jail sentence for participating in a peace protest at Shannon Airport which the Irish government allows the US to use in the transit of military forces to Iraq and Afghanistan. D’Arcy was offered a suspended sentence if she agreed to sign a pledge not to repeat the protest. The 79 year-old, who is also suffering from cancer, refused.

Beginning in the late 1980s D’Arcy has operated regular broadcasts of unlicensed station in Galway, called Radio Pirate Woman. She is also considered one of the foremost radical feminist filmmakers in Ireland.

There have been daily solidarity protests in Dublin, and a national demonstration in solidarity with D’Arcy is scheduled for February 22, happening in the capital and other cities. A Facebook group has formed to advocate for D’Arcy’s release, and her own page is also a source of information and discussion.

Tallying FCC Enforcement in 2013

At John Anderson has posted his annual review of FCC enforcement against unlicensed broadcasters and declares the past year to be “no Great Crusade.” 2013 saw a slight decline in enforcement actions over 2012, with activity in 24 states and the District of Columbia. He notes that most of the action is administrative, with it taking years to from the initial notice to when a fine is issued. Read John’s post for the rest of his analysis.

When Pirate Radio Ruled an English Seaside Town

A former radio pirate from the small English seaside town of Whitby recollects his time on the air in the late 1970s for the Whitby Gazette. While the BBC established its first Rock N Roll station, Radio One, in 1967 partly in response to offshore pirates, former DJ David Hesleton explained that even in 1979 “local radio hadn’t developed enough and there were a lot of communities and towns that felt they were missing out.”

So Hesleton and two friends used a VHF transmitter to fill the void with music and even prank calls. When government officials got wind, they slowed broadcasts and went mobile for a while.

For someone who grew up in the US it’s fascinating to learn that just thirty-some years ago the FM dial in many parts of the UK was still “only white noise, unless it was Saturday night.” Certainly understandable, then, how tempting it was for a young radio pirate.

FCC Upholds Pirate Cat Fine, Their Attorney Responds

Don’t miss our coverage of the FCC’s recent action against the shuttered Pirate Cat Radio and its former figurehead, Daniel “Monkey Man” Roberts. The Commission rejected Roberts’ petition for reconsideration, upholding a $10,000 fine against him. His attorney spoke with us, calling one of the FCC’s justifications “ridiculous and frightening.”

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