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The Netherlands plans a pirate radio crackdown

Radio Communications Agency Netherlands

The Netherlands has been a hotbed of unlicensed radio activity for decades. Dutch stations like the storied Radio Veronica, which broadcast off-shore from 1960 to 1974, inspired the UK pirate radio scene during the same time period. The country still has many stations on the air, many of them explicitly political and anarchist in outlook and organization, like Free Radio Patapoe in Amsterdam.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide passes on a story from the Dutch language newspaper De Telegraaf reporting that the Netherlands Radio Communications Agency intends to enact a new policy making it easier to fine and shut down unlicensed broadcasters more quickly. Similar to the US, it apparently takes a while to actually fine a pirate, though the months it takes in the Netherlands pales in comparison to the years it can take for the US FCC to levy and collect a fine. The new policy would purportedly allow the agency to act in just a half hour.

The article reports that 1600 warnings for unlicensed broadcasting have been issued this year, with 60 fines. Note that this is in a country of 16 million, two million fewer than Florida, but in only about one third the area. In response pirate broadcasters have gone mobile, ostensibly adopting the stealth and hit-and-run tactics exploited by their compatriots in the UK and, to some extent, the US.

This would not be the first increase in in that country. About a decade ago regulators made of show of cracking down on pirates, which was followed by a “100,000 Antennas” mass broadcast protest staged by unlicensed operators in June 2003.

I don’t know nearly enough about Dutch regulation and jurisprudence to know if the half-hour fine action threat is remotely realistic. If the FCC made such a promise I’d laugh out loud. It will be interesting to hear what more comes of this planned change, or if we’ll be reporting about the next big crackdown three, five or ten years from now.

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