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Pirate radio round-up: FL operator dies mounting antenna, infamous UK pirate interviews regulator

Here’s what’s been going on in the world of pirate and unlicensed broadcasting.

  • A Radio Survivor reader tipped us off to this story about a pirate radio operator in the hotbed of South Florida who died installing his antenna. The aerial accidentally hit a power line and he was electrocuted. His death is certainly unfortunate, but the Sun-Sentinel’s framing of this story is also unfortunate, with the headline declaring that it “shows perils of clandestine operations.” The same sort of accident could have happened while installing a TV antenna, or just about anything metal on or near a building’s roof, whether a rain gutter, flagpole or awning. It was probably unwise for the poor guy to do this in the dark at night, and without someone to help. But this is hardly an example of the “perils” of operating an unlicensed station any more than the perils of installing something on any roof.
  • A UK-based radio engineer in Brighton built his own experimental, low-cost and unlicensed digital radio transmitter to demonstrate that broadcasts using the DAB standard could be done much more cheaply than using commercially available transmitters. Although not exactly pirate–he had the blessing of British regulators–it was still a private enterprise, using just an old PC running a software defined radio program to generate the digital signal. The Register reports that the very low-cost computer platform Raspberry Pi could also be used, projecting that such a system could be employed by community or pirate broadcasters.
  • In a meeting that was nearly 50 years in the making, on Tuesday infamous UK pirate radio broadcaster Johnnie Walker conducted an interview with the MP and regulator who made Radio Caroline an outlaw outfit. The interview occurred at Walker’s month-long show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where former Labour MP Tony Benn was unapologetic, claiming that had pirate radio not been made illegal, then there would hade been no impetus to create BBC Radio 1, which was the first legal broadcast of rock n roll in the UK.
  • A piece in Under the Radar describes how pirate radio transmitters helped the indie rock band Akron/Family shoot its new video. The transmission was used to broadcast the song, “Sand Talk,” to dozens of cars on a mountain in Glendale, California where volunteers flickered their headlights synchronized with the music.

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