A 21st Century Pirate's Tale

by Anonymous

I was 45 years old on my last birthday and, according to some people I know, I really should be old enough to have more sense. After all, at my age I’m supposed to be comfortable in my slippers, falling asleep in front of the telly with 2.5 children, a huge mortgage and a nagging wife. But then again I always was a rebel. And there’s absolutely no excuse for what I do most weekends; I am, by my own admission, a criminal and am facing a prison sentence when (not if) I get caught again. I have no intention of stopping, despite already being on a conditional discharge and paying fines. I’ll hold my head high in court and, if it comes to that, even prison - knowing that the law I’m breaking is a complete ass. No, I’m not a terrorist, a rapist, a thief, nor even a pugilist. My crime is one which scares the ‘Powers That (shouldn’t) Be’ so much that when I was finally caught for my heinous deeds, they had months of documented surveillance on my movements and pictures of my car outside several places in which I committed my atrocities. Seven police officers in riot gear broke down my door for my crime. Surely I am evil personified? But wait just a minute. Before you judge me I would ask you a small favour. Turn on your radio. Yes, I’m serious, do it now. Now I know most people only listen to one or two radio stations. You probably just have them locked in as pre-set buttons in your car and perhaps your clock radio alarm in the bedroom. When was the last time you listened to the radio and heard a piece of music that actually made you stop and listen? Try turning the dial and finding something at least a bit different. Am I correct in my assumption that all you find is more of the same, bland crap however far you turn that dial? Do you hear the same small playlist repeating over and over and over again? Yep. I thought so. Sadly, there’s a reason for that. Despite the electromagnetic spectrum (the radio waves) being a naturally occurring phenomenon like oxygen, they are now for sale to the highest bidder according to the government’s Office of Communications ‘Ofcom’. So, of course, the big corporates have moved in and obviously they are in business to make money, certainly not to entertain the listener. The advertiser is king so they absolutely daren’t play or say anything that might annoy their holy cash cows. Hence we get 24/7 lowest common denominator music and DJs with all the personality of a toilet brush. Revenue is all that counts to them. No wonder radio listening is decreasing. Which is probably why I can be found, most weekends, heaving scaffold poles up tower block stairs (sadly they’re too big to fit in the lifts). For about £500 it is possible to buy an FM stereo transmitter, some microwave links to a studio elsewhere and a suitable aerial to go on those scaffold poles. It’s a constant battle finding new places to move around to, replacing the equipment when Ofcom steal it, not to mention organising all the DJs and music. Yep, you guessed it, my heinous crime is that I run a pirate radio station that actually dares to play the alternative music which mainstream radio so completely ignores. Local bands feature heavily; I even liked one CD received in the post so much I played the entire disk without a break! They wrote back a few weeks later to thank me and to say they’d actually got some paid gigs from the airplay. When Ofcom finally caught me, for the first time in 25 years of such alleged antisocial activities, the usual lies were wheeled out in court. "Pirate radio must be stamped out, your honour, it causes interference to the transmissions of air traffic and the emergency services." When my brief asked for proof of this alleged interference I had caused, of course none was forthcoming. OK, some lamer pirates do use dodgy rigs (transmitters) which sprog (interfere) but they are highly frowned upon in pirate circles and are very very rare. Anyway, these days the emergency services use O2 Airwave digital technology, which is interference proof. Ofcom also claim that pirate radio stations are ripping off DJs by charging them £20 an hour to get on the air and making a fortune from advertising. Man, I wish! I ask my DJs for a voluntary contribution of a fiver a week to help replace the equipment stolen by Ofcom when they raid (usually about once a month) and we don’t run advertisements at all, apart from a few free ones for local bands’ gigs and good causes. We are also, according to Ofcom, “stealing listeners” from legal stations. Well there’s a simple answer to that, innit? Why are people choosing to listen to my pirate station instead of the legals? Could it perhaps be that I’m successfully providing a service that they aren’t interested in providing? Why isn’t there freedom of choice for listeners and a level playing field for radio stations in the UK? The plain truth is that they’ve paid for a license and I haven’t. So they’re ok to pump out Pants FM 24/7 as long as the wonga is flowing nicely into Ofcom’s coffers. Is it just me who thinks this is wrong? But now Ofcom are releasing “Community Radio” licences, so I should take down my aerial and apply for one of those, right? Let’s look at the conditions for such a license: A pathetic 5km radius; severe restrictions on what you can play and say; sources of revenue can be no more than 50% from advertising; £600 non-refundable fee just to apply? No thanks. Back in the 1960s people went out and lived on ships to provide free, alternative music radio to Britain. A few names with which you may be familiar: John Peel; Kenny Everett; Johnny Walker; Tony Blackburn; Tommy Vance all helped pioneer pirate radio in the UK. On and off, offshore radio survived until 1989 when the British and Dutch governments illegally and violently raided the Radio Caroline ship, in international waters, which was a true act of piracy on the high seas. In 1990 an act was passed which ludicrously stated that if a ship was broadcasting music from absolutely anywhere, it was perfectly legal for them to raid it in this way. However, a ship smuggling Class A drugs still can’t be touched until it enters territorial waters. Shows just how scared they are of freedom of speech, eh? My aerial will stay up despite their oppression. Now excuse me, I’m off to turn on my rig and play some good music on the radio, occasionally taking off the headphones to make sure they’re not breaking down the door again. This article has been written anonymously for obvious reasons and, as much as I would love to tell you to send me your music or give you the frequency or advice, I can't. Just please remember to tune around on your radio and if you accidentally hear a pirate station, give us some support; even a text message just to say that you're listening. It's always much appreciated. If you have a band and want some airplay, your local pirate station is where to send your CD. Bigup all pirates; Peace out.

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