Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pirate Radio Raids: China, Thailand, Tunisia, England

That the state seeks to clamp down on 'pirate radio' is perhaps not surprizing, what is inspiring though is that across the world people find ways to defy the state's monopoly of the airwaves. Would be good to know more about the content of some of this broadcasting, I can't quite believe the official account that in China the police are just clamping down on adverts for 'sexual performance drugs'!

China (Global Times, 8 October 2013)

'Chongqing police have raided two illegal radio stations and confiscated their transmitters, antennas and computers, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday. As part of an ongoing campaign launched in April, city police located and seized illegal transmitters in Jiangbei and Yuzhong districts, the report said, but did not say if anyone had been arrested in the raids.

"The city is carrying on its joint campaign on illegal radio," Chongqing Culture Radio and Television Bureau staff member Li Xiaopeng told the Global Times on Tuesday. Li's bureau, Chongqing Radio Management Committee, and local police have all been involved in tackling the illegal broadcasts...

City residents had first tuned into obscene adverts for sexual performance drugs on their radios in late March, Zhang Xueming, a senior official from the city's radio management committee, told the Chongqing Evening Post in April. Authorities began investigating the case after receiving more than 100 reports of illegal transmissions, Zhang told the paper. The drugs advertised had been expensive, several hundred yuan each, and a few citizens had bought them and felt cheated. From April to September, Chongqing authorities have launched four raids, arresting one suspect and confiscating six transmitters, six antennas and six computers.

Thailand (Asia Radio Today, 11 October 2013)

'Thailand’s media regulator continues its clamp down on the thousands of pirate radio and tv stations in the country. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has launched legal action against 1631 broadcasters – mostly thought to be radio stations. So far, 167 stations have been closed down and a further 109 have been searched, according to an NBTC release.The remaining 1355 broadcasters will face legal action in due course.

The stations are all accused of using broadcasting equipment without a licence and using  frequencies reserved for legal broadcasters. Owners could face fines of US$160,000 (Thai Baht 5 million) and a five year jail term. The NBTC has urged the thousands of stations broadcasting illegally in Thailand to apply for community broadcasting licences. By the end of September, more than of 2,800 organisations have been approved for temporary licences, according to the Bangkok Post.

Tunisia (Guardian, 15 October 2013)

....Suffocated by fresh repression under the new government, DJ Nejib turned to a US-based cyberactivist, who taught him and a group of Egyptians and Moroccans how to assemble a pirate radio transmitter. Radio Chaabi (Arabic for popular) operated mostly through secretive night-time recordings.

Partly a celebration of music free from the threat of hardliners, early recordings simply experimented with lacing popular traditional Arabic music and rap lyrics. Politically focused efforts included collaborations with musicians from Palestine.... Days after the Guardian interviewed him, Nejib and seven colleagues were jailed following a dawn raid.

Almost three years since a wave of popular anger toppled Ben Ali's government, the first of several corrupt, autocratic Arab governments to feel the swell, Tunisia is still treading water. Attempts to hammer out a new constitution have floundered as hard left unionists have battled Islamists, in particular over a clause that would allow sharia law to be brought in...On a recent sunny Wednesday, a group of students and an enthusiastic 74-year-old grandmother handed out political flyers at kerbside cafes. Around one corner of a tree-lined boulevard, a weekly protest was taking place; on another, anarchists from a newly formed group called Désobéissance! (Disobedience!) loitered. "I no longer believe political parties can bring about change in Tunisia," said Nabil, an anarchist who said he was beaten by Tunisia's feared police for distributing "anti-capitalist" badges at a rally.

London: Kool FM

Loving Four Tet's sonic tribute to the oft-raided London junglist pirate Kool FM (on his new album Beautiful Rewind). Check out Radical History of Hackney for more on Kool FM and Rush FM.

Kool FM is now an online operation after years of dodging the authorities going back to the early 1990s. Here's an account of one of the operations targeting it and other pirates - Operation Twilight in February 2008:

'Ofcom today announced the results of joint operations across four London boroughs to take illegal radio stations off the air.  Working in partnership with the London Boroughs of Hackney, Haringey, Tower Hamlets and Islington, as well as the Metropolitan Police, Ofcom’s team carried out enforcement action against over 20 illegal broadcasters in these areas...

Ofcom’s operation ran from 6 to 16 February and resulted in three arrests, one studio raid, the removal of 22 illegal broadcasters’ transmitters and over 20 letters sent to local night clubs that have advertised events on illegal radio stations. Ofcom estimates that there are over 150 illegal stations operating in the UK, with half of those broadcasting across London and the South East. There are over thirty illegal stations across these four boroughs, making up 60% of all illegal broadcasters in North London...

Enforcement activity conducted:

Attitude 107.4FM - Hackney:  Transmitter removed on Thursday 14 February. This was secreted within a shaft and took four hours to seize. Working with Hackney Homes, access was gained by drilling through the brick shaft.

Bizim 104.2FM - Haringey: Fifteen warning letters produced - to be hand delivered.

Conshus 106.9FM - Tower Hamlets: Warning letter delivered by hand to night club on Wednesday 13 February for using Conshus as an advertising medium on flyers/posters.

George Lansbury House - Haringey: Two transmitters were disconnected on Friday 15 February.

Heat 96.6FM - Haringey: Transmitter removed on Friday 8 February.

Jiggy 105.6FM - Haringey:  Transmitter removed on Friday 15 February. This seizure necessitated cutting off a metal door (with council approval), as the illegal broadcasters had glued up the locks to prevent access.

Kasapa 104.0FM - Hackney: While tracing the studio on Tuesday 12 February, the transmitter and mid link transmitter were located; no action was taken at that time. Transmitter disabled and aerial removed on Wednesday 13 February.

Kool 94.6FM - Tower Hamlets: Warning letter delivered by hand to night club in Tower Hamlets on Monday 11 February for using Kool as an advertising medium for an event;  Warning letter sent to night club in Brighton on Monday 11 February for using Kool as an advertising medium for an event; Request made for the disconnection of three phone numbers related to the business of Kool FM (Studio, event management). One phone (T Mobile was disconnected on Wednesday 13 February.

Live 101.5FM - Tower Hamlets:  Transmission site traced to Anglia House, E14 7PW

Millennium Supreme 99.8FM - Tower Hamlets: Studio raid on Thursday 7 February. One arrest for unlawful broadcasting. One arrest on warrant. One person was arrested and cautioned for possession of drugs. Transmitter removed on Thursday 14 February.

Origin 95.2FM - Islington: Warning letter delivered by hand to night club in Camden on Monday 11 February for using Origin as an advertising medium for an event.

Rude 88.2FM - Islington: Transmitter disconnected on Friday 8 February. One male attended the vicinity and appeared to visually check the connections; he then made a phone call and left. Officers suspect that he was the DJ finding out why the station ceased broadcasting. The station stayed off air until Saturday.

Shine 87.9FM - Tower Hamlets: Mid link transmitter seized on Wednesday 7 February. Transmitter removed on Friday 15 February.

SLR 97.7FM - Haringey:  Request made for phone disconnection on Wednesday 13 February relating to event organisation. Transmitter disconnected on Friday 15 February.

Takeover 107.7FM - Hackney: Transmitter and aerial removed on Tuesday 12 February. Warning letter delivered to night club on Wednesday 13 February for using Takeover as an advertising medium.

Touch 94.0FM - Haringey: Transmitter disconnection on Wednesday 6 February. No installers attended the scene to reconnect while officers were in the vicinity. The station stayed off air until Sunday. Transmitter removal on Friday 8 February.

True 100.2FM - Hackney: Warning letter delivered by hand to night club in Haringey on Monday 11 February for using True as an advertising medium for an event. Transmitter and aerial removed on Tuesday 12 February.

Unidentified Station 102.6FM - Haringey: Transmitter disconnection on Wednesday 6 February. No installers attended the scene to reconnect while officers were in the vicinity. The station stayed off air until Friday.  Transmitter disconnected and aerial removed on Friday 15 February.

Xtreme 101.7FM - Haringey: Transmitter and aerial removed on Wednesday 13 February.

Operation Twilight has resulted in one studio being raided during the period 6-16 February, and equipment seized, eighteen transmitters being seized or disconnected and four aerial installations removed by Ofcom personnel. In addition a total of twenty one warnings have been given to advertisers on illegal broadcasters, including a number of night clubs, who have been hosting events promoted by pirate radio stations and four phones being used either as studio phones, or to publicise illegal events have been disconnected. Three people have been arrested in connection with the operation'.

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