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Ofcom tackles pirates - reports total eradication in one borough

  • New low-cost digital radio platform to be able to offer pirate broadcasters legitimate ways of broadcasting.

A new approach to tackling pirate radio has eradicated the problem in one London borough and regulator Ofcom says it could save up to £1 million for Londoners by being rolled out across the capital.

Pirate radio can interfere with legitimate radio stations licenced to broadcast on FM. Ofcom says it can also affect communications channels used by the emergency services.

In 2014, the UK’s air traffic control service NATS reported 55 cases of communications interference from pirate radio.

Ofcom has been working in north London, one of the UK’s most affected areas, in partnership with housing body Homes for Haringey. As a result of the new approach, in 2014, 19 pirate radio stations were illegally broadcasting in Haringey. By quickly removing their transmitters and regularly patrolling and securing rooftops, pirate radio has now been eradicated in the borough.

Ofcom, which manages radio frequencies, is hosting a summit on 3 November to explore the new approach to tackling the problem.

Astrid Kjellberg-Obst, Executive Director of Operations at Homes for Haringey, said:
"Pirate radio stations damage people’s homes and can be extremely distressing to our residents.
"We’ve seen huge success in tackling the problem with the measures that we’ve introduced, removing all pirate radio stations from Haringey and saving the borough tens of thousands of pounds in the process. We will continue to work with Ofcom to keep Haringey pirate-free.”

Meanwhile, Ofcom is hoping to offer legal opportunities for radio stations to go on-air across London and the UK. It says that if current "small scale DAB" trial is successful, it will open up digital radio to smaller broadcasters at a fraction of current costs.

Currently, a number of stations are participating in a small scale DAB trial operated by UDAB in London. Should the trial prove successful, Ofcom will be able to licence local multiplexes covering London boroughs or towns and cities across the UK giving niche and specialist stations an interference-free and legal way to broadcast from official transmitter sites.


  1. Ofcom will ensure, deliberately or unintentionally, that cost of these small scale licences is out of the reach of the people that launch and run many 'pirate' stations, thus perpetuating pirate radio. The pirates will adopt DAB eventually but not through Ofcom but through their own transmitters. For those that do not believe it possible then you are wrong and within the next couple of years independent or 'pirate' DAB stations will hit the airwaves of London.


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