“Pirate Radio 95.3 — and it’s legal!” -Apparently not.

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“Pirate Radio 95.3 — and it’s legal!” -Apparently not.

The following is a drastically edited down article to ilustrate the key points from a recent Radio World article, it chronicles two different supposabe "part 15" stations being located and then shut down.. Although the FCC has not yet initiated their plans for "Tiger Teams", here presents an indication of what one can expect, as this licensed broadcaster became a self-deputized tiger team:

--------------- "At the beginning of 2016, as the first translator window opened, I began listening around Denver on the frequency I filed for. Right here in my office on my office radio, I was hearing a strong signal with an eclectic music mix, time and temperature announcements and liners. There was, of course, no station ID.I spent some time driving the signal and found that it went several miles in each direction, centered very near my office. This was no legitimate Part 15 operation; the station had to be transmitting considerable power. We had to find this station and get it shut down before our new translator came on...

...When the agent got there, he noted that the measured field appeared to be close to Part 15 limits, so he didn’t even knock on the door. Amanda and I drove the signal again and found it was nowhere near what it had been. It was listenable only within a few hundred feet as opposed to several miles. ...the pirate cut power back to a legal level before the FCC agent arrived. Problem solved, right? Not quite..

...the owner was an amateur radio operator. .. ..wrote him a polite but firmly-worded letter on company letterhead advising him that within a few weeks, a licensed station would be coming on the air on the frequency he had chosen for his Part 15 station. I asked him to find another frequency and left him with the strong implication that we would not take interference to our new signal lying down. Amazingly, within a couple of days, the signal disappeared and has not come back... engaging in unlicensed broadcast activity at greater than Part 15 levels, he not only risked a hefty fine but also his amateur radio license...

[Another location] One complainant gave us a lot of detail about the pirate’s signal, programming and the like. This guy was boldly identifying as “Pirate Radio 95.3 — and it’s legal!”

Interestingly, we got some “hate mail” after that Boulder pirate was shut down. Evidently he had a following. To put it politely, the pirate’s listeners who posted on our station’s Facebook page could not understand why he had to shut down because his signal could not possibly be interfering with our station way down in Denver. It’s always hard to explain to the uninitiated that a radio signal will interfere over a much larger area than it covers.

With the resolution of these two cases, we’re two for two, at least in the Denver market. The key in both cases was taking care of the time-consuming aspect of the hunt ourselves, before contacting the FCC. That really left the field office people with very little to do, really just show up.

My guess is that this is going to be the model that broadcasters are going to have to follow."


I am curious however how it

I am curious however how it is "that a radio signal will interfere over a much larger area than it covers."??? I don't see how that's true.

Rich Powers Part15, Take 2..

i know both cris and amanda.

i know both cris and amanda. they work for crawford here in town. i don't run fm anymore too risky. if i ever get a bunch of leaky coax i will run fm again inside a building of a nursing home and have it set to p15 limits outside the building.

Part 15 Engineer

Hindsight is 2020

I'm not a democrat or a republican, i'm a common sense moderate progressive


please don't forget to register and vote

Probably Misled

The guy on 95.3 probably actually believed that he WAS legal.  He probably bought one of those "Part 15 Compliant" Chinese FM transmitters off eBay or Amazon, that insist they're legal and go on to talk about how they have 5, 10, 20 watts or more of output, but are legal under Part 15.

I'm sure thousands of relatively high power illegal transmitters are sold every year to people who fully believe the listing or ad, buy one and go to town.  Not everyone is curious enough, or smart enough, or skeptical enough to seek out more information or track down forums like this.

If all they have to go on is the ad hype and information included with the transmitter, it's easy to see how well meaning people can be led astray.

This is why, as far as I'm concerned, it's a far better idea for enforcement to focus on the sale of illegal transmitters than tracking down indivdual operators, except in the most high power and blatant cases.

I've had no problem finding the physical locations of people/companies selling illegal FM transmitters.  But I do it just out of curiosity.  If I can do it, why can't the FCC? Even if they hired one guy to track down sellers of illegal transmitters word would spread throughout the industry that people were getting busted. 


Well, It's not clear how over

Well, It's not clear how over the limit he was, but it should be obvious that if an FM signal is going farther than a half block or so, then it's not compliant with the rules, but as you point out, there are many who base their beleif entirely on the manufactures hype.

He probally did think he was legal. The aricle describes how they first was able to narrow it down to a few blocks, but couldn't pinpoint the exact location. The agent however was later able to pinpoint the home by actually disconnecting their receiving antenna, so that the signal would only come in when at the imeadiate location.. The transmitter was up high in a tree.

I agree it makes total sense for the FCC to target the manufactures of non compliant transmitters, that would solve the problem with these "micro-powered pirates".. I can't coomprehend why they don't.

Rich Powers Part15, Take 2..

Vast Oceans of Interference

The comments here about FM signals are well decribed and I can't think of anything to add to that part of it, but the world of interference is as vast as space on many spectrums and locations.

With scaled down resources the FCC is probably only able to spend their time on the most dangerous reports, such as those interfering with public safety bands, airplanes, and on and on.

The measely FM cases, especially small-time stuff like translators and LPFM is probably just annoying for the FCC to hear about. I'm sure they know that most of what gets put on small licensed stations isn't important.

Carl Blare
I'm not sure that banning

I'm not sure that banning dubious transmitter sales will do much about the major problem area, which are those who knowingly break the rules with relatively high powered transmitters that can generate interference out to a great distance.  If someone wants to do it, they'll find a way.

What it will do is perhaps help with those marginal cases where someone just wants to buy a music transmitting system, and doesn't know what they are doing.  While they can be a problem too, that problem is not on the same order of magnitude as the multi-watt offenders who do know what they're doing.

I also believe that the radio amateur involved in the story probably knew what he/she was doing.  The bulk of an amateur radio licensing exam is spent on questions relating to RFI, and rules/regulations (the rest of it is antennas and elementary electronics).  A radio amateur should know full well what Part 15 rules are on frequencies where they are transmitting (and they've supposedly been trained to look it up if they don't know).

Well, orginally I thought the

Well, orginally I thought the second violator in the story thought they were legal (becase of their motto), but after going to their facebook page which provided a link to their website, they instruct you how to start your own station and playing "cat and mouse" with the FCC.

So now it obvious they knew exactly what they were doing, not sure why their slogan suggested legal operations.

Rich Powers Part15, Take 2..

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