Ofcom tackles illegal broadcasting

03 November 2005

03 November 2005

Ofcom today announced the results of an operation to take off air illegal broadcasters operating in Greater London.

The operation began on the morning of Saturday 29 October to deal with the large number of London pirate radio stations that illegally broadcast over the FM radio band without a licence under Section 1 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949.

The operation has led to:

  • 53 illegal broadcasters' radio transmitters seized;
  • 17 transmitters and aerials disabled;
  • 43 mobile and land line telephone numbers linked to illegal broadcasting operations gathered for further Ofcom investigation to trace the subscribers; and
  • nine letters of warning sent to night clubs that have advertised events on illegal radio stations.

Illegal broadcasting causes interference to the radios used by critical safety of life services such as the London Fire Brigade and National Air Traffic Services (NATS). The problem is most acute in London which accounts for more than 50% of the estimated 150 illegal broadcasters operating in the UK.

There is a direct link between some illegal broadcasters and serious crime. Ofcom raids on the studios of illegal broadcasters have uncovered drugs and weapons, including firearms. In some cases the cash raised through advertising events at nightclubs is used to finance the purchase of drugs for sale at these events.

Illegal broadcasting also causes interference to legitimate radio stations, denying hundreds of thousands of listeners the opportunity to hear their favourite programmes.

Robert Thelen-Bartholomew, Ofcom's Head of Field Operations, said: "Illegal broadcasting affects safety of life services and has links with serious crime. Ofcom will continue to pursue and prosecute those involved in this criminal activity."

Ofcom has a duty under Section 3 of the Communications Act 2003 to secure optimal use for wireless telegraphy of the electro-magnetic spectrum.

The Ofcom operation has resulted in 44 London illegal broadcasters going off air since the start of the operation. Between 25 October and 1 November (four days into the operation) Ofcom's unmanned monitoring station in London recorded a 57% drop in the number of illegal broadcasts being made.

The operation involved 18 Ofcom field operations staff working with 32 Metropolitan Police officers.

John Anthony, London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner, said: "Pirate radio transmissions interfere with, and sometimes entirely disable, the communications systems the London Fire Brigade relies on. The interference makes it more difficult for the fire fighters to go about their daily business of protecting Londoners."

A spokesman for NATS, said: "Unauthorised broadcasts on or close to frequencies used by air traffic controllers can interfere with the passing of vital information between air traffic controllers and pilots. They can also affect the navigation aids used as landmarks. NATS has very strong working relationship with Ofcom who act promptly to take enforcement action when any interference with air traffic control is detected."

Paul Brown, Chief Executive of the Commercial Radio Companies Association, said: "Commercial Radio provides properly regulated, socially responsible content to its 31 million listeners. Pirate radio broadcasters pay no copyright or licence fees yet they take revenue from commercial radio stations all of whom fulfil the terms of detailed licence conditions and who generate jobs and revenue in their transmission areas. CRCA therefore welcomes today's announcement of Ofcom's London initiative."

The illegal broadcasters targeted by the Ofcom operation include:

Afrique FMTottenham & Wood Green2 transmitters seized
Baseline FMLewisham1 transmitter seized
Blues FMPeckham3 transmitters seized
Bounce FMStreatham2 transmitters seized
1 transmitter disconnected
Déjà vuBow1 transmitter seized
Force FMHarold Hill1 transmitter seized
Freeze FMHarrow1 transmitter seized
Fresh FMErith1 transmitter disconnected
Galaxy FMPeckham2 transmitters seized
Genesis FMRotherhithe2 transmitters seized
1 transmitter disconnected
Have it FMBow1 transmitter seized
HFMRotherhithe1 transmitter disconnected
House FMClapton2 transmitters disconnected
Itch FMWhitechapel1 transmitter seized
Kool FMWapping1 transmitter disconnected
Lightning FMBrixton Hill3 transmitters seized
Lush FMActon1 transmitter seized
N PowerHonor Oak2 transmitters seized
Naija FMPlumstead & Wapping1 transmitter seized
1 transmitter disconnected
Nitro FMTulse Hill1 transmitter seized
On Top FMKennington & Stockwell1 transmitter seized
1 studio raid
PowerjamBattersea1 transmitter seized
Ragga FMEdmonton1 transmitter seized
Rasta FMKennington1 transmitter seized
Rhythm FMDalston1 transmitter seized
Rinse FMWapping1 transmitter disconnected
Rude FMHolloway & Crouch End4 transmitters disconnected
Select UK FMRotherhithe2 transmitters seized
1 transmitter disconnected
Shine FMClerkenwell1 transmitter seized
Silk FMNorwood1 transmitter seized
1 transmitter disconnected
SLRTottenham2 transmitters seized
SubjamWood Green1 transmitter seized
Supreme FMLeyton1 transmitter seized
Surprise FMPeckham1 transmitter seized
Sweet FMEdmonton2 transmitters seized
Touch FMWhitechapel1 transmitter seized
UnidentifiedStockwell1 transmitter seized
Unknown FMEdmonton & Holloway2 transmitters seized
1 transmitter disconnected
Vibes FMBrixton Hill3 transmitters seized
Vision FMLimehouse1 transmitter seized
Wax FMPlumstead1 transmitter seized
WBLSTottenham1 transmitter disconnected
Whoa FMElephant and Castle2 transmitters seized
Y2KHolloway1 transmitter seized