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Ofcom Radio pokes at potential pirates

Frequency don't come for free

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Londoners can now tune into Ofcom's own radio station, which is transmitting for a week or two to let people know they shouldn't be.

The station is transmitting across the South Bank on 87.7MHz, with a message explaining what a terrible thing pirate radio is, and reminding listeners that they can hire the frequency for their own events if they feel inclined.

In south London 87.7MHz is reserved for a Restricted Service Licence - a short term licence (up to 28 days) for anyone who fancies broadcasting radio coverage linked to a specific event or to have a go at running a radio station (commercial and community operations often start that way). Right now no one is so the regulator decided to take to the airwaves itself.

Not that one should leap to grab a microphone - Associated Broadcast Consultants reckon its first Restricted Service operation cost £11,000 including the assorted licences, royalty payments and kit needed (though some of that could have been hired).

If you're an advertising agency, political party or the Welsh Assembly then you won't get a licence anyway, so don't bother applying. Convicted pirate broadcasters can't apply either, though some stations have made the transition to legality.

Convictions of pirate broadcasters are very rare; confiscating the equipment takes the station off the air and is much cheaper than pursuing individuals though the courts. But Ofcom never misses an opportunity to remind the public how pirate broadcasters are really gun-running, drug-dealing ne'er-do-wells. ®

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