Pirate Radio

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Does anyone know anything about a station that broadcasts on 88.0 MHz FM in the Illawarra? I managed to receive this station two hours ago and again thirty minutes ago. The interesting thing about this station is that it only plays Spanish / Mexican music (the music is not in English, either way), without any commercial breaks or station idents. There appears to be no information about this station online. I did a quick research not to long ago and the only other station that broadcasts on the 88.0 FM frequency is Raw FM, which transmits from Collaroy (a northern suburb of Sydney). Now, I can rule out Raw FM, as the station plays dance music and it drastically differs from the station that I can currently receive. Also, Raw FM airs programming content, whereas the station I managed to receive only plays songs (without breaks).

It’s interesting to note too that the signal isn’t overly strong at my location, indicating that it is either a pirate station or a narrowcast station, at the very least. However, with the lack of information about the station, I am willing to suggest that it is solely a pirate station. Plus, i’m sure the station would of been mentioned on Media Spy before too if it was indeed a narrowcast station. Interestingly enough, the signal is at it’s strongest when I move the antenna in a northerly direction. Moving the antenna to the south decreases the signal quite significantly and it is almost inaudible after an extensive period of time. This has parallels with narrowcast station Oldies FM, which transmits from Kiama, which in turn, results in the signal being stronger in southern parts of the Illawarra and not in far northern suburbs such as Scarborough. As such, this has led me to the conclusion that this “pirate” station is transmitting from somewhere in reasonably close proximity to Wollongong, possibly around the Figtree area. However, with a lack of knowledge on the station itself, it is hard to know what sort of station it actually is and where it is transmitting from. I would be interested to hear what your thoughts are about this station and whether you know anything more about the station itself.


http://radioaustral.com.au/ - Spanish Radio Network

This station has a 88.0 relay at North Sydney according to FM scan


Try this…


I ran it for postcodes 2500 to 2520 and it came up with licences for 88.0 at Wollongong Hospital and Bulli Lookout.


Yes, quite a number of LPONs have been allocated in the Illawarra, though most have not yet been activated. From memory, Radio Austral was one of the successful applicants.

There was a pirate radio station in operation in central Wollongong, “Radio Irie”, but he got busted. Link: http://www.vice.com/en_au/read/australia-lost-a-radio-station-but-this-pirate-dj-lost-a-dream


I remember that!

That was the one operating ‘in band’ at 99.4, wasn’t it.


The pirate broadcaster seems quite naive about the whole thing.

The author seems unaware of the concept of triangulation – even if he didn’t have an online presence, they would have been able to track him down.

[quote]They look my transmitter but left the antenna and cable behind … does that mean I can continue

How can he possibly think that after having been raided for illegal broadcasting that he could still possibly continue broadcasting?

And then the ACMA will once again be able to triangulate the signal and take it down.

Perhaps he should consider an Internet radio station instead.


From this earlier this month

IRIE FM Fundraiser: Pirate Dub Party at Jane’s

Jane’s is proud to be working with Maris Depers in organising a benefit to help out Dan Morris and his recently shut down pirate radio station IRIE FM 99.4.


It’s an FM single point transmission, not cell based multiple point, (like a mobile phone), there’s no triangulation involved.

ACMA just goes out with a highly directional receive antenna, & signal strength receiver, they pick up the signal then turn around to see which direction is the strongest, then they keep heading in that direction, following the signal path as it gets stronger.

Going on complaint reports to them, they’d know roughly where to start looking, & for a pirate FM operator, track it down well within an hour of first arriving in the area, & picking up the signal.

Interference issues are a little more difficult & take more time, but an FM pirate signal is like a sitting duck on an open pond to a hunter, doesn’t matter where he goes, he might as well put a flashing light on the roof. RF signals to ACMA inspectors are just like a light, but not visible to the naked eye.

ACMA can’t monitor the entire country all the time, all they need is a complaint report & pirates are gone quick smart, the broadcast spectrum is worth too much money, commercial stations & the ABC/SBS & community stations pay billions collectively to use it. Not only can ACMA come down hard on Pirates, if they interfere with another station & potentially cause loss of income, the licence broadcaster will have lawyers on your doorstep pretty quick, seeking compensation, & you may end up losing more than just your transmitter.

It’s really not worth the risk these days, start an Internet radio station, buy a narrowcast licence, they’re generally cheap as, but may not be in your local, or get involved at a community station.

If this guy wants to give it another crack, he’s beyond a moron.

As a broadcast engineer, people like him really piss me off (to put it lightly).


True, something like a yagi would probably make it quite easy to locate without triangulation.

The type of triangulation I was referring to is known as multilateration (MLAT). Three (or more) receive sites at known locations and with a synchronised clock (e.g. using GPS time signals) should be able to remotely pin the down the source of the signal near-immediately by determining the time offset of the received signal between the different receive sites. MLAT is what is used by flight tracking websites to locate planes that don’t send out their location data but still have a 1090 MHz beacon onboard.


There was a pirate broadcasting in Brisbane last year and it was pretty easy to get an idea of the transmitter location just by using the car radio.


This thread has been sitting here for a long time, so finally felt moved to sign up today to put some perspective on this topic. Not all pirates are nasty you know, they do provide a service that commercial and other community stations don’t.

Yep, and that’s the problem, money money money. The way the australian government runs the spectrum is all about pure greed. I like the UK ofcom model where potential broadcasters are given licenses based on what content they can offer, rather on whose got the deepest pockets.

In my opinion, I think ACMA should get their grubby corrupt tentacles sliced off, and be reduced down to an advisory board, rather then enfourcement. If ACMA feel that a pirate is doing damage or interfering with an emergency service, then they should have to prove that in principle first, before they blatantly trespass onto someones property; stealing their equipment. Remember the old saying, innocent until proven guilty?

Okay, let’s realistically explore these options. Internet radio station; from experience doesn’t pay off, as your station is hidden amongst hundreds of pages of spam within google and etc. Even if internet station promotes there streams (through print brochures, signs, and SEOing), it’s still somewhat of a clunky medium, not as mobile as a simple terrestrial radio, and is heavily reliant on wherever bandwidth is available (wireless or wired).

Doesn’t matter if the license is not in a local area, but it would be nice if one could pick one up within an area that’s located within a 30 to 45 minute car trip from where they live. As noted several times, many of these licenses have been snapped up by operators who are not using them, and the licenses located in larger population centers have been taken by this right wing religious mob.

Price to value ratio is also screwed. Paying $10,000 for a 5 watt license is just utter BS.

Been in one for several years back in the nineties, at most as a listener ship, you’ll get the ten year old kid who dreams of broadcasting and requests there favourite beyonce song, and the lonely grand parent wanting some company. Not exactly a awesome interactive audience, but hey, community radio is great for one thing, practicing up your broadcasting skills. If one goofs up, then you’ll know hardly anyone is listening. And on top of that, there is the politics of management that prevents any volunteers from getting anything useful done.

This is my first post I know, but I’ve been in radio for 25 years. I was on here many years ago, under a different user name (old mediaspy forums), and when my friends and I got a firm no from the minister of communications from pitching our radio station HPON concept, we were all very tempted to start a pirate station, but unfortunately too many dibby dobbers out there who want to protect there $100, million radio station.

I’ve been out of radio now for just over two years, and haven’t felt happier in life. :slight_smile: Career in the arts is so much more enjoyable. :slight_smile: Radio licensing in this country is just so CORRUPT!!!


I guess one issue that spectrum is just so scarce… In reality there are very few spare frequencies left in the greater Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane regions for instance.

Which is where there would be the most interest from “pirate” broadcasters in setting up such a service.


@radiohead, it’s all about a government broadcasting authority who can manage, being able to grant licenses efficiently and with consultation. To what I’ve experienced, ACMA are far from reaching that objective.

When I say management, I mean an agency that has the ability to know what offerings are on the spectrum, and know how to grant licenses that cover an array of interest groups accordingly.

I’m not sure about other cities, but as far as Sydney, the FM spectrum is mainly covered by a:) a number of commercial FM stations that play the same 50 songs every day, b:) a number of low powered community radio stations that cover around two to three suburbs with very incoherent program schedules, and c:) a number of bi-lingual radio stations (SBS radio, 2OOO FM, Voice of Islam, and Kouri radio (indigenous).

These stations noted in point c:) (from australian bureau of statistic figures) only cover a negligible part of Sydney’s demographic, yet the group of people my friends and I were representing covered 20% of Sydney’s population.

For as far as Sydney’s concerned, if spectrum is so scarce, then like any thing that is cluttered, maybe there should be some cleaning up; some reorganisation and decluttering should be in order. This could include but not just limited to combining stations that offer duplicate content, and moving stations that are mainly talking (just speech) to AM.

In the several years my friends and I were trying to obtain an HPON license, the ACMA never took any interest in our station and objectives. Over a period of several years we had one letter (noting licenses are only available on an auction based system), and a five minute phone call (the guy noting how much work we had placed into our submission), and lastly a one liner email to say our correspondence had been past on.

Basically ACMA are an impenetrable organisation who push the law with an unforgivably hard line. Though I agree they are some irrisponsible pirates out there who do create mischief, I believe the guy from ABD radio was broadcasting on a slot that was not used or not interfering with another station.

The ultimate point, why does ACMA grant an HPON license to a group, whose demographic only covers 1.3% of Sydney’s demographic, while us (covering a 20% demographic) get the cold shoulder.

So with this in mind, they are many under represented people in Sydney (and Melbourne and Brisbane for that matter) who have not been able to gain anything out of the ACMA system. This is why they go pirate, and for that I DON’T blame them one bit, and on top of that I admire their courage. :slight_smile:


I don’t wish to comment on the legal, regulatory, and ethical issues surrounding pirate radio, other than to say that unlicensed broadcasting-done well- can be a catalyst for positive change in the broadcasting space. Germanely, Radio Caroline has (finally) been granted an AM licence in the UK.

I will make a few observations, though. It’s fairly evident that Australia’s pirate radio scene was, and is, fairly low key. Most operations are low powered, utilising 1-10 watt transmitters from suburban dwellings, giving a range of 5-10 km at most. The few that have sought to provide city-wide coverage have been nipped in the bud fairly quickly (Radio Uranus in Melbourne, 2FT in Sydney). In the case of the former, ~20 kW from a mountain near Kinglake was employed; quite audacious, even for the relatively lax 1980s. There have been no pirate operators on the scale of Radio Caroline (UK) or Radio Hauraki (NZ). This, in my opinion, is less to do with ravenous regulators and more to do with the well-established and still flourishing community radio scene. For all its faults, community radio in Australia remains reasonably open access, especially in comparison with the nascent LPFM scene in the USA and the heavily regulated UK. In 2FT’s case, the operator thought it wiser to sign up with his local community station than continue broadcasting without a licence; he ended up getting a gig with the Nova network as a result.


I couldn’t agree more!
ACMA are an epic failure in providing listeners with the best choice which meets the majority of tastes.
The landscape of commercial and community stations in Brisbane for example is a complete mess featuring:

  1. Limited and protected commercial operators with only 4 commercial FM stations in a city of 2.3 million people.
  2. A couple of metro wide community broadcasters trying for broad appeal - and failing.
  3. The remaining sub metro community stations providing amateurish and niche programs.
  4. FM spectrum is wasted on TWO multicultural talk stations catering to tiny audiences.
  5. Overlap with the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast exacerbates the problem but I find it impossible to believe that with a RE-stack of frequencies that more stations could be accommodated.

The ACMA has abrogated their responsibility to the public to provide radio services which benefit the audience and instead act as a protection racket for the a couple of big commercial operators.


While I can see bagging ACMA may be justified, I don’t think some of you understand what it is & how it operates?

The ACMA is effectively just like the local police, they just uphold the law & work in planning the spectrum the government gives them, so interference doesn’t happen (preferably).

The broadcasting Act. is made by the Government, it is the law everyone has to play by & ACMA uphold it.
The Government tells ACMA under what circumstances, who can have a broadcast licence & use what spectrum, ACMA then works to fit it in with surrounding spectrum users.

ACMA had their say on the digital radio spectrum, but it’s the Government who will decide whether to use DAB+, DRM, DRM+ or HD for digital radio & where & when an area will get it.
ACMA will then plan the spectrum use & licence whoever fits the requirements of the Government.

It’s the same for TV & AM/FM radio, mobile phone spectrum, satellite & all other radio Frequency spectrum. The Government makes the rules, ACMA upholds them.

The ABC & SBS have their own separate charter (law) & ACMA have virtually no say over it.

Broadcast Australia plan, use & manage all ABC & SBS spectrum, (where they transmit from, how much power, directional or omni-directional antenna arrays, etc).

ACMA has to try to fit in all Commercial, Community & Narrowcast services with what the ABC & SBS leave over without causing any interference issues (if possible).

In my case of interference at CoastFM Gosford, ACMA won’t/can’t do anything, the ABC charter trumps over the commercial & community broadcasting Act. I have to deal directly with BA & hope they agree to do something to rectify the interference into Gosford from Taree, from the overspill that shouldn’t be there. Unfortunately they told us to get stuffed, so we have to find an alternative solution & work with ACMA to squeeze in wherever possible, to give us best chance & minimise interference to others.

You stick Pirates in there & someone who’s payed good money for their spectrum is going to get upset.

The Government always owns the RF Spectrum, licence holders just pay to rent the spectrum space & use it.


Try New Zealand, much easier to obtain a licence to try your ideas. Nice people and climate, give it a go.


The issue with modern day pirates is that they import the cheap Chinese FM TX’s from oversees that spew garbage all over the FM band, which puts a even bigger target on their back when they are heard on multiple frequencies due to bad filtering.


Can anyone in Sydney pick up 89.5mhz? It has comes on air around Christmas time for the last few years and plays festive music with no announcers.

I have received it around Stanhope Gardens, but the signal is very weak on my car radio.

When I received it today in the Stanhope Gardens Shopping Centre car park there was nothing being broadcast but the stereo pilot light. As the signal was just above the noise floor the Stereo indicator was flashing on and off as the car moved.


There was a unlicensed station on 91.5 in Morningside Brisbane playing over driven Xmas music