Why We Might be on the Verge of a New Era of Pirate Radio

Once upon a time, “pirate radio” meant setting up an unlicensed AM or FM transmitter and broadcasting unauthorized programming. The Cure did something like this when they released their Mixed Up album.

With the Internet, though, you don’t need AM or FM. An encoder is all that’s necessary. Companies like Live365 used to facilitate legal amateur broadcasting, but they’ve gone dark thanks to a recent ruling on copyright fees.  Does that mean we’re in for a new era of illegal broadcasting? Maybe. This is from Radio Survivor.

Thousands of internet radio stations have gone silent in 2016, while thousands more may yet shut down, primarily because of new performance royalty fees that have skyrocketed for small and mid-sized internet radio stations. In this piece I explore how this challenge might encourage some webcasters to give up complying with the law and simply stop paying royalties altogether. Will this make them a new–perhaps reluctant–class of radio pirate?

The History of Pirate Radio Is as Long as Radio Itself

The impulse to be a broadcaster is not a new one. Technically speaking, the very first broadcasters were pirates, because there was no license at the time. Ever since, there have been those who qualify to broadcast under the law and prevailing practice, and those who don’t, whether it’s a matter of economics, identity, politics or proclivity. And since broadcasting really isn’t that hard, there have continued to be radio pirates, who transmit because they can, not because they’re allowed.

There is a multitude of rationales for unlicensed broadcasting. Some broadcasters protest the way licenses are granted, while others deny the authority of the government to regulate the airwaves. Still others don’t give a hoot about the FCC–or never stopped to consider legality–and are simply interested in being on the air, and consider the risk to be no greater than taking illegal drugs or driving over the speed limit.

Read the whole thing here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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