Pirate radio is a complicated subject. It’s illegal which means Radio Frequency International Report does not condone the pillaging of airwaves. But it’s also fascinating. You can’t deny that it happens and since it’s “out there” and there’s nothing illegal about receiving pirate signals, it’s difficult not to tune in.
I’ve written about pirate radio before and every time I reach out to some pseudonymous station manager in the hopes of scoring an interview, I’m always a bit nervous about what type of response I’ll get. Rarely do I receive anything other than friendly offers of support from really decent people.
This was the case with “Dr. Benway” station owner of Undercover Radio. Earlier this year I monitored one of his transmissions and heard him announce his T-shirt campaign to support a very worthy cause. You can read the full article in Radio World Magazine.
What I found interesting about Dr. Benway is, not so much his love for and commitment to pirate radio, but his love for and commitment to radio in general.
Early on in the interview he explains where this love of radio started and it’s a story many of us can probably relate to:
“My love for radio goes back to when I was a child. I remember tuning my pocket transistor radio on the AM bands and being captivated by the magic of the airwaves. I couldn’t believe I could hear stations so far away at night. I fondly remember listening to the broadcast giants of the early 70’s. Every time I was near a radio I had to turn it on to discover what I could hear on it. I spent hours taping shows from afar. I remember the great radio personalities like Wolfman Jack and Jean Shepherd just to name a couple.”
Later in the interview he offers an interesting proposal that might be an answer to the problem of illegal broadcasts:
“I would like the Federal Communications Commission to just consider for a moment a hobby broadcast band. Certainly there is spectrum in the shortwave area that could be set aside for hobby broadcasting. We wouldn’t need much spectrum and it certainly would not interfere with the interests of commercial broadcast stations. It would allow hobbyists like myself to broadcast and experiment with different types of equipment and broadcasting modes. It would allow for reasonable power levels of at least 100 watts. I know the FCC has many larger concerns right now such as saving the AM broadcast band but maybe they could take just a few moments and the swipe of a pen to allocate some official space for us somewhere.”
Until that happens, Dr. Benway and his fellow pirate operators will certainly continue their illegal station operations, and I will continue to monitor and report on their more interesting aspects and activities.