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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 13:35 GMT
Clubs warned over pirate radio
DJ in a nightclub
In the past week, 10 nightclubs have received warnings
Nightclub owners are being warned they could face heavy fines or jail sentences if they host parties for pirate radio stations.

A government Christmas crackdown is targeting clubs promoting pirate stations, telling them they face the same punishment as the pirate stations themselves.

The campaign claimed its first victory after a club in Manchester cancelled a party for local pirate station Buzz FM, after receiving a warning from the Radiocommunications Agency (RA).

Radiocommunications Agency officer disconnecting a pirate transmitter
One thousand operations were carried out against pirates in 2002
Between 80 and 100 illegal stations are on air in the UK at any one time, according to the RA, who said pirates put lives at risk by interfering with air traffic control and emergency service frequencies.

"Pirate broadcasters can cause problems for everybody," Radio and Telecoms Minister Stephen Timms said.

"Those who support them, by supplying premises or advertising with them, are just as bad.

"We need to make sure that we protect the public from these risks, and cracking down on clubs that help the pirates is a vital part of this."

Most pirate stations broadcast dance music to relatively small areas from illegal transmitters, often hidden in tower blocks in and around London.

Pirate prosecutions

The RA has carried out more than 1,000 "operations" against such broadcasters this year - mostly seizing transmitters - which have resulted in 39 successful prosecutions.

Pirate broadcasters and nightclubs promoting them face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison if convicted.

In 2001, prosecutions resulted in an average fine of 430.

The RA is part of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which said pirate stations interfere with vital frequencies - mostly air traffic control - on about 12 to 15 known instances per year.

It may help sever links between clubs and the pirate radio stations

DTI spokesman

In the summer, one pirate station in west London disrupted air traffic control at Heathrow airport for six hours with its broadcasts.

A DTI spokesman told BBC News Online: "There is a well-established link between clubs and pirate radio stations.

"By cancelling events, the clubs will lose a lot of money and it will cause massive inconvenience.

"It may not cause problems for the pirate radio stations, but it may help sever links between clubs and the pirate radio stations."

Ms Dynamite
Ms Dynamite: Cut her teeth on pirate stations
He said authorities were not diverting their attention from targeting the illegal broadcasters themselves.

Although banned, pirate stations have been breeding grounds for some of the UK's best new talent over the years - from the DJs of the off-shore Radio Caroline in the 1960s to current garage stars including So Solid Crew and Ms Dynamite.

So Solid Crew made their names on Supreme FM and Delight FM before having a string of top 10 hits.

Ms Dynamite cut her teeth on Raw FM and Freek FM, then launched a successful mainstream career that has seen her become one of the UK's biggest stars of 2002.

But the DTI says it is not concerned about denying musical talent an outlet.

"There are a lot of other legitimate channels to develop things like that," the spokesman said.

"The bottom line is that [pirate radio] does actually pose quite a serious potential threat. That's what we're concerned about."

See also:

06 Jan 00 | Science/Nature
16 Aug 02 | Entertainment
25 May 99 | Middle East
19 Dec 02 | Entertainment
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