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Tackling pirate radio could save Londoners ?1 million: Ofcom

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MUMBAI: A new approach to tackling pirate radio has eradicated the problem in one London borough, and could save up to ?1 million for Londoners by being rolled out across the capital.

Pirate radio harms local communities and the critical communications used by the emergency services. Ofcom, which manages radio frequencies, is hosting a summit on 3 November to explore the new approach to tackling the problem.

Pirate stations typically use high-rise buildings for their broadcasts, with illegal transmitters installed on rooftops or hidden in lift shafts. This damages residential properties owned by local authorities, disrupting residents’ lives and putting people at risk from falling equipment.

Ofcom has been working in north London, one of the UK’s most affected areas, with housing body Homes for Haringey. In 2014, 19 pirate radio stations were illegally broadcasting in Haringey. By quickly removing their transmitters and regularly patrolling and securing rooftops, pirate radio has now been eradicated in the borough.

As a result, Homes for Haringey has saved ?90,000 in enforcement and maintenance costs over the past year.

On 3 November, Ofcom will be meeting with local authorities from across London to share the success of the Homes for Haringey partnership. If this collaborative and proactive approach is rolled out across the capital, local authorities stand to save an estimated total of ?1 million per year.

Ofcom’s Spectrum Enforcement team head Clive Corrie said, "Illegal broadcasting harms local communities and risks lives by interfering with vital communications used by the emergency services and air traffic control. By working in partnership with local authorities, Ofcom is tackling this problem. We also strongly urge those broadcasting illegally to get involved with internet or community radio, a legitimate route on to the airwaves.”

Homes for Haringey executive director of operations Astrid Kjellberg-Obst added, "Pirate radio stations damage people’s homes and can be extremely distressing to our residents. We’ve seen huge success in tackling the problem with the measures that we’ve introduced, removing all pirate radio stations from Haringey and saving the borough tens of thousands of pounds in the process. We will continue to work with Ofcom to keep Haringey pirate-free.”

Harmful interference to emergency services

Pirate radio causes interference to critical radio services, including those used by the emergency services and air traffic control.

In 2014, the UK’s air traffic control service NATS has reported 55 cases of communications interference from pirate radio.

Ofcom also receives reports each week from the emergency services and other, legitimate radio services of illegal interference. Ofcom has powers to seize illegal broadcasting equipment and prosecute those involved.

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