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Pirate Radio Stations Offer A Challenging DX Target For Shortwave Listeners And 'Free Radio' Fans

Pirate radio stations broadcasting on shortwave radio without a license, can be heard over most of North America and Europe. 'Pirate Radio', also known as 'Free Radio', often provides the most entertaining and original programming that can be heard on shortwave radio today, and its entertainment value can put commercially programmed and corporate playlisted AM-FM stations to shame. Since radio pirates are usually low-powered stations, generally using transmitter power of 100 watts or less, they are also a challenging DX catch for SWL shortwave listeners and pirate radio listening fans alike.

How to listen to shortwave pirate radio stations

Since pirate stations usually operate with low power, as opposed to the fifty-to-five-hundred-kilowatt transmitter power of the licensed international shortwave broadcasters, it is best to try to hear pirates using a modern desktop-type model of shortwave receiver with a digital frequency readout, connected to an outside wire antenna such as a dipole, loop or long-wire antenna. Small "portable" shortwave receivers selling for a few dollars which may be encountered on sites such as eBay are next to useless for this kind of shortwave listening, but one may find used desktop receivers with digital readout which would be suitable for pirate radio listening, with final sale prices usually starting around $150 and upwards.

Pirate Radio Broadcasting Frequencies in North America

Pirate radio broadcasting on shortwave radio in North America is mostly done in a frequency range just below the 40 meter amateur radio band, from about 6815 kHz to 6970 kHz. The most popular frequency used by U.S. and Canadian pirate radio stations is 6925 kHz, transmitting in the AM or upper sideband (USB) modes. The frequency range from 6925 to 6955 kHz is the most busy. A few free radio stations sometimes use frequencies above 40/41 meters from 7400-7600 kHz. From late fall through early spring, some pirate stations have been logged transmitting down near 90 meters in the frequency range below the 80 meter ham band, anywhere from 3200 kHz to 3490 kHz, to provide more effective local andregional coverage when the higher frequencies "go long" too early in the evening. The most popular days for North American pirate stations to broadcast have traditionally been on weekends and holidays, but nowadays you can also find them popping up during weeknights if you monitor the "pirate radio channel" of 6925 kHz and nearby frequencies. The best times to listen (in terms of shortwave pirate radio activity) are usually from about two hours before through two hours after your local sunset.

Pirate Radio Broadcasting Frequencies in Europe

In Europe, most shortwave pirate radio stations are broadcasting in a frequency range above the 49 meter international broadcast band, from roughly 6200 kHz to 6400 kHz. Some European pirates are also known to broadcast around 75/80 meters, usually between 3800 kHz to 4100 kHz. Sunday mornings have been the traditional time for most pirate radio stations in Europe to make their transmissions, but there have been a few stations who have transformed into something like "regular" radio stations operating almost every day. A few European pirates now operate in the most popular pirate frequency range used by the North Americans, between 6900 to 7000 kHz.

Pirate Low-Power FM Broadcasting

It has become easy to start a pirate low-power FM radio station, because of the easy availability of FM broadcasting equipment and information in this age of the internet. As well as being the 'information superhighway', the internet is now also a worldwide marketplace for FM broadcasting equipment: FM transmitters, FM broadcast antennas, FM amplifiers, low-pass filters, etc. For videos, information and equipment sources for starting your own FM broadcasting station, browse through our FRC Low-Power FM Broadcasting forum. Then be sure to join Free Radio Cafe, for access to members-only downloads on "pirate" or "micropower" FM broadcasting.

JOIN the Free Radio Cafe's Pirate Radio Forum!

The Free Radio Cafe was founded to provide a truly safe place for the exchange of information between pirate radio listeners, as well as pirate radio station operators. We are committed to protecting the privacy of both pirate radio listeners and station operators. JOIN our pirate radio forum, for up-to-the-minute loggings of pirate radio stations on-the-air in North America and Europe, and an easy-to-use site to post your own pirate radio logs and QSL images.

The Free Radio Cafe is also striving to become "THE" one-stop source of "how-to" information for the aspiring pirate radio broadcaster interested in starting their own pirate radio station, on shortwave or FM radio. JOIN our forums for access to the "Members-Only" downloads section with information about starting a pirate radio station, transmitters, antennas and other radio broadcasting equipment, as well as historical information about Pirate Radio and the Free Radio Movement.

We welcome new members! To join, you first need to register. Then, check your email for a confirmation link.







 
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