"Pirate" transmissions, then and now

Jan 30, 2007 4:58 am
By Tom Roe

The "pirate" radio stations picking up Howard Stern's satellite radio show and remicrocasting it on free airwaves, are back in the news again. Both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times are reporting Stern FM transmissions in those cities.

The New York Times Jacques Steinberg reports hearing Stern near 239th Street in the Bronx on 88.1-FM on a car radio. He quotes Russell Skadl, the faculty adviser of a Long Island radio station, WXBA, that operates on very low power on 88.1 out of a high school in Suffolk County, hearing Stern on that frequency on Long Island, quite a distance from the Bronx. The Daily News reported pirates in Brooklyn and New Jersey broadcasting Stern's signal last January, just as his show switched from FM to satellite.

In Los Angeles, the Times there has one person hearing Stern on 88.1 FM where jazz station KKJZ should be, and another on 88.3-FM. They say a local TV station is blaming "Pirate Cat Radio," which has always used 87.9-FM, not those higher frequencies. More likely, it is someone with less of an agenda then the Pirate Cat folk, and more likely some Stern fan with an electronic equipment fetish.

While some pirates pick up satellite feeds now, others have broken over top television feeds. Recently someone YouTubed the infamous November 22, 1987, interruption of Chicago's WGN-TV local newscast. WGN-TV's on-site technicians neutralized the "pirate" transmission of a Max Headroom-like figure spouting dada gibberish by switching to an alternate transmitter, but two hours later the Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW's "Doctor Who" transmission got a similar Headroom visit. Below is the clip from the WGN hijacking. Below that is the CBS News national reporton the incident, also YouTubed.

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