How to Make a Pirate Radio (Series Part 1)

Thursday, May 28th, 2020 by Merchant of the Agora

UNDERGROUND::PERIODICAL Issue 1 March 1999

Introduction: This file deals with starting your own pirate radio station. It is a part one of a four part series on pirate radio. I’ve researched many sites on the internet combine with my own knowledge to write this file.

Getting Started – Building A Production Studio Unless you plan to broadcast some sort of pre-produced programming, or plan to rebroadcast other pirate radio stations, chances are you will need to put together your own material for broadcast.

In this section I will mention some of the ways you can build a production studio that will serve your particular needs. A production studio does not need to be something you might see at a commercial radio station, all those soundproof screens and such are not necessary. I’ll assume for now that you will be preparing pre recorded material for broadcasting at a later time. Much of this material will also apply to a live setup. As far as content goes, you could use anything your imagination can conceive.

To prepare a taped program, all you need is a way to record on the tape, this can be a small pocket tape recorder. You can simply record your message and use the pause control to perform minor edits. After you have completed the messages the recorder can be connected to the transmitter and the show played back over the air. Most pirates want more creative freedom than this, some pirate stations have studios that rival commercial setups, as you grow with the pirate radio hobby it is likely that your studio will also grow.

It is almost always a good idea to start small and improve your setup as you need to, don’t get too anxious and spend all your money buying equipment unless you can’t operate without it. One of the first additions that are made to a pirate studio is a mixer. A mixer is a device that allows you to connect the outputs of various components (such as turn tables, CD players, tape decks, microphones, etc) to its input. The mixer’s output is then connected to the input of a tape recorder.

The mixer combines these signals and allows you to vary the volume of each signal. This facilitates talking over music, fading from one source to another, and gives you infinite control over all of your audio levels. A mixer can add a professional sound to any studio. Now that you have built your studio and made your first program, it is time to broadcast it for the world to hear. One obstacle still remains: how do you get the audio from the tape deck to the input of the transmitter.

Much of this will depend upon the type of transmitter you have chosen. In most cases the audio source from the tape deck will replace the microphone on the transmitter.

This is one reason it is a good idea to have to manual for your radio. It will likely be necessary to wire the output from your tape recorder to a plug that fits your radio. This may include a switch to enable and disable the push to talk function of your radio. Since this varies widely from radio to radio I can only refer to this in the most general terms. If you are not electronically inclined, you should find a friend to help you with this. It is not a difficult task on most radios.

Producing A Show What you decide to put on the air is only limited to your imagination, maybe it please you to produce a h/p related show with the latest info from hacker news websites or playing DTMF tones over the air. One of the greatest aspects of pirate radio is that it isn’t censored by companies paying advertising fees or governmental agencies.

What you decide to put out there is your choice as an individual, remember that. Once you have set up your studio and decided it is time to produce a show, you will likely have a certain subject matter or format in mind. If you don’t, then take some time and review why you wanted to be a pirate in the first place, was it to make a certain point or political view, do you want to entertain or inform, do you just want to play your favorite music, or do you want to do all of the above? In most cases you will be successful at anything that you enjoy doing.

Here are some general tips:

* ID your station often Speak clearly and repeat your ID. It also helps to have different people give your station ID; some voices are easier to understand through the noise than others. Regular listeners need something they can identify with.

A short witty name which sounds easy to remember is what I suggest. Also, some stations always play the same song at the beginning or end of their broadcast.

* When editing a tape, make the edits clean and tight Long pauses are always a killer. However some tapes cut a couple of seconds off the start so begin with a pause. If you are recording to a cassette tape, and you have a good recorder, you can use the pause control to make fair edits but be sure to go back and check the edits often, most decks are designed with the erase head placed up to an inch away from the playback head, this can create a longer than desirable pause. Practice editing with your tape recorder first.

* In most cases it is wise to avoid live broadcasting To broadcast live and sound good is a VERY difficult thing to do. This is not to say it cant be done, many stations have the talent and experience to do it well.

However, others do it and it is disastrous. Live broadcasts can result in lots of dead air; if you encounter a problem you will have to be prepared to solve it while maintaining a live show in the air. If you tape your shows you will have time to review what you have done and redo it if needed, you can take as long as you like to think of what to say next and you will almost always sound better.

* Ground your studio equipment and use shielded cables Do this to prevent audio “hiss” and equipment “hum”. Use quality recording tape (you get what you pay for). Use quality audio input, avoid scratchy records and bad tapes, If you use a poor quality microphone your audio could sound “muddy” or “tinny”, good mikes aren’t always expensive.

Look out for Part II of this series where I will discuss transmitters and going on the air. Well I hope this has been an informative read. If you would like to e-mail me regarding anything in this file then go ahead.

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