Bandscan and pirate radio in London
How metaphoric for London! The first FM station I was able to tune-in to automatically with a portable radio in Walthamstow, NE London, turned out to be... a pirate radio! Guess what was the another one?
It took a third or even fourth scan, when I was finally able to tune a legal FM broadcast.

During this trip, I almost totally neglected the licenced stations (which in fact were no new to me - I use to listen to some of them at home through satellite and online) and dedicated almost my whole DX sessions to the pirates - a broadcasting phenomenon, which is even more significant and representative of London. My impression is, it is pirate radio that provides quantitative, musical and cultural wealth of London's FM band...

 FM radio in London - observations by a tourist DX-er

I was visiting the capital of the UK for a week in June 2015. For advanced FM DXing, I took along Sony XDR-F1HD tuner, a double-telescopic dipole and a laptop. As mentioned, I was staying at a house in Walthamstow, north-eastern part of London.
Various local and distant signals pierce through the estates of the city upon The River Thames. According to my observations, the most distant and constantly receivable FM signal here, passes the distance of exactly 250km. I was also able to pick something from Wales and a scatter from the Old Continent. DX signals however, were - as we put it in Polish - like a raisins in a tasty dough - consisting of mostly pirate stations.

In so many ways it proved different from all pirate stations I've heard in Poland.
First of all - the enormous number of stations! Just like it happened to me - you are more likely to stumble upon a pirate FM station here, than a legal one. Not knowing the frequency plan, you may even be unaware that the station you are listening to is illegal (over half of them sound very professional - more about that in a moment). I read a survey by Ofcom, who interviewed radio listeners and - surprisingly or not - turned out many who were listening to the pirate stations weren't aware of the outlaw nature of the station they used to listen to.

With sharp splitting by as low as 0,2MHz next to a legal frequency, pirate radio stations crowd accross the FM dial in London, by far outnumbering (almost double) legal ones. To underline their dominance, I have put them in colour in the bandscan.

Second  - the powers. We will never get to know how many kilowatts (see? I'm not even saying watts) are there on the airwaves, but for sure there are loads of them. For example, I was able to pick clearly 99,3 SelectUK in almost all places in London, where I was able to check. Many other stations, although with variable signal strengths, were there as well. At my QTH in Walthamstow I was receiving all London pirates along with additional couple from Essex and Kent.

It was also amazing, that most are run 24/7 and have really long life behind them - I remember the reception of Hot90 and Lightning 90,8 couple of years ago via Sporadic-E propagation in Poland. Typical pirate radio in Poland would broadcast only once or twice a week for a couple of hours in the evening, and its lifespan would much shorter - couple of weeks, maybe months, untill an amateur broadcaster gets bored, or the project burns out with no listeners (apart from DXers). Actually, it is also quite fair to state that there are no regular (schedule-wise) pirate stations left in Poland, except for Cracow, where typically up to 3 active stations at the weekends make it for our "little-London" :)

That's why Polish pirates don't evolve into another stage, which many London's pirates have reached - establishing a profitable business. It was really shocking to hear how many pirate stations not only have advertisement breaks, but in many cases lasting much longer than ads on Capital, Heart or Absolute Radio! The commercial content was also unlikely to be heard on a licenced station - ads mostly for clubbing, musical and community events, social matter or local business (ie. car repairs). I was observing them with attention and curiosity as the first-time-in-my-life-experience, but quickly noticed the repetitive manner, which may become annoying to regular listeners.

This, along with niche music styles (carribean, african, turkish, garage, house) leads to a conclusion that most pirate radio stations have quite narrow listener-profile that does not clash with mass-audience broadcasters like Heart or the BBC. There are few obviously intended rivalry cases - ie.97,7 MHz pirate SLR purposely next to a legal 97,3 LBC - both talk-radio formats, or dance radio tandem: 99,3 MHz Select UK (pirate) next to 98,8 MHz Radio1 (BBC)).
What do they mostly clash (London's calling, pun intended), are the frequencies.
I will leave the topic of London pirate FM stations here, and maybe return to it in another afticle, after I'm done with such one in Polish.

my pic of Crystal Palace broadcasting tower
I am familiar with most legal radio stations broadcasting on FM in London - from satellite and online (this is how I listen to LBC, my favourite talk radio). As I wrote, their programming was not a surprise, but the genuine experience of being able to listen to LBC or Absolute Radio on analog FM everywhere I go with my portable receiver was making me cheer (I associate these stations only with stationary listening).

I was a little bit confused with community stations. There are 11 such frequencies in London and a number of them, like NuSound, Buzz or Reprezent sound just  like pirate ones - ethnic, youth-led and eclectic. It can be true to some extent - for example, Rinse FM emerged from pirate underground to become a fully legal, community station, preserving its format (electronic music).

One can complain that if not the pirates, the number of distant signals would be greater. But I am preety satisfied with DXs I made. Especially with Holme Moss at 250km, which proved its power and fine location - the signals on 93,7 and 89,3 MHz were persistent for all days of my stay, peaking at o=4. (Did you know that Holme was even once received in Poland via 1400km tropo?)
Other high-power broadcasting centres I received in London include:
- Wenvoe (near Cardiff, Wales - 227km) closer than Holme Moss and way fainter and not on every day,
- Sutton Coldfield (near Birmingham, 168km)
- Rowridge (Isle of Wight, 138km)
- Tacolneston (to the east, near Norwich, 131km)
 I'm only a little bit disappointed with just one, single pick from across The English Channel - 95,6 MHz France Musiques - scatter from Caen, 294km
constant FM DX from Holme Moss London, UK
completed: 16-21.06.2015
(mostly nighttime, on the 19th also in the morning and noon)
over >17h of DXing, 8h45 of recordings (mostly pirate radio)
QTH: London - Walthamstow
tuner: Sony XDR-F1HD
antena: 2-telescopic dipole "rabbit ears"
bold - local stations
blue - pirate stations

 MHz   station name  o=   tx   DX   comment 
87,5 UK Raw 4 RDS!

87,7 InHouse R. 5-6
? no RDS
87,9 islam 3+
88,0 Pulse 5 RDS
88,1 BBC R2 5 Guildford, 5kW 57km
88,1 BBC R2 5? Manningtree, 4kW 85km

missing Rude FM
88,3 BBC R2 1-4- Sutton Coldfield, 250kW 168km tropo/scttr
88,4 Vision 5 RDS
88,5 BBC R2 4/3 Rowridge, 250kW 138km Isle of Wight
88,6 BBC R2 3+ Bow Brickhill, 10kW 65km missing Back2Back

^ or Hereford 180km?

88,8 BBC R2 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 4kW 19km
88,9 BBC R2 0-4 Cambridge, 0,26kW 71km scttr

^ or Northampton, 0,12kW 98km scttr
89,1 BBC R2 6 RDS Wrotham, 250kW 36km

89,3 BBC R2 3/4 Holme Moss, 250kW 250km
89,4 CityLock 5 RDS
89,5 BBC R2 3++ Oxford, 50kW 84km

????? 3
? once?
89,6 Westside 3 London - Southall, 0,05kW 25km community
89,7 BBC R2 3/4= Tacolneston, 250kW 131km or 2tx 35-40km 20W
89,8 Station FM 6
? no RDS
89,9 BBC R2 3-4 Wenvoe, 250kW 227km Wales, scttr
90,0 Hot 90 6
? no RDS
90,1 BBC R2 3 Peterborough, 40kW 106km
90,2 Point Blank 4 RDS
90,3 BBC R3 4 Guildford, 5kW 57km +Manningtree, 85km?
90,4 BBC 3Counties R. 4= Hertford, 0,1kW 19km missing Whoa FM
90,5 BBC R3 3/3+ Sutton Coldfield, 250kW 168km
90,6 Cyndicut 5
? no RDS
90,7 BBC R3 5 Rowridge, 250kW 138km
90,8 Lightning R. 5 RDS

91,0 BBC R3 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 4kW 19km
91,1 BBC R3 3+ Cambridge, 0,26kW 71km

or Northampton, 0,12kW 98km
91,3 BBC R3 6 RDS Wrotham, 250kW 36km

91,5 BBC R3 3= Holme Moss, 250kW 250km
91,6 Genesis? 4+
? only on saturday
91,7 BBC R3 3+/4- Oxford, 50kW 84km
91,8 Live FM UK 5 RDS
91,9 BBC R3 1+/2 Tacolneston, 250kW 131km or 2tx 35-40km 20W
92,0 NuSound 6 RDS Newham, 0,03kW 5km community, India
92,1 BBC R3 1-4 Wenvoe, 250kW 227km tropo

BBC 3Counties R. 3 Hemel Hempstead, 0,05kW 33km
92,2 MetroLove R. 5
? no RDS
92,3 BBC R3 2-4 Peterborough, 40kW 106km tropo
92,4 USD FM? 4/5
? no RDS, later off

BBC R3 2/3+ Swingate, 11kW 106km
92,5 BBC R4 4-5/3 Guildford, 5kW 57km +Manningtree, 85km?
92,6 The Rock 4
? wide modulation!
92,7 BBC R4 0-4 Sutton Coldfield, 250kW 168km scttr, no Natural Vibez
92,8 BBC R4 2/3 Kenley, 0,03kW!!! 30km

Release FM? 4- Berkshire! ?
92,9 BBC R4 5-3 Rowridge, 250kW 138km tropo
93,0 BBC R4 3 Bow Brickhill, 10kW 65km

Freshsounds? 4 Kent! ?

93,2 BBC R4 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 4kW 19km
93,3 BBC R4 3- Cambridge, 0,26kW 71km

or Northampton, 0,12kW 98km
93,5 BBC R4 6 RDS Wrotham, 250kW 36km

93,7 BBC R4 3+/4- Holme Moss, 250kW 250km
93,8 Vibes FM 6
? no RDS
93,9 BBC R4 3+ Oxford, 50kW 84km
94,0 Voice of Africa R. 5 RDS London - Plaistow, 0,13kW 4km 4d, timesharing?

????? 5 no RDS ? 1-3d, timesharing?
94,1 BBC R4 3/2 Tacolneston, 250kW 131km tropo
94,2 True Flavas 4
94,3 BBC R4 3/4 Wenvoe, 250kW 227km
94,4 Flames R. 5
? no RDS

Street FM? 2
? under Flames' carrier
94,5 BBC R4
Peterborough, 40kW 106km
94,6 Kool London 5 RDS Camden ?
94,7 BBC 3Counties R. 2 Quainton Hill, 0,4kW 70km

94,9 BBC London 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 4kW 19km

95,1 Origin 6 RDS
95,2 BBC Oxford 4- Oxford, 50kW 84km
95,3 BBC Essex 5-4 South Benfleet, 1kW 41km or R4 Blaenplwyf??
95,4 Roots FM 3/4
95,5 OnTop 5-RDS
95,6 France Musiques 0-3 Caen, 100kW 294km FRANCE scttr,once

talks 1 Sutton Coldfield, 11kW 168km tent.

95,8 Capital FM 6 RDS Croydon, 4kW 20km

96,0 BBC Cambridgeshire 3 Cambridge, 1kW 71km
96,1 BBC Solent 3+/4- Rowridge, 10kW 139km

S-Dance 5 RDS
96,2 Mix 96 2+ Quainton Hill, 1kW 70km
96,3 Heart 3/4 South Benfleet, 1kW 41km
96,4 Surprise R. 2/4
? nigerian

Eagle 96,4 4 Guildford, 3kW 57km Heart network?
96,5 Dem Radyo 6
? turkish, RDS?

96,7 BBC Kent 5 RDS Wrotham, 9kW 36km plus something-BBC?
96,8 talk in English 3 Wenvoe, 250kW 227km tent.
96,9 Capital Xtra 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 0,03kW 19km //107,1
97,0 Heart 2/3 Reading, 0,5kW 68km or Dover 102km?
97,1 Heart 2+ Ipswich, 3,5kW 101km

97,3 LBC 97.3 6 RDS Croydon, 4kW 20km

97,5 Heart 3 Southend, 0,10kW 50km
97,6 Heart 4 Luton, 1kW 46km
97,7 SLR Radio 5
? no RDS?

BBC Radio1 3 Guildford, 5kW 57km +Manningtree, 85km?

97,9 Divine? 6
? no RDS
98,0 Phoenix FM 3 Brentwood, 0,03kW 23km tent.
98,1 Mystic 5 RDS
98,2 BBC Radio1 5 Rowridge, 250kW 138km or Bow Brickhill
98,3 RJR 4

98,5 BBC Radio1 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 4kW 19km


98,8 BBC Radio1 6 RDS Wrotham, 250kW 36km

Holme Moss missing?

99,1 BBC Radio1 4 Oxford, 50kW 84km

99,3 SelectUK 6 RDS

99,5 Venture FM 4+
? missing RDS?

BBC Radio1 2+ Swingate, 11kW 106km or Wenvoe
99,6 BBC Radio1 0-1 High Wycombe, 0,05kW! 52km missing Ragga FM
99,7 Flex FM? 3-4
99,8 Supreme 5 RDS

100,0 Kiss 6 RDS Croydon, 4kW 20km


100,3 House FM 5
? no RDS
100,4 Classic FM 3-4 Bow Brickhill, 10kW 65km

100,6 Classic FM 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 2kW 19km
100,7 ????? 1=

100,9 Classic FM 6 RDS Wrotham, 250kW 36km

101,1 Naija FM 4
? no RDS

Classic FM 3+/4- Holme Moss, 250kW 250km
101,2 Unique 4
101,3 Spice 6
? no RDS

101,5 Empire LDN 6
? no RDS
101,6 KM FM 3 Wrotham, 0,4kW 36km not a LOC!
101,7 Flight FM 3
101,8 Bizim FM 6
? turkish, no RDS
101,9 Classic FM 3+ Peterborough, 40kW 106km missing Beat FM
102,0 Concious R. 6 RDS

102,2 Smooth R. 6 RDS Croydon, 4kW 20km

102,4 Heart 4++ Heathfield, 10kW 69km
102,5 Galaxy 5 RDS
102,6 Heart 5- Chelmsford, 2kW 32km
102,7 Heart 4= Reigate, 3,5kW 39km
102,8 Umut 5 RDS
? turkish
102,9 Heart 3 Hannington, 3,5kW 90km
103,0 WBLS 4
? african

London Live 4-
103,1 Heart 5 RDS Bluebell Hill, 4kW 47km

103,3 LGR (RIK3) 6 RDS Alexandra Palace 8km greek

103,5 BBC Essex 4- Great Braxted, 12kW 56km
103,6 Bang R. 3+/4- Harlesden, 0,02kW 18km community
103,7 Shake FM? 2 Essex ?
103,8 BuzzRadio 6
? no RDS

104,0 BBC Surrey 4 Reigate, 4kW 39km

??reegae?? 5-
? nd na 104,1?
104,1 Omega 4=

BBC Berkshire 1-2 Hannington, 4kW 90km tent.
104,2 Play 6 RDS
? turkish
104,3 Crystal FM 2-3
? off air on friday
104,4 Resonance 5 RDS Bridge Hospital, 0,05kW 10km community
104,5 BBC Sussex 3/4 Heathfield, 10kW 69km or Bow Brickhill 65km
104,6 BBC Surrey 3-4 Guildford, 4kW 57km
104,7 Pozitif 6 RDS
? turkish

104,9 XFM 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 4kW 19km


105,2 Heart of Love 6 RDS

105,4 Magic 6 RDS Croydon, 4kW 20km

105,6 Playback UK 6
? no RDS

105,8 Absolute R. 6 RDS Crystal Palace, 4kW 19km

106,0 ??UK garage?? 6 3d, pt off, nd off ? no RDS

106,2 Heart London 6 RDS Croydon, 4kW 20km


106,5 Project R.? 5
? no RDS


106,8 Rinse FM 6 RDS Bermondsey, 0,16kW 11km
106,9 Bob 3 Hertford, 0,28kW 25km

107,1 Capital Xtra 6 RDS Alexandra Palace, 0,16kW 8km //96,9

107,3 Reprezent 6 RDS Lewisham, 0,18kW 15km

107,5 Time 5 RDS Havering, 0,6kW 13km
107,6 Vibe FM 0-1 Watford, 0,2kW 28km tent.; or Ashford
107,7 R.Essex 2/3 Chelmsford, 0,1kW 43km
107,8 Jackie 4 RDS Kingston-Surbiton, 0,8kW 29km SW LDN
107,9 KM FM 3- Gillingham, 0,2kW 46km
108,0 Jam FM 5
? no RDS, african

Devotion 5- RDS
? under JAM FM

RDS of legal FM radio stations in London (predominantly static PS) - Sony XDR-F1HD dial:

It's not over...
Leaving London does not mean saying goodbye to its FM band - I can turn on most commercial stations via satelite and online. And the original signals from London on their FM frequencies are occasionally received in Poland via Sporadic E (like the whole UK). Here is the selection of my Sp-E FM DXs originating from London, received so far in Poland, near Warsaw:
My favourite LBC 97,3 on XDR tuner via SpE at home in Poland :)

BBC from Wrotham and Crystal Palace
95,8 - Capital
96,7 - BBC Kent
97,3 - LBC97.3
97,6 - Chiltern R. (Luton, now Heart)
100,0- Kiss
and even a bunch of pirate stations via SpE!
90,0 - Hot90
90,8 - Lightning
92,7 - Energy
92,8 - Klash FM (id PS: www.klas)
+other unid pirates on 87,5-87,7

Thanks for visiting! 
It will be really great if you stay with Radiacja Blog. In upcoming posts, I will upload my pictures of broadcasting centres in Crystal Palace, Croydon and on Alexandra Palace.

1 komentarz :

Tim Bucknall pisze...

Great Blog, thanks for the Krakow pirate info, am hoping to stay in Bielsko-Biala in may 2018, we will probably visit Krakow so any frequency hints greatly appreciated ;-)

we had a short lived Polish Pirate here in Cheshire,UK on 87.7, i recorded them for an hour until their transmitter burnt out(!) but there was never an Ident as such, it was promoting Ladies night at a nightclub in Crewe