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Pirate Radio Stations

Volume 79: debated on Monday 20 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce legislation to make it an offence to advertise the existence of a pirate radio station; and if he will make a statement.

Section 5(3)(f) of the Marine & Broadcasting Offences Act 1967 already makes it an offence to publish details or promote the activities of unauthorised broadcasting stations operating on the high seas. I therefore assume that my hon. Friend refers to unlicensed broadcasting stations operating in the United Kingdom.As a general principle it is preferable where possible, both on ground of clarity in establishing the nature of an offence and of fairness, to have enforce-powers against prime movers in the commission of an offence rather than those who give indirect assistance. Under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1940 we have powers to take action against the unlicensed use of radio. These powers were significantly strengthened in the Telecommunications Act 1984, particularly with the introduction of the power to seize and detain, for the purpose of legal proceedings, the apparatus used by the unlicensed stations. Using these powers, we have considerably improved the effectiveness of our action aimed at removing this nuisance. I do not therefore propose to seek further powers at the moment.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many letters he has received from the general public complaining about pirate radio broadcasting; and what is the nature of the replies which he has sent.

I have received numerous letters in the past, though the number has greatly diminished recently as the improved enforcement powers, which we took in the Telecommunications Act 1984, have proved themselves. Some have been written by people complaining that the transmissions of unlicensed broadcasting stations were interfering with their reception of programmes on authorised stations. Some have complained that unlicensed broadcasting stations offer unfair competition to authorised stations and do not pay fees for broadcast of records and news programmes.I have replied that I am determined to take effective action to stop the unauthorised use of radio which causes interference, annoyance and sometimes danger, to authorised radio users. To illustrate this determination I have pointed to our record of activity. Since the start of 1985 the Department's Radio Investigation Service has taken action on 75 occasions against 41 unlicensed broadcasting stations. In the same period, 37 people have been prosecuted and convicted for their involvement in the operation of unlicenced stations.