Don’t Forget the Shortwave Pirates

Ragnar Daneskjol, producer of the Pirates’ Week podcast, has gone live with his Shortwave Pirate website.

Like the more widely known FM pirates, shortwave pirates are unlicensed broadcasters who use the shortwave bands to reach a good portion of the continent, and sometimes the globe. Because the shortwave bands have variable propagation patterns, shortwave pirates tend to have sporadic short broadcasts, tailored to a relatively small, dedicated audience.

Shortwave pirate broadcasting has been around for decades and has been the subject of several books (there’s a roundup review of them in mediageek zine #2). The internet bulletin board home of shortwave pirates is the Free Radio Network grapevines, where you can find some announcements of upcoming broadcasts and QSL listening reports of past broadcasts.

To tune in you’ll need a decent shortwave radio with a long antenna (pretty much a long piece of wire, ideally strung out a window). The best time to tune around is weekend or holiday evenings in the neighborhood of 6800 – 7000 Khz. It helps to have a radio that will tune in sidebands (SSB), which is a way pirates use to broadcast further with less power.

If all this sounds like gobbledeegook to you, then pick up a copy of Andrew Yoder’s Pirate Radio Stations, which I think is out of print, but pretty easy to find for cheap.

Frankly, I’ve rarely had the patience to tune in too many shortwave pirates myself, though I’ve bagged a few. It is really a sport for someone who doesn’t mind listening through the static for a few hours late at night. Nevertheless, I’m glad to know they’re out there keeping free radio alive.






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