Geneva ex-Mayor Reveals – “I was a Pirate Radio Operator!”

As you may know, Geneva in Switzerland is known internationally for its famous fountain, its lake and it’s the place people often go for peace conferences.

Pirate radio is not usually on the menu of this small European city of less than 1/2 million people, a city almost totally surrounded by France. Geneva’s mayor is elected each year and from June 2007 to May 2008 the mayor was journalist and politician, Patrice Mugny, who now admits that he, with some friends, operated a pirate radio station in neighbouring France back in the 1970s.

In Patrice Mugny’s article in yesterday’s edition of Geneva’s local newspaper “Tribune de Genève”, he reveals some of his secret pirate radio exploits of yesteryear and raises the question of whether today’s abundance of free radio stations and the proliferation of social networks are really a positive step forward for democracy or not?

His article in French is here.
And for those who don’t understand French, here is a rough translation:

Before Social Networks: Pirate Radio!
We live in a frenzy of social networks, sometimes sending journalists back to the ropes. In the not-too-distant past, shortly after May ’68, in the early seventies, citizens were trying to have their voices heard over the airwaves. Which made them criminals. Geneva experienced such an episode.
We are in the 70s, free radio stations don’t exist. The airwaves are a state monopoly. We claimed the right to broadcast our own programs. One day, six of us created a pirate radio station.
We travel to Italy to find black-market transmitters. We meet people at the edge of the red line. Find ourselves in anonymous apartments, trade money for equipment, then dismantle the car to create caches for transmitters and return to Geneva.
Associations, especially feminists, have recorded tapes containing more or less subversive words. Our little group goes up the Salève (a mountain in France, extremely close to Geneva) and spreads the good news to Geneva from these heights. It becomes the event of the moment.
At 18.00 hours, radios are connected everywhere to listen to half an hour of the pirates. The newspapers talk about it. Swiss and French police are mobilized with the help of the PTT (the Swiss post office), which supplies the detection equipment. Helicopters and motorcycle police are engaged.
Our system is simple. We have, in advance, buried car batteries in a dozen sites to power the transmitters. Then the recorders, also scattered here and there. We go up and down the Salève on foot or hitchhiking, empty-handed. Once there, each time in a different location, the equipment is installed and the show begins. It should not exceed thirty minutes, so as not to give the police the time to find us and catch us by air. Then we bury everything, which we move later, and put our hands in our pockets.
Once or twice, it’s a close thing. A helicopter spots us as we return to a marked path. Remembering a chase in the forests of the Salève … We nearly got arrested twice.
In the end, not a single arrest. The adventure lasted a few months. Once I fell asleep at the side of the road. My friend left me and went on his way. The police passed by me several times along this road but did not see me.
We also tried and managed to hack television by disrupting a show. But we did not continue. Then France liberalized the radio space. One question among others: Is the plethora of the independent radio stations that exist today and the proliferation of Internet social networks a step forward for democracy?

More about Patrice Mugny here.

Listening to BBC Radio Without Tears

A few days ago CIB’s David Prewett sent me a link to Jack Schofield’s article in “The Guardian” of 5th March 2015 with the headline: “Do I need to buy a new internet radio to listen to BBC Radio?”. In it he suggests ways to resolve the negative consequences of the BBC’s recent decision to drop support for some internet streaming formats such as WMA and AAC which has led to many UK internet radio listeners being left out in the cold.

When suggesting how listeners can resolve the issue, Jack Schofield correctly points out that BBC radio streams can be accessed using almost any PC, smartphone or tablet. However, he fails to mention a useful little tool which has been around for a few years that can easily resolve many radio listening problems both at home and in the car.

So what solution am I referring to?

Well, this little device is usually hardly larger than a pack of cigarettes and can be used almost anywhere since it is powered either by a couple of AA batteries or your car’s cigarette lighter socket, or any USB connection. Of course, if you prefer, you can always use a wall socket.

Just plug this device into your PC, smartphone or tablet at home or on the move and it will play any radio station you have tuned to, through any FM radio receiver within a radius of up to 50 yards. That will certainly be a big enough range for any car and in almost all homes unless you own a vast mansion!

These useful little devices are called FM transmitters and need not cost more than about $100.00, sometimes less. You can select to transmit in Stereo or Mono on any FM frequency from 88 to 108 MHz.. You should, of course, follow any local regulations but it won’t usually cause a problem since the transmitting range is limited.

Finding a suitable FM transmitter isn’t too difficult. A Google or Amazon search will bring up a range of devices to choose from. As for me, I’ve installed two of these FM transmitters from WholeHouseTransmitter.com in my home. They include all the connector leads you need and the transmitters have been giving me excellent service with no problems for more than two years.

2 more Quick Tips to help overcome the recent BBC radio stream changes…

1. Avoid the “Listen Now” buttons on BBC and other UK radio websites. Instead use a comprehensive and regularly updated free portal like http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk as mentioned in the Guardian article.

2. Use VLC as your default media player. VLC is an open source, cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as DVDs, Audio CDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. There are versions for PC, Mac, Android, all free at: http://www.videolan.org/.