Unlicensed radio stations are spreading and the media watchdog isn't happy, writes Drew Rooke.
Andrew Drysdale is no average pirate. As an information technology specialist, he used his talents to hijack the radio waves, setting up an unlicensed, fully operational radio station out of his Chatswood home.
"Back in the 1990s, I listened to a station called New Wave FM, which played dance music and got live DJs to play on air. I wanted to create something like that, so I set up ABD Radio," Mr Drysdale said.
"It really was a lot of fun until I was shut down in December."
Now associated with the European electronic music scene, pirate radio has helped to popularise many underground music genres, such as drum and bass, dubstep and garage.
And the pirate radio waves have expanded as an increasing number of unlicensed radio stations are being discovered throughout Australia.
Shannon Lee, the operator of a pirate radio station in Queensland and administrator of an online Facebook group named Australian Pirate Radio, says pirate radio is active everywhere.
"I have people on my group from all over Australia, in major cities and a lot in small towns," he said.
"Most radio pirates are doing it just to supply new types of music."
The Australian Communications and Media Authority, the government agency responsible for the regulation of radio communications pursued five cases between 2009 and 2011 involving the operation of unlicensed radio stations across Australia. The authority suspects there are many more.
"It's certainly possible that there are many more pirates operating that we don't know about," said Stephen Allen, the manager of the authority's field operations.
"These pirates are knowingly doing something wrong ... quite often the frequency they are using belongs to someone else, which causes interference. For the person who owns the affected frequency, this is very unfair."
In order to own a frequency, amateur radio operators must obtain a $2000 low-power open narrowcasting service from the authority. This service allows niche radio broadcasting to a limited area of reception. But some radio pirates claim this licence system is flawed.
Mr Drysdale, who started broadcasting in June last year, said he twice tried to get a narrowcasting licence so he could broadcast.
"I was rejected both times because someone else close by had already bought a LPON licence for the available frequency. But that station does not transmit anything and it is just dead air," he said.
Mr Drysdale said he had complained to the authority numerous times about the station not using their transmitter but there had been no action taken.
"After all of this, I decided to go ahead and set up my pirate [radio] station. I knew it was illegal and had done lots of research about it but the ACMA hadn't helped me at all," he said.
ACMA said the LPON system is fair for the majority of people and the authority enforces a "use it or lose it" policy.