Engineer's Corner
12:39 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

ARRRR - Pirate Broadcast on 102.9FM

pirate radio antenna
Close up of a whip Antenna, believed to be the source of the 102.9 pirate.

UPDATE 01/21: Multiple letters sent with no response, and the pirate's still broadcasting.  A letter has been mailed to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau.   If you are an RIPR listener to 102.7 and you have experienced interference due to this pirate, you can submit your own letter to the FCC as well.

UPDATE 12/19: The pirate has been found!  Well, we're pretty sure we have found the pirate.  Using a directional antenna and a signal meter, we triangulated the position to a house a few blocks from the Locust Grove Cemetery in South Providence.  

A letter of notification of interference to RIPR was mailed to this address several weeks ago, but apparently this pirate doesn't care as there's still an illegal broadcast on 102.9 from this location.

UPDATE 11/5: Thanks to a fellow engineer who informed me there is a pirate broadcasting on 102.9FM and that is likely the source of the interference people have reported (see below).  Quite possibly the atmospheric changes made it worse, but the bulk of the problem is likely the pirate.

So far the characteristics of this pirate broadcast are:

  • The pirate is on 102.9, but the transmitter "splatters" onto 102.7 and 103.1FM, too.
  • The pirate seems to be near the South Providence/Cranston line.
  • The pirate is intermittent, usually only broadcasting in the evenings.
  • The broadcast is mostly Latin/Spanish music.
  • No ID's, nor any spoken word at all, have been noticed so far.

If you hear this pirate on 102.9, please email engineer@ripr.org immediately.  Your alert helps us head out and use a Field Intensity Meter and a Directional Antenna to triangulate the pirate's position.  Once located, we can send official notice to the pirate that they are causing us interference.  Historically that has been more effective at convincing a pirate to stop using a given frequency than has simply reporting them to the FCC.

ORIGINAL POST: We've gotten a few reports of odd signal reception to 102.7 this week.  If you meet the below criteria, please contact the engineer (engineer@ripr.org) with your description of how your reception is.

  • Live in West Bay communities from Warwick to Narragansett.   Including: Greenwich Bay, Exeter, East Greenwich, Frenchtown, Davisville, Quonset Point, Wickford Junction, Wickford, Allenton, Slocum, Saunderstown and Jamestown.
  • You've noticed a change in how good/badly 102.7 comes in on your radio since Oct.7th or so.

If you've noticed the signal reception changes depending on a specific time of day, especially sunrise/sunset, please note that.

To explain a bit, some people have mentioned that Pixy103 (WPXC from Hyannis) is overriding RIPR on 102.7, and some people have mentioned it happens only around sunrise.

It's true that WPXC increased their power from 3100 to 6800 watts, but that was back in August; it's unlikely people would see new interference now, in October.

Our suspicion is that this is a known issue with atmospherics around Narragansett Bay.  The air over and near the water can warp the signal path during times of extreme heat, and sometimes when there's major shifts in temperature, too.   The past week it has warmed up quickly at sunrise and cooled off quickly at sunset, sometimes by 20 or 30 degrees.