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A pirate television station is a broadcast TV station that operates without official or government licensing.Like its counterpart pirate radio, the term pirate TV lacks a specific universal interpretation. It implies a form of broadcasting that is unwelcome by the licensing authorities within the territory where its signals are received, especially when the country of transmission is the same as the country of reception. When the area of transmission is not a country, or when it is a country and the transmissions are not illegal, those same broadcast signals may be deemed illegal in the country of reception. Therefore "pirate TV" can mean many things to many people. Pirate television stations may also be known as "bootleg TV", or confused with licensed LPTV or amateur television services.


Pirate Television stations are not as abundant in the U.S.A. or U.K as pirate radio stations are. Only since 2004 has the technology for pirate television stations become easier to obtain and construct, due to advances in technologies and the availability of equipment.

The first known pirate TV station in the U.S.A. aired for two nights in April 1978 in Syracuse, NY on Channel 7. It was identified as "Lucky 7," and broadcast episodes of "Star Trek" and the pornographic movie "Deep Throat" The transmitter was reported to have been built using parts from a guitar amplifier and broadcast through the Syracuse University campus radio station antenna. No mention of what was used to source the video and audio, but the VCR as a consumer product had just hit the market. Soon after, a short article about this station was published in the New York Times.


Known stations

  • BB See - Sligo, Irelandmarker. Operated during 2005 and 2006 broadcasting local events.
  • Channel D Dublin, Irelandmarker (c. 1981)
  • Kanal X - Leipzig, Germanymarker. Operated during the final days of the German Democratic Republicmarker (East Germany). [281407] [281408] [281409]
  • Lanesville TV - Lanesville, New York, USA. Operated on VHF channel 3 by the video collective Videofreex and broadcast on Saturdays from 1972 to 1977 (a total of 258 broadcasts). The collective and its station is detailed in Parry D. Teasdale's book Videofreex: America's First Pirate TV Station & the Catskills Collective That Turned It On. [281410][281411]
  • LATELE - Barcelona, Spainmarker - Operated on UHF channel 52.
  • Lucky 7 - Syracuse, New Yorkmarker, USA. Operated for a two night period in April 1978 on VHF channel 7
  • Network 21 - London, Englandmarker - Broadcast for around 30 minutes on Friday evenings c. 1987
  • New Stations Broadcasting Network - New York City, New Yorkmarker, USA. Intermittent series of broadcasts in Brooklyn, NY beginning in 2007 created by artist James Case Leal. In New York operates on UHF channel 17, but is also responsible for programming in other cities including Havana, Cuba (April 20 2009 - May 22 2009 Ch 16) , Minneapolis, MN during the RNC 2008 (Ch 15), and Piedras Negras, Mexico (July 2008 Ch 23). [281412]
  • Nova TV Dublinmarker, Ireland (c. 1985)
  • Odelia TV - Operated briefly in 1981 on UHF channel 58, offshore of Israel. [281413]
  • Pirate Cat TV - Operated on VHF channel 13 by Pirate Cat Radio of San Francisco, Californiamarker, USA [281414] [281415]
  • Star Ray TV - Broadcasting on UHF channel 15 in the Beachesmarker neighborhood of Toronto, Ontariomarker, Canada
  • Telefis na Gaeltacht (c. 1987) Connemara, Ireland (not to be confused with its similarly named legal successor). Several Irish deflector systems (normally used for relaying British television signals on UHF) occasionally carried local programming.
  • Telestreet - Italymarker - Movement that set up pirate TV micro-stations
  • Thameside TV - London, Englandmarker - A very early pirate TV station set up by Thameside Radio. There were only two known broadcasts in December 1987. [281416]
  • TV Noordzee - A 1964 TV station on VHF channel 11 which, along with Radio Noordzee, broadcast from "REM Island", an artificial platform 6 miles offshore of Noordwijk in the Netherlands. Both of the stations were knocked off the air by a sea and air raid by the armed forces of the Netherlands. [281417]
  • TV Syd - A short-lived offshore TV station that broadcast on UHF channel 41. It was the sister station of Radio Syd and broadcast from the MV Cheeta 2 anchored off the Swedishmarker coast. [281418]
  • W10BM - Morehead, Kentuckymarker, USA - Originally a licensed LPTV station on VHF channel 10, it is presently operating on a canceled license, making it a pirate broadcaster.

During the 1980s large numbers of pirate TV stations operated in Italy, Greece, Spain and Israel. Subsequent legislation lead to the licensing of many of these stations and the closure of (most of) the remainder.

Proposed stations

  • Caroline TV - Was to have been a project related to Radio Caroline. Artwork showing the proposed station's identification graphics were released, but the station, which was to be broadcast from an airplane (similar to Stratovision), never materialized. [281419] [281420]
  • City TV - Was to have broadcast from a decommissioned minesweeper offshore of England. Plans for the station were announced on 8 June 1965, and was to have broadcast on VHF channel 3, but the station never materialized. [281421]
  • Sealand Television - Was to have broadcast on Channel 28 from the Principality of Sealandmarker, a micronation established on a World War Two gunnery platform off the coast of Essex, England. The station, which was announced to start in September 1987, was to have been financed by Wallace Kemper, who was facing fraud and conspiracy charges. [281422] [281423]
  • Tower TV - Was to have broadcast from Sunk Head Fort, 14 miles offshore of Essex, England. Reportedly held a test transmission at 4:20 AM on Tuesday 9 November 1965. [281424]It was feared that if any transmissions were made on the proposed VHF Channel 5 they would have interfered with Radio astronomy research work being carried out in the UK at the time.

Pirate television in popular culture


  • Death Race 2000 (1975) - Political revolutionaries use broadcast signal intrusion to announce their plans to sabotage a transcontinental road race.
  • Free Amerika Broadcasting (1981) - A dramatic film about a pirate television station run by revolutionaries in a hypothetical USA where Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew declares martial law after President Richard Nixon is assassinated.
  • Hackers (1995) - One of the characters, Dade "Zero Cool" Murphy, hacks into a TV station's network feed and switches the programming to an episode of The Outer Limits. A fictional TV show, Hack the Planet, is shown on a pirate TV channel.
  • Riders of the Storm (1986) (released in Australia as The American Way) - Disgruntled Vietnam War veterans operate S&M TV, a pirate TV station, from an airborne B-29 airplane.
  • The Running Man (1987) - Revolutionaries uses broadcast signal intrusion to "detour" a popular TV game show.
  • Simon (1980) - A professor, brainwashed by scientists as a prank to believe he is of extraterrestrial origin, attempts to reform American society by broadcasting his pronouncements with a high-power transmitter that overrides TV network feeds, becoming a national celebrity in the process.
  • They Live (1988) - A group, seeking to warn the populace of an alien invasion, use broadcast signal intrusion on local TV programming.
  • Used Carsmarker (1980) - Feuding used car lot owners use broadcast signal intrusion to discredit each other.
  • Via Macau (1966) - A pirate television station is used to spread dissent among representatives at an international conference.
  • Videodrome (1983) - A TV technician discovers an encrypted pirate TV signal transmitting what appear to be snuff films.


  • Channel Umptee-3 (1997) - Animated children's educational television series. The main characters operate a pirate TV station "located in the white space between channels".
  • Dark Angel (2000–2002) - One of the series protagonists, Logan Cale, operated a pirate television broadcast known as "Eyes Only" primarily to broadcast news reports, expose political/corporate corruption, issue public alerts, etc.
  • Family Guy - On episode 14 of season 4, Peter Griffin, angered that authorities are censoring TV, starts his own well-liked pirate TV station PTV, containing deleted risque' scenes from movies and TV shows, partial nudity from TV programs and dogs mating.
  • Max Headroom (1987) - One of the TV series' characters, "Blank Reg", runs Big Time Television, a pirate station, from a converted bus.
  • Télé Pirate (1991–1996) - A children TV show from Quebecmarker which was mimicking an illegal intrusion on the diffuser's channel as a main plot.


  • Orpheus (2003) - The role-playing game features a plot element known as Radio Free Death, a midnight broadcast that overrides local channels. [281425]


  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966) - In the science fiction novel, self-aware computer helps revolutionaries by generating and broadcasting synthesized TV transmissions of their non-existent leader "Adam Selene" via an internal TV network.

Comic Books

See also

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