Hackney Broadcasting Authority – community pirate radio (1986)

Hackney Broadcasting Authority was an illegal community radio station that hit the airwaves on Saturday 4th October 1986. Its programmes included the Battle of Cable Street, arranged marriages, women’s safety on housing estates and Latin American music and history. HBA then ran weekly shows on Saturdays from 12pm-5pm.

Unfortunately no audio recordings of the project seem to exist, but if you know of any (or can add any more info to this post) please do get in touch.

In the era of “on demand” video and podcasts, it’s difficult to visualise a time when media was so finite. But in the olden days radio was broadcast on particular frequencies and the state controlled which organisations could legally operate. Obviously the authorities had their own ideas about what sort of people and material should be on the radio, which led to campaigns from marginalised groups for acceptance – both in terms of coverage by the existing broadcasters such as the BBC and also for new radio stations.

The 4th of October date was the result of a call to action by the Community Radio Association, a pressure group who wanted more diversity on the airwaves. This press cutting from AM/FM (the London eighties London pirate radio site) gives a bit more info on the October 4th day of action and HBA:

HBA’s press release from the time made their stance clear:

“There’s no option. It’s either sit around for another three years and hope for community radio, or start to do something about it”

Quoted in Grant Goddard’s book on Kiss FM

Unfortunately HBA’s chosen frequency of 94FM was adjacent to the much more powerful Kiss FM (then still a pirate, but gained a license in 1989 after jumping through many hoops).

Hackney Broadcasting Authority’s eventual application for a legal license to broadcast seems to have been supported by Hackney Council and the anarchist pamphlet Radio Is My Bomb mentions that the station had two paid workers. It would appear that unlike Kiss FM, they were not successful in gaining legal permission to continue with their shows.

The AM/FM site quotes an amateur radio magazine from the 1980s:

After a promising start. looking as if they were going to succeed where many others have failed before, HBA have been off the air recently. This is due mainly to technical problems as none of the staff have had any previous experience of unlicensed broadcasting. It’s also been reported that there have been a few disputes between individual members of the team, which has been the downfall of many similarly minded groups.

HBA
c/o Box 7
136 Kingsland High St
London
E5 2NS

TX Magazine December 1986

Perhaps unsurprisingly HBA used Centerprise as a mailing address along with many other radical groups.

Hackney became infamous for its black music pirate radio stations in the 1990s and our previous post covers a dramatic 1993 police raid on the legendary Rush FM. A different post includes a great Youtube documentary from this era.

With thanks to Stephen Hebditch.

Sources / Further Reading

AM/FM website

Radio Is My Bomb: A DIY Manual For Pirates (Hooligan Press, 1987)

Grant Goddard – Kiss FM: From Radical Radio to Big Business – The Inside Story Of A London Pirate Radio Station’s Path To Success (Radio Books, 2011)

Alexis Wolton – Tortugan tower blocks? Pirate signals from the margins in Datacide 11, 2011

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