Listeners who did stumble upon 102.5 FM when it was broadcasting were likely to hear music primarily from Jamaican artists such as Bob Marley and The Wailers.
Dennis Deveaux remembers when he first stumbled onto the station back in January.The amateur radio enthusiast said he’s often surfing through the radio dial, looking for distant or unusual signals, and the sounds that were coming through at 102.5 FM jumped out at him as a possible pirate radio station for several reasons.“One of them was, you didn’t get much station identification,” he said.Canada regulates the radio spectrum. While very low power FM transmission is allowed, anything that that reaches a wide audience requires a permit. Anyone who broadcasts to a wide audience without that licence is operating a pirate radio station and could be subject to fines.The broadcast coming from 102.5 definitely fit the definition. It wasn’t registered with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), which is the federal body responsible for Canada’s radio spectrum.It was also more than a low power transmission. The station could be heard by drivers all over downtown Calgary, at least as far south as Peigan Trail on the Deerfoot and as far west as 37th Street S.W. and Bow Trail.Listeners who did stumble upon 102.5 FM when it was broadcasting were likely to hear music primarily from Jamaican artists such as Bob Marley and The Wailers, Sanchez, or Wayne Wonder.On the online forum Reddit, several Calgary users posted questions about who might be behind the station, and described the style of music specifically as dancehall, which is a Jamaican genre similar to reggae.When he first found it, Deveaux thought he was listening to another Calgary station — 102.7 — which is a multicultural station broadcasting from the city’s northeast.“It’s (a) similar style. I knew right away that Industry Canada would not have put two stations right adjacent to one another,” he said.Music played without interruptions or advertisements throughout the day, but in the evenings, a DJ would often get on to speak between songs.“I did hear a DJ,” said Devheaux. “I didn’t catch names or anything like that. It wasn’t extremely high quality.”Stephane Raimbault, president of the Calgary Amateur Radio Association, said reaching a large geographical area with low-powered broadcast equipment is not all that difficult or expensive.“It doesn’t really need to be a big antenna,” he said. “An antenna as small as two metres long may do the trick if it’s well positioned on top of a tower downtown.”Raimbault’s group only practices legal radio broadcasting. They are licensed and used HAM radios on frequencies set aside for hobbyists.He said people tend to think of large broadcasting towers when they think of commercial radio stations, but he said those structures are rarely the entire antenna.“The antenna itself is just a piece of wire or some component of the tower, not the tower itself,” he said.The station, which had been broadcasting since at least December 2018 according to Reddit users, went silent sometime between May 7 and 8.ISED may have caught on to the station, but it is not saying much. A spokesman for ISED said the group is investigating alleged illegal use of the spectrum at 102.5 FM and it continues to monitor the frequency.“Given that the investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment further,” wrote an ISED spokesman in an email.