A couple of weeks ago the UK media regulator Ofcom released a study showing that pirate radio was highly popular (used by 16% of adults in Greater London but with far greater penetration amongst some minorities and in some areas) and presented both a danger to the emergency services band and a nuisance to legitimate broadcasters. The popularity of pirate stations was attributed to a number of factors, but hyperlocal relevance, niche music scenes (almost inevitably given minimal airtime by commercial stations catering to mass audiences) and minority community groups appeared to be the main drivers.
What could possibly fill the large popular demand for niche music, hyperlocal targeting and relevance to small, local communities? Well, quite. As ever, where the problem is relevance digital provides a solution and online radio with its potential superabundance of personalised channels is the key.
It's easy to track Internet radio operators. It's apparently quite difficult to find pirate stations hijacking portions of the radio broadcast spectrum - Ofcom's report asked for new powers and resources to do so. So it seems likely that one of the effects of the American music industry's ongoing attempts to kill online radio will be to close the door on the one obvious solution for meeting the demand currently met by pirate stations.