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Pirate Radio Station Disturbs Airport Communications Again

May 21, 1996

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Israeli authorities have promised to crack down on pirate radio stations after their transmissions disrupted communications at Ben Gurion International Airport, forcing a brief shutdown.

But several stations that had been forced off the air Monday resumed broadcasting Tuesday, airport officials said.

And many Israelis seemed to solidly back the operators.

``We went nuts for two days when you didn’t broadcast,″ one listener said on a call-in show on ``Radio Class,″ a pirate station broadcast from the blue-collar suburb of Bat Yam.

``We have had enough of the Bolshevik media in this country,″ said the caller, who identified himself as Herzl.

Israel’s government broadcasting authority licenses and regulates radio stations. Aside from state-owned Israel Radio and Army Radio, only nine private stations are officially sanctioned _ and critics say that’s not enough to meet the modern market demand.

According to Channel 2 TV _ the only licensed private TV broadcaster _ about 70 pirate radio stations operate in Israel, nearly half of them in the Tel Aviv area.

Flight controllers closed the airport for more than three hours Monday morning after pirate radio broadcasts kept interfering with tower communications and a French passenger plane had to switch to an emergency channel in order to land.

Police raided four stations Monday, security officials said.

But on Tuesday, flight controllers and airport officials said that ``Radio Center,″ one of the stations responsible, resumed broadcasting Monday evening. Other illegal transmissions were on the air by Tuesday morning.

But airport spokeswoman Sara Erez said there was little air traffic overnight and the disturbances were not serious enough to close the airport again.

Communications Ministry officials said Tuesday it was difficult to keep the stations shut down because the courts haven’t punished violators severely enough.

The director-general of the ministry, Shlomo Vax, said radio station owners have been fined a few hundred dollars at most, even though the maximum penalty calls for three years in prison and $790,000 in fines.

Last year, police shut down a pirate station that had become a voice for the Jewish settler movement, sparking accusations that authorities were trying to muzzle government critics.

One of the stations raided Monday, the ``Voice of Peace,″ broadcast from an apartment in southern Tel Aviv. Most of its fare was Hebrew pop songs and ads for local restaurants. Channel 2 said a 16-year-old boy was detained on suspicion of operating the station.

In 1993, another pirate station named ``Voice of Peace″ and operated by Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan, closed down after broadcasting pro-peace themes and Western music from a ship in the Mediterranean for nearly 20 years.

Alon Tal, head of the airport control tower, said Monday’s shutdown was intended as a message to police that they must get tougher with the pirate radio stations.

Vax said he didn’t believe the radio stations were jamming airport tower transmissions on purpose, but rather were simply trying to make money.

``For a few thousand shekels, they can start a small radio station and earn a lot of money,″ Vax told The Associated Press. ``In a few days, they can return the investment and start making a profit.

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