Perhaps it's just me who finds it peculiar that Ofcom's response to its own research showing the huge popularity of pirate radio is to look for more effective ways of closing pirate radio down.
16% of adults in Greater London regularly listen to pirate radio, but this average conceals some significant clusters in the report (pdf) - "27% among males, 30% among those in Lambeth, 37% among students aged 14-24, and 41% among black audiences".
There are legitimate concerns that pirate radio stations interfere with the frequencies used by the emergency services; the report also contains far more nebulous claims that pirate radio is connected to other criminal activities and notes that in London 27% of those listeners who experience interference on the FM band believe it is caused by pirate stations (I would counter that the listeners are unlikely to be qualified to make that assessment). Clearly the bands used by emergency services must be protected rigorously, but the report unhelpfully conflates this matter of life and death with Ofcom's more general duty to regulate the radio broadcast spectrum.
Ofcom's extensive research (interviewing 901 London adults (pdf)) also shows a number of interesting things about the motivations of listeners. The core drivers for pirate radio are summarised as the development and promotion of grass-roots talent, the urban music scene, and minority community groups. The hyper-local relevance of stations is also cited. Finally, the report notes that generally listeners to pirate radio stations show little interest in acquiring DAB receivers, the obvious legitimate solution for radio listeners with niche interests not covered by mainstream stations. A lack of consumer interest means that digital is not going to solve this problem in the short term, even though with receivers below £30 it easily could. It would be useful to know why respondents who listen to pirate radio particularly resist the obvious digital solution.