otherwise known as
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS.
IS OFFSHORE RADIO?
You might wonder why people have put radio stations on ships, forts and other
structures. Ever since radio started, governments have wanted to control it and
claim the airwaves for themselves. Unfortunately for governments, radio signals
do not recognise national boundaries, and while they may be able to control
broadcasting from their own territory, it has proved difficult for them to
control signals from neighbouring countries.
Many governments, especially in Europe, decided that the population would hear
what the government wanted them to hear, rather than the other way around. State
broadcasting tended to be staid, dull and boring. A number of entrepreneurs soon
realised they could get around this, by broadcasting from one country into
another. During the 1930's, a number of English language stations, based in
France, broadcast popular programmes to Britain. The only problem with this was
that a friendly neighbouring country was needed.
The next logical step was to go the "no mans land" of international waters,
outside a countries boundaries. The offshore radio stations of the 1960's and
since, have used this method.
The offshore radio stations, popularly known as "pirate" radio stations, by
broadcasting from international waters were not illegal. They were simply
outside of the law of the countries to which they broadcast.
CAROLINE A very potted history
Radio Caroline, probably the most famous European offshore radio station, made
her first broadcast on Easter Saturday 1964, from the MV Caroline, anchored in
the River Thames estuary. She was soon joined by a number of other offshore
radio stations on ships and abandoned wartime anti-aircraft forts. Radio
Atlanta, from the MV Mi Amigo joined Caroline in May 1964. A few months later
the stations merged, with Atlanta's ship Mi Amigo becoming Caroline South. The
larger MV Caroline sailed north, to a position off the Isle of Man, and became
Radio Caroline North.
In August 1967, the British Government passed the Marine Broadcasting Offences
Act, making it illegal for British people to be involved with an offshore
station. The other stations off the British coast closed down, but Radio
Caroline continued broadcasting until March 1968, when both her ships were
seized in a dispute over unpaid debts.
Radio Caroline returned briefly during the 1970 UK General election campaign,
broadcasting from Radio Northsea International's ship. In 1972, both original
Caroline ships, which had been in a harbour in Holland were sold at auction. The
MV Caroline was scrapped, but the Mi Amigo was purchased by a Dutch free radio
group and returned to the air a few months later.
This second incarnation of Radio Caroline broadcast, initially off the Dutch
coast and later off the English coast, until the Mi Amigo sank during storms in
Most people though this was the end of the story, but like a phoenix Caroline
rose again. A new ship was purchased - the Ross Revenge, and in August 1983, the
sound of Caroline was heard again. There was something of an offshore radio
revival, when Laser 558 joined Caroline in the mid-80's.
Radio Caroline made its last offshore broadcast in November 1990, shortly before
new UK legislation came into force, making this form of broadcasting extremely
difficult. The Ross Revenge stayed at sea, while a way around the new law was
looked at. Unfortunately, where the authorities had failed, nature succeeded and
Caroline's ship ran aground on the Goodwin Sands, a notorious graveyard for
ships, at the end of 1991.
The Ross Revenge is still undergoing major repairs, mostly carried out, and
funded by volunteers. The ultimate role for the ship remains undecided, but it
is clear she will never be used for broadcasting again as an offshore station.
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