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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.

RADIO 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 March 1980.

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.

Visit  The Radio Caroline Story