Radio Caroline is a British radio station founded in 1964 by Ronan O'Rahilly to circumvent the record companies' control of popular music broadcasting in the United Kingdom and the BBC's radio broadcasting monopoly. Unlicensed by any government for most of its early life, it was a pirate radio station which only became formally illegal in 1967.
The Radio Caroline name was used to broadcast from four different ships owned by three different owners from 1964 -1989. Radio Caroline currently broadcasts 24 hours a day via the Eutelsat 28A satellite at 28.5°E, via the Internet and by occasional Restricted Service Licence. Radio Caroline broadcasts music from the 1960s to contemporary, with an emphasis on album-oriented rock (AOR). The company also licenses other stations around the world to use the Radio Caroline name.
- 1 1964-1968
- 2 1970: Radio North Sea International
- 3 Caroline Television
- 4 1972-1980: Mi Amigo rescued
- 5 1983-1991: MV Ross Revenge
- 6 1991 - present: Licensed Support Group era
- 7 International operations
- 8 References in popular culture
- 9 Notes
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
|Broadcast area||United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, parts of continental Europe|
|Slogan||"Radio Caroline on 199 your all day music station"|
|Frequency||wavelengths announced as "199" metres (1485/1520 kHz) and later changed to "259" (1169/1187 kHz).|
|First air date||Easter Saturday, 28 March 1964 at Noon GMT to 3 March 1968.|
|Format||variety, religion, news and popular music|
|Power||Radio Caroline North = 10kW (later 20kW). Radio Caroline South = 10kW (later 50 kW).|
|Owner||Planet Sales Ltd|
Radio Caroline origins
Radio Caroline was begun by Irish musician manager and businessman Ronan O'Rahilly. O'Rahilly failed to obtain airplay on Radio Luxembourg for Georgie Fame's records because its airtime was committed to sponsored programmes promoting the major record labels; EMI, Decca, Pye and Philips.
Encouraged by the presence of the Scandinavian and Dutch pirates, Ronan O'Rahilly raised the capital to purchase a suitable vessel. In February 1964, O'Rahilly obtained the 702 ton former Danish passenger ferry, Fredericia, which was converted into a radio ship at the Irish port of Greenore, owned by O'Rahilly's father. At the same time, Allan Crawford's Project Atlanta organisation was equipping the MV Mi Amigo at Greenore, where the two competed to be first on air.
Financial backing for the venture came from six investors, including Jocelyn Stevens of Queen magazine, with which Radio Caroline shared its first office. O'Rahilly named the station after Caroline Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. On a fund-raising trip to the US, O'Rahilly saw Life Magazine's photograph of Kennedy and his children in the Oval Office. Caroline Kennedy was playing and disrupting the business of government, the image he wanted for his station. O'Rahilly's claims were re-examined[by whom?]; the photos of the three together exist and one of John Jr under the desk exists.[clarification needed]
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The Fredericia was renamed MV Caroline and was anchored off Felixstowe, where it began test transmissions on Friday, 27 March 1964. On Saturday, 28 March, it began regular programming at noon on 197 metres (1520 kHz, announced as 199 metres) with the official opening being conducted by Simon Dee. The first programme, which was pre-recorded, was hosted by Chris Moore. Radio Caroline's first musical theme was Jimmy McGriff's "Round Midnight", a jazz standard co-composed by Thelonious Monk. In March 1964, Birmingham band The Fortunes recorded the song Caroline, which later became the station's theme song. Round Midnight was confined to close down on Radio Caroline North after The World Tomorrow programme. The station's slogan was Your all-day music station, and it initially broadcast from 6am-6pm, seven days a week.
Radio Caroline announced a wavelength of 199 metres, rhyming with the station's name, but was actually on 197.3 metres (1520 kHz).[nb 1] The Dutch offshore station Radio Veronica was on 192 metres (1562 kHz). Radio Atlanta broadcast on 201 metres (1495 kHz).
Radio Caroline's power was almost 20 kW, achieved by linking two 10 kW Continental Electronics transmitters together. Broadcasting hours were between 6 am and 6 pm to avoid competition from Radio Luxembourg. After its 6 pm close-down, the station returned to the air at 8 pm and continued until after midnight. This was to avoid direct competition with popular television programmes. Most of Radio Caroline's pop music programmes were aimed at housewives. Later, children were targeted. Without serious competition, Radio Caroline quickly gained a daytime audience of several million listeners.
Merger with Radio Atlanta
On 2 July 1964, Radio Atlanta and Radio Caroline's companies, Project Atlanta and Planet Productions Ltd., announced that the stations were to be merged, with Crawford and O'Rahilly as joint managing directors. At 8pm that day, Radio Atlanta closed. It was re-branded Radio Caroline South and MV Mi Amigo remained off Frinton-on-Sea while MV Caroline would broadcast as Radio Caroline North. MV Caroline sailed from Felixstowe around the coast of Great Britain to the Isle of Man, broadcasting as she went. The only broadcast staff on board were Tom Lodge and Jerry Leighton. MV Caroline arrived at her new anchorage on 13 July 1964. The two stations were thus able to cover most of the British Isles. Later, some programmes were pre-recorded on land and broadcast simultaneously from both ships.
In October 1965, O'Rahilly bought Crawford's interest in the MV Mi Amigo and engaged Tom Lodge from Radio Caroline North to make programming changes and regain the audience from Radio London. Lodge hired a new group of deejays and introduced a free-form style of programming which, by August 1966, had succeeded, creating an audience numbering 23 million.
When Radio London arrived off the coast of England, there was an unsuccessful attempt to merge the sales operation of this station with the Caroline organization before Radio London commenced transmissions.
Radio Caroline's first programme, broadcast on 28 March 1964, was presented by Chris Moore. Presenters Tony Blackburn, Tom Lodge, Ray Teret, Roger Day, Simon Dee, Tony Prince, Spangles Muldoon, Keith Skues, Johnnie Walker, Robbie Dale, Dave Lee Travis, Tommy Vance, Tony Prince, Bob Stewart and Andy Archer became well known. Some DJs from the USA and Commonwealth countries, such as Graham Webb, Tom Lodge, Emperor Rosko, Steve Young, Keith Hampshire, Colin Nicol and Norman St John, were also heard. DJ Jack Spector, of the WMCA "Good Guys" in New York, regularly recorded a programme for Radio Caroline. Syndicated shows from the US and pre-recorded religious programmes were also broadcast. BBC Radio 2 newsreader Colin Berry and Classic FM's Nick Bailey started their careers reading the news on Radio Caroline South.
In mid September 1965, the crew and DJs on MV Mi Amigo were joined for the weekend by 1960s pop singer Sylvan Whittingham, who visited the ship to promote her single "We Don't Belong". Wittingham was unable to leave on the tender when a storm arose. She was the only singer to stay overnight and helped present programmes, make jingles and close the station down at night.
Mi Amigo runs aground
On 20 January 1966, the MV Mi Amigo lost its anchor in a storm, drifted and ran aground on the beach at Frinton-on-Sea. The crew and broadcasting staff were rescued unharmed, but the ship's hull was damaged and repairs were carried out at Zaandam, Netherlands. Between 31 January and 1 May, Radio Caroline South broadcast from the vessel Cheeta II, owned by Britt Wadner of Swedish offshore station Radio Syd, which was off the air because of pack ice in the Baltic Sea. The Cheeta II was equipped for FM broadcasting, so it was fitted with the 10 kW transmitter from the Mi Amigo, feeding a makeshift antenna. The resulting signal was low-powered, but ensured that Caroline South's advertising revenue would continue.
The Mi Amigo returned to its Frinton-on-Sea anchorage with a redesigned antenna and a new 50 kW transmitter and attempted to resume broadcasting on 18 April, nominally on 259 metres to enable the same jingles as Radio Caroline North on 1169 kHz to be used, but actually 252 metres. The transmitter was initially too powerful for the antenna insulators. On 27 April, the Mi Amigo was fully operational.
Radio Caroline South's 259 metres signal was now near those of Radio London on 266m (1133 kHz) and the BBC's Light Programme on 247m (1214 kHz). Radio Caroline North subsequently moved to 257m (1169 kHz) but also called it 259.
Radio City affair
In October 1965, Radio Caroline and Radio City began negotiations for Radio Caroline to take over Radio City, which broadcast from Shivering Sands Army Fort, a Second World War marine fort off the Kent coast. One of Radio Caroline's directors, Major Oliver Smedley, formerly of Radio Atlanta, entered a partnership with Radio City's owner, Reginald Calvert and installed a more powerful transmitter on the fort. However, according to Gerry Bishop's book Offshore Radio this transmitter was antiquated and failed to work. Smedley later withdrew from the deal.
On 20 June 1966, Smedley boarded the Shivering Sands Fort with ten workmen to repossess a transmitter that Smedley had supplied, but had not been paid for. The next day, Calvert visited Smedley's home in Saffron Walden, Essex, to demand the departure of the raiders and the return of vital transmitter parts. During a violent struggle, Calvert was shot dead. Smedley's men occupied the fort until 22 June.
Smedley was charged with Calvert's murder on 18 July, but this was reduced to a charge of manslaughter. Smedley's trial opened on 11 October at Chemlsford Assizes, where the jury acquitted him.
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|Broadcast area||Southern England, western Europe, Northern England, Ireland and Scotland|
|Frequency||wavelengths announced as "259" metres|
|First air date||15 August 1967 following passage of the Marine Offences Act|
|Format||popular music and news|
|Owner||Legal status unclear due to a need to conceal actual legal ownership.|
In 1967, the UK Government enacted the Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967, outlawing advertising on or supplying an unlicensed offshore radio station from the UK. In an earlier House of Commons debate (in June 1966), the government had claimed that the pirate ships were a danger because of radio frequency interference to emergency shipping channels, and to overseas radio stations and the pirates were paying no royalties to artists, composers or record companies. Furthermore it was stated that the pirates' use of wavelengths also broke international agreements. The Manx parliament, the Tynwald, attempted to exclude the North Ship from the legislation, appealing to the European Court on the legality of the act being applied to the Isle of Man. Two (Radio 270 and Radio London) of the ramaining four UK based offshore stations closed, but the two Caroline ships continued with their supply operation moved to the Netherlands, which did not outlaw unlicensed ship based broadcasting until 1974.
When Marine &c. Broadcasting Offences Act become law on 14 August 1967, Radio Caroline was renamed Radio Caroline International. Six weeks later, the BBC introduced its new national pop station Radio 1, modelled largely on the successful offshore station, Radio London, and employed many of the ex-pirate DJs. The BBC Light, Third, and Home programmes became Radios 2, 3 and 4 respectively.
On 3 March 1968, the radio ships, Mi Amigo and Caroline, were boarded and seized before the day's broadcasting began. They were towed to Amsterdam by a salvage company to secure unpaid bills for servicing by the Dutch tender company, Wijsmuller Co.
1970: Radio North Sea International
|Broadcast area||Broadcasting from various locations offshore to Western Europe|
|Frequency||244m MW, 100.0 MHz FM, 6205 kHz SW|
|First air date||Sat 13 June - Fri 19 June 1970|
|Format||popular music and news|
|Power||105 kW MW|
|ERP||90 kW MW|
|Affiliations||A brief name change from Radio North Sea International during the UK General Election campaign, after which the station reverted back to its original name.|
In 24 March 1970, a radio ship named Mebo II anchored off the east coast of England during the UK general election campaign, broadcasting as Radio North Sea International (RNI). RNI operated on mediumwave, shortwave and FM; its mediumwave transmission was jammed by the UK Labour government and on 13 June, RNI changed its name to Radio Caroline International with co-operation from Ronan O'Rahilly. Radio Caroline lobbied against the Labour Party, for the Conservative Party and for the introduction of licensed commercial radio in the United Kingdom. Following the election, RNI resumed its original name but jamming continued under the newly elected Conservative government. It was not until RNI returned to its original anchorage off the Netherlands that the jamming ceased.
News stories appeared in the European press announcing the start of Caroline Television from two Super Constellation aircraft using Stratovision technology. One aeroplane would circle over the North Sea in international air space near the coastline of the United Kingdom, while the other would remain on standby to take over duties. Presentations were made to US advertising agencies. These stories continued for some time and included details of co-operation by a former member of the Beatles and a sign-on date given as 1 July; however, the station failed to appear. It was later proven to be nothing more than a publicity stunt.
1972-1980: Mi Amigo rescued
|Broadcast area||Broadcasting from various offshore locations to Western Europe|
|First air date||1972|
|Power||10 kW later 50 kW|
|ERP||27 KW (highly variable)|
|Owner||Status unclear and mainly operated by supporters|
|Sister stations||Radio Atlantis 1973 and Radio Mi-Amigo 1974-1978|
In 1972, MV Mi Amigo was bought for scrap at auction by enthusiast Gerald van Dam, who intended to use it as a free radio museum. O'Rahilly promised financial backing if van Dam could return the ship to broadcasting condition. The ship was anchored off the Dutch coastal resort of Scheveningen and serviced and operated from the Netherlands. The ship had restarted broadcasting as Radio 199, but soon became Radio Caroline with a Top 40 format. DJs Chris Carey, broadcasting as Spangles Muldoon (who was also station manager), Roger 'Twiggy' Day, Andy Archer, Paul Alexander, Steve England, Johnny Jason and Peter Chicago (real name Peter Murtha) manned the station.
In late 1972, Radio Caroline experienced financial difficulties. On 28 December, unpaid crew cut the Mi Amigo's generator fuel line and departed. Later that day, the Dutch Royal Navy returned the crew and fighting broke out onboard. Two days later, Mi Amigo was towed to IJmuiden and seized because of unpaid bills. Because of the Christmas holidays, no solicitors were available to issue a writ and the ship lay in Amsterdam Harbour until O'Rahilly arranged for it to be towed back to sea. The ship was further delayed when hull damage was found and quickly repaired before writs could be issued.
Between 11 and 20 April 1973, the ship broadcast programmes for Radio Veronica while the latter's ship, the Nordeney, was run aground in a storm. Because of an old law that allows pirates in distress to come ashore without being arrested, this running aground had no consequences for the crew. During summer 1973, it broadcast two separate stations in English and Dutch simultaneously, on 773 and 1187 kHz. Two aerials and twin transmitters were used for about six weeks until the aerial mast failed. To accommodate the second aerial, a second short mast, positioned just in front of the bridge, was employed as the other end for the main mast.[clarification needed]
Radio Atlantis and Radio Seagull
Around this time, O'Rahilly decided that Caroline should adopt an album format similar to that found on "FM progressive rock" stations in the USA, as this potentially very large radio audience was not catered for in Europe. This service was initially broadcast using the name Radio Seagull and was broadcast live from the ship's studio during the evening.
Since Radio Caroline could not find adequate advertising revenue it shared its nominal 259 metre wavelength, actually 1187 kHz or 253 metres, with Dutch language pop stations. The first of these was a Belgian station called Radio Atlantis, owned by Belgian businessman Adriaan van Landschoot. Programmes were pre-recorded on land and broadcast between 6 am and 7 pm. Rough weather sometimes prevented new tapes from arriving on Mi Amigo and old programmes had to be repeated. When its contract with Radio Caroline ended, the crew of Radio Atlantis moved to their own ship, the MV Janine.
Radio Seagull became Radio Caroline on 23 February 1974, retaining the album format. Throughout most of the 1970s, Radio Caroline could be heard only at night, calling itself "Europe's first and only album station".
Radio Mi Amigo
Another Belgian station, Radio Mi Amigo, was launched on 1 January 1974. Radio Mi Amigo was run by Belgian businessman and Suzy Waffles magnate Sylvain Tack. The station's offices and studios were based on Spain's Playa De Aro Costa Brava resort, where it produced programmes for Dutch-speaking holidaymakers. Most of Radio Mi Amigo's output was pre-recorded and consisted of Europop, Top 40, MOR and Dutch language popular music presented by Belgian, Dutch and occasionally English DJs with frequent commercials. Because commercial radio was prohibited in Belgium at that time, Radio Mi Amigo had little competition and became popular in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. For the first few years, advertising space on the station was in high demand. When Radio Veronica closed in 1974, some of its presenters moved to Radio Mi Amigo.
Caroline's album format meant that, although the station served a gap in the market, its audience was smaller than in the 1960s. Caroline also promoted O'Rahilly's concept of Loving Awareness (LA), a far-eastern inspired philosophy of love and peace. Some DJs were embarrassed at the idea of promoting this on air, but some were fascinated by the challenge of promoting an abstract concept. Disc jockey Tony Allan developed a cult following, combining his promotion of "Loving Awareness" with a professional style, humanity, deep knowledge of music and rich radio voice.
In 1974, O'Rahilly set up a pop group called The Loving Awareness Band, comprising John Turnbull (guitar) and Mick Gallagher (keyboards) both formerly of Skip Bifferty and two session musicians, Norman Watt-Roy (bass) and Charlie Charles (drums). In 1976, The Loving Awareness Band released their only album, Loving Awareness on More Love Records (ML001), a label set up by O'Rahilly. The album was later reissued on CD more than once, although the CD releases have been sourced from a mint vinyl pressing rather than the original master tapes.
In 1974 the Dutch government enacted legislation to prohibit unlicensed offshore radio, which came into effect on 1 September. Radio Caroline continued broadcasting, moving its headquarters and servicing operation to Spain. Mi Amigo was moved from the Dutch coast to the Knock Deep Channel, approximately 30 km from the British coast. After 31 August, pre-recorded shows for Radio Mi Amigo were delivered on cassettes rather than reels of tape.
During an incident on 1 September, when a small motor launch experienced difficulties in rough seas, Radio Caroline broadcast appeals for help, giving the ship's position as. A coastguard vessel was sent to escort the launch back to shore, but the authorities were unhappy that Caroline listeners had jammed the emergency switchboards.
It was claimed that Radios Caroline and Mi Amigo were tendered from Spain. In practice, the Mi Amigo was tendered clandestinely from ports in Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Tenders and small boat owners were warned, and some were prosecuted for ferrying staff and provisions to the ship. Belgium had outlawed offshore radio in 1962 and its authorities prosecuted advertisers, cutting the station's revenue. Belgian courts sentenced Tack and some DJs to fines and jail terms in absentia — although the prison terms were later cancelled.
The two stations experimented with several different broadcast frequencies. After a short test on 773 kHz in late 1975, in May 1976, Radio Caroline began a daytime service on 1562 kHz (192 m) using a 10 kW transmitter, while its existing overnight service continued to share the 50 kW transmitter with Radio Mi Amigo's daytime programming on 1187 kHz (253 metres, announced as 259).
In December 1976, Radio Mi Amigo moved to 1562 kHz on the 50 kW transmitter, leaving Caroline on 1187 kHz 24 hours a day on the 10 kW. Radio Caroline's signal experienced greater night-time interference, and it was decided to move Caroline to a new frequency. On 3 March 1977, Caroline closed down, announcing that it would return six days later on 319 metres. To allow Radio Mi Amigo to continue broadcasting by day, the engineering work necessary for Caroline's move had to be carried out over 6 nights, after the 50 kW transmitter was switched off.
Caroline returned on 9 March 1977 on 953 kHz, actually 315 metres but announced as 319. This frequency produced very strong heterodyne interference because the transmitter crystal was off-channel, and Caroline moved to the adjacent channel, 962 kHz (312 metres but still called 319) and Caroline's reception in the UK improved. Meanwhile Radio Mi Amigo experienced interference on 1562 kHz and announced another frequency change on 23 July 1977 from 1562 kHz, changing to 1412 kHz (212 m) two days later.
Finally, Radio Mi Amigo moved to 962 kHz on 1 December. Due to generator trouble, the two services could no longer be broadcast simultaneously, and Radio Caroline again broadcast at night with both stations using the 50 kW transmitter and Radio Caroline began to receive an increase in mail from Europe. At times, a 10 kW transmitter was used to save fuel and relieve stress on the generators. The 10 kW transmitters could be run on the Henschel generator beside the two main MAN units and also a Cummings on the aft deck behind the wheelhouse.
In late 1977, Radio Caroline began broadcasting sponsored evangelical programmes, and music programmes began at 9 p.m. On 20 October 1978, technical and financial problems put the Mi Amigo off the air. Unhappy at the loss of advertising revenue, Radio Mi Amigo terminated its contract with Caroline in November 1978 and broadcast from its own ship, the MV Magdalena, later that year, but this was short-lived. Broadcasting was in Dutch and English by day and in English at night, although for the first few months broadcasting finished at 10pm each evening. On 19 January 1979, the aging ship took in water and the lifeboat was called to evacuate the remaining crew members. Radio Caroline returned to the air on 15 April 1979. The first record played was Fool (If You Think It's Over), by Chris Rea, dedicated to the British Home Office. During this period each night transmission of Radio Caroline started with the song "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" of the progressive Rock Band Klaatu, issued in 1976 on their Album 3:47 E.S.T.
Mi Amigo sinks
Just after midnight GMT on 20 March 1980, the Mi Amigo foundered in a severe storm after losing its anchor and drifting for several miles. It began taking in water and the crew were rescued by lifeboat. The generator was left running to power the pumps but could not manage the inflow of water and the Mi Amigo sank ten minutes later. Three British nationals, a Dutchman and their canary, named Wilson after the former Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson were rescued. The last broadcast from the Mi Amigo was by Stevie Gordon and Tom Anderson, as follows:
Well, we're sorry to tell you that due to the severe weather conditions and the fact that we are shipping quite a lot of water, we are closing down, and the crew are at this stage leaving the ship. Obviously, we hope to be back with you as soon as possible, but just for the moment we would like to say goodbye. "It's not a very good occasion really, we have to hurry this because the lifeboat is standing by. We're not leaving and disappearing, we're going onto the lifeboat hoping that the pumps can take it, if they can, we'll be back, if not, well we really don't like to say it. I'm sure we'll be back one way or another. For the moment from all of us, goodbye and God Bless."
The crew of the Sheerness lifeboat Helen Turnbull were commended for their part in the rescue of broadcasters Tom Anderson, Stevie Gordon, Nick Richards and Hans Verlaan from Mi Amigo while it was sinking in the Black Deep near Long Sand Bank. Having to manoeuvre the lifeboat alongside the stricken vessel thirteen times in high seas and a north easterly gale to carry out the rescue earned Coxswain Charles Bowry an RNLI silver medal. Each of his crew were awarded The Thanks of the Institution on vellum.
The Mi Amigo's 160-foot (49 m) mast remained erect for a further six years.
1983-1991: MV Ross Revenge
|Broadcast area||Geographic areas bordering upon North Sea|
|Frequency||963 kHz (wavelength announced as "319" metres) later moving to 819 kHz with additional transmitter in 531-594 kHz range (principally 558 kHz)|
|First air date||August 1983|
|Format||album rock and news|
|Power||50 kW (second 10 kW transmitter later added)|
|ERP||27 kW (highly variable)|
|Owner||Ownership was hidden due to illegality of operation.|
MV Ross Revenge
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The station re-commenced broadcasting in August 1983 from its new radio ship, the MV Ross Revenge, an ex-North Sea factory fishing trawler used during the Anglo-Icelandic Cod War by Ross Fisheries. The ship had an antenna system radiating from a 300-foot (91 m) high mast, the tallest on any ship in the world. The ship left port in Spain, with an incomplete studio, to avoid legal entanglements. Radio Caroline began broadcasting from the ship on 19 August 1983, when unwanted mechanical sounds were heard on speech. The station was opened by DJ Tom Anderson, who had said "goodbye" from the sinking Mi Amigo in 1980.
The Ross Revenge was considerably larger than Mi Amigo and was fitted with more elaborate transmitting equipment. In 1983, two 5 kW RCA transmitters and a RCA 50 kW unit were on board. One 5 kW transmitter was initially regarded as not serviceable. When Radio Monique hired the main transmitter, spare parts were taken from a fourth transmitter to convert the 5 kW into a 10 kW unit, the RCA 5 and 10 kW transmitters having similar designs. The remaining 5 kW transmitter was later converted for short wave use.
Ronan O'Rahilly had wanted Radio Caroline to become an oldies station. This was opposed by some DJs and crew who had worked on the Mi Amigo and the album format was retained along with presenters such as Andy Archer, Samantha Dubois and Simon Barrett.
Officially, Radio Caroline was managed from offices in North America, with advertising sourced from the US and Canada. In practice, day-to-day servicing was carried out clandestinely from France and the UK. From the ship's anchorage in the Knock Deep the Mi Amigo's mast could be seen on the horizon.
Four studios were on board, enabling the ship to transmit a number of other services. Radio Caroline tried out several frequencies, among them 963, 576, 585 (briefly), 558 (after Laser 558 closed) and later 819 kHz. European medium wave channels had been reallocated to exact multiples of nine. In the evenings on 963, some alternative music programmes were tried, including the reggae-oriented "Jamming 963", and in 1986 and early 1987, a progressive and indie rock programme called Caroline Overdrive was broadcast.
On 9 August 1985, an official vessel anchored 150 yards from the Ross Revenge. The UK [Department of Trade and Industry] (DTI) put a permanent watch on all movements of ships around the Ross Revenge and the MV Communicator, Laser 558's ship. On 3 September 1985 at 24:00 hours the Dioptric Surveyor departed owing to a force nine storm.
From December 1984 the Ross Revenge broadcast Radio Monique, consisting of recorded and live Dutch language programmes of a Dutch music radio production company using the 50 kW transmitter during daytime. These programmes featured mainly pop and Euro-Pop style music and were aimed at the mainstream Dutch audience. Radio Monique was popular throughout the Benelux countries.
In the evenings, Radio Caroline transmitted Dutch and American religious evangelist broadcasters such as Johan Maasbach and Roy Masters on medium wave, and later on short wave, under the name Viewpoint 963/819, or World Mission Radio (WMR) on short wave.
In November 1985, the competing offshore station, Laser 558, closed because of electrical problems and Caroline moved from 576 kHz to Laser's 558 kHz frequency, with a Top 40 music format similar to Laser's under the name Caroline 558. When Laser returned as Laser Hot Hits, it used Caroline's former and somewhat inferior frequency of 576.
The mast collapses
In 1987, the British Government passed the Territorial Sea Act which extended the UK maritime limit from three to twelve nautical miles (22 km). To remain in international waters, the ship moved to a new, less-sheltered anchorage. Initially this was a minor inconvenience as the 300-foot (91 m) mast was thought sturdy enough to cope. However, in October a massive storm hit southern England, causing loss of life and severe damage to buildings and trees. Unable to take shelter in territorial waters, the MV Ross Revenge weathered the storm in the North Sea.
The following day, Caroline was one of the few stations in the South East still broadcasting. However, the storm had severely weakened the mast, which collapsed in another storm some weeks later. Caroline quickly returned to the air using a makeshift aerial which gave a less powerful signal. This was eventually replaced by a twin-mast T-antenna. For several months only one transmitter could be used, leading to the loss of the crucial income-generating Radio Monique, although a substitute Dutch daytime service, Radio 558 (later Radio 819), was eventually established.
1989 Anglo-Dutch raid
During mid-August 1989, authorities in several European countries carried out co-ordinated raids on houses, recording studios and offices believed to be used by the Caroline organisation. On 18 August, a British government chartered ship pulled up alongside the Ross Revenge and requested permission to board in order to "discuss the future" of the Ross Revenge and the stations operating from it. This request, and one to cease transmissions on 819 kHz, were refused. A request to cease broadcasting on the short wave frequency 6215 kHz was complied with, and after several hours the British government chartered ship returned to port.
The following day James Murphy, an investigator for the UK Office of the Official Solicitor, acting on behalf of the UK Department of Trade and Industry, joined colleagues and counterparts from the Netherlands Radio Regulatory Authority to carry out an armed raid on the Ross Revenge in which vital equipment was damaged or confiscated.
It was claimed that Caroline's use of a marine supplementary distress and calling frequency 6215 kHz for the transmission of paid-for religious programmes, called World Mission Radio, was causing interference to maritime communications. Caroline had been warned about this by officials and offshore-radio fans.
Part of the raid was broadcast live before officials disabled the transmitters. Dutch nationals aboard were arrested and returned to the Netherlands, together with most of the broadcasting equipment. Non-Dutch staff were not arrested but were given the option of staying on the ship or returning to the Netherlands - most chose to stay on board.
The legality of the raid is under question; Caroline claimed that the boarding of the ship and removal or destruction of equipment was an act of piracy on the high seas under international maritime law. The Dutch claimed that as the ship's Panamanian registration had lapsed in 1987, it was not under legal protection from any country and that its transmissions were a breach of international radio regulations which since 1982 have prohibited broadcasting from outside national territories. Several years after the raid some of the seized items were returned to the station.
Following the raid, in 1990 the UK government amended the 1967 anti-offshore broadcasting law to permit the boarding and silencing of stations operating in international waters if their signals can be received in the UK, even if their vessels were foreign registered and operated. Lord Annan, author of the 1977 Report of the Committee on the Future of Broadcasting, spoke in defence of Radio Caroline in the House of Lords at Report Stage on the Broadcasting Act 1990, saying "Why break a butterfly upon the wheel?" In a 1995 article written for the pressure group Charter 88, Steve McGann commented:
"Whether Caroline was right to maintain her defiance for so many years is irrelevant. Her story illustrates how uniquely dangerous government regards an independent voice transmitted over unrestricted airwaves and to what ends it will go to silence it."
This legislation remains in force.
1990-1991: After the raid
On 1 October 1989, Radio Caroline re-commenced broadcasting from the Ross Revenge using makeshift equipment and very low power, in order to retain the 558 kHz frequency. Engineer Peter Chicago had hidden transmitter parts during the raid and retuned one 5 kW transmitter, previously used on short-wave, to 558 kHz. Over the following months, Caroline's signal quality improved as transmitting valves were donated and programming returned to normal.
In June 1990, Spectrum Radio, a new multi-ethnic community radio station for London, was allocated 558 kHz. Caroline's signal caused more interference to Spectrum's than vice versa. Caroline broadcast regular apologies to Spectrum and its listeners but refused to vacate the channel. Spectrum threatened to sue the Radio Authority, which then allowed Spectrum to temporarily broadcast on 990 kHz alongside 558 kHz. Eventually, Caroline left 558 kHz and moved to 819. On 5 November 1990, a lack of fuel and supplies forced the station to cease broadcasting. The final song played was Pilot of the Airwaves by Charlie Dore.
Although most of the broadcasting staff left at that time, some volunteers remained on board for a year as caretakers, while fresh funding and equipment were sought. During this time the station also attempted to obtain a licence from a third world country, on the basis that this might offer protection from the new provisions in the 1990 Broadcasting Act which came into force on 31 December of that year.
In November 1991, the ship lost its anchor in stormy weather and drifted onto the Goodwin Sands in the English Channel. The crew were rescued by a RAF helicopter. The Ross Revenge was later salvaged and brought into harbour in Dover, ending 27 years of Radio Caroline's unlicensed, offshore radio broadcasting career.
|Broadcast area|| United Kingdom:
Europe (up to September 2013) (Eutelsat 28A)
|Frequency||Various Internet streams 
UPC Ireland: Channel 927
Smallworld Cable: Channel 855
Eutelsat 28A (to 30 September 2013):
Freq. 11.426 GHz
Symbol Rate: 27.5
|First air date||1999|
|Format||AOR (Album/adult oriented)|
|Owner||Radio Caroline Ltd. and Caroline Support Group (originally called the Ross Revenge Support Group).|
1991 - present: Licensed Support Group era
Following the 1991 near shipwrecking of the Ross Revenge and its subsequent harbouring around the south-east coast of England, the ship has been maintained by a group of enthusiasts called the Radio Caroline Support Group, originally called the Ross Revenge Support Group. From 2007, following numerous moves, the Ross Revenge has been docked at Tilbury, where a volunteer crew repair and maintain it. The ship has working radio studios, from which both Caroline and BBC Essex have occasionally broadcast.
Former offshore broadcasters who continue to broadcast on the station are: Roger Mathews, Nigel Harris, Martin Fisher, Marc Jacobs, Johnny Lewis, Doug Wood, Dave Foster, Cliff Osbourne, Bob Lawrence, Jeremy Chartham and Ad Roberts. Evangelical programmes and sponsored specialist music shows are broadcast. During Easter 2008, the station broadcast live for three days from the Ross Revenge, featuring ten presenters who had worked on the Mi Amigo in the late 1970s: Roger Mathews, Mike Stevens, Bob Lawrence, Brian Martin, Martin Fisher, Cliff Osbourne, Jeremy Chartham, Marc Jacobs, Ad Roberts, Dick Verheul and Kees Borrell.
Restricted Service Licenses
Radio Caroline was off the air for most of the 1990s, except for occasional low-power broadcasts of one month's duration. Some of these licensed 28-day Restricted Service Licence (RSL) broadcasts took place from the Ross Revenge during the 1990s, with the ship anchored off Clacton, in London's Canary Wharf, Southend Pier and off the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
On 1 October 2001 at one minute past Midnight Radio Caroline returned on 1503 kHz from the LV (Light Vessel)18 based in Harwich Habour. This 28 day broadcast featured Phil Mitchell, Paul Dennis, Colin Lamb, John Patrick, Barry James, Steve Cisco and Clive Boutell. http://www.radiocaroline.de/platt2.htm The LV 18 would in latter years be used by the BBC for BBC Pirate Radio Essex broadcasts. http://www.bbc.co.uk/essex/pirate/exhibition.shtml
One RSL broadcast ran from 7 August until 3 September 2004, with the ship moored at the cruise liner terminal jetty at Tilbury in Essex. They even commemorated the 40th anniversary of Radio Caroline and promoted the station's legal internet and satellite programmes. The medium wave frequency was 235 metres (1278 kHz) and the programmes were sent through ISDN landline to their Maidstone studio and streamed via the internet and broadcast on satellite. The supermarket chain Asda and English Heritage were amongst the backers for this event.
The station has subsequently broadcast on 531 kHz AM from the Ross Revenge during some bank holiday weekends, beginning on 28–31 August 2009 and 28–30 August 2010, which coincided within a few days with the 50th anniversary of the ship's first voyage.
Satellite and Internet broadcasting
Using land-based studios leased in Kent in the late 1990s, the station began broadcasting via satellites Astra 19.2°E and Eutelsat 28A, covering Western Europe. These analogue transmissions ceased and a full digital service from Astra 28.2°E started in February 2003.
In 2002, Caroline began broadcasting on the WorldSpace satellite radio system, continuing until the Worldspace operation went bankrupt and re-organised its operations in 2008.
On 12 June 2006, the station purchased an EPG slot on Sky channel 0199. No subscription or viewing card was required. This service was removed on 1 July 2011 after failing to renegotiate costs with Sky and deciding not pursue a Freesat EPG slot. Surveys performed in 2008 and 2010 into the audience's listening habits showed that a small percentage listened via Sky, and that satellite listening had dropped by 9% since the 2008 results, while on-line listening had increased by around 40%. Radio Caroline continued to broadcast on satellite but this required manual tuning.
During 2013 a further listener survey showed a continued move from away from satellite reception and growth in internet listening. Following negotiations with the service provider, the satellite transmissions were officially ended at midnight on 30 September 2013. Programming was still heard via satellite until the service provider replaced the signal with a 1 kHz tone on the morning of 1 October 2013. Internet streaming of Radio Caroline programmes continued uninterrupted.
The station has been streamed on the Internet for many years, accessible via the station's website, with more streams available for listening on various devices. Dedicated apps for listening via Apple IOS and Android devices are also available. In 2011 Radio Caroline joined the Radioplayer UK project, an internet service formed by the BBC, Global Radio and the Guardian Media Group that supplies a listen live feed of UK radio stations across the world.
Medium Wave campaign
In December 2010, Chatham & Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch presented an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom calling for OFCOM to allow Radio Caroline to broadcast as a licensed medium wave station to its "traditional heartland of the south east".
The full text of the EDM is as follows:
That this House expresses its disappointment that, having pioneered commercial radio in the UK and for the past decade being a fully licensed broadcaster, Radio Caroline, a cornerstone of British radio history, has been denied by OFCOM the opportunity to secure a medium wave frequency from which to broadcast; regrets that as a result its devoted listeners are confined to listening to Radio Caroline via the internet and unable to enjoy its musical offerings in transit; and calls on OFCOM to exhaust all avenues in making the provisions available for Radio Caroline to celebrate its 50th birthday in 2014 by broadcasting on a medium wave frequency which, it appears, is unwanted by both BBC and commercial operators as a broadcast platform."
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2011)|
In January 2002, a Dutch Caroline-fan called Sietse Brouwer launched a Netherlands-based Radio Caroline in Harlingen, broadcasting on the northern Netherlands cable networks and largely independent of UK Caroline. Brouwer intended to obtain an AM frequency from the Netherlands authorities in 2003 when its medium wave frequencies were reallocated. However, Dutch Caroline failed to secure a high power AM frequency and the cable network service was discontinued because of lack of funds. The Dutch Radio Caroline then changed its name to "Radio Seagull" and now broadcasts on 1602 kHz every day and on the internet, presenting a progressive rock format. From November 2009, Radio Seagull can be heard periodically on 558 kHz in London.
In Spain, a station broadcast during the summer 2009 on 102.7 MHz in the Costa Blanca from studios in Benidorm. The station had some success but stopped broadcasting due to lack of funding. Broadcasters included Tony Christian, Pawl "Hound Dog" Shanley, Dave Fox, Simon West, Dale Richardson and Peter D.
The British Radio Caroline has a broadcasting partner on the French and Italian Mediterranean Rivieras. Presented under the name Caroline South, this operation provides weekend evening programmes for Radio Caroline which are also broadcast on local FM radio stations on the Riviera. Veteran Caroline DJs Grant Benson and Tom Anderson are among the presenters.
In spring 2004, Radio Caroline contracted with RTL 102.5 to broadcast as part of the national DAB system in Italy where it can be heard in Rome, Milan, Turin, Bologna, Florence and Naples. Its programming is a mix of Caroline's UK-produced material and locally produced material.
In Timaru, an NZBC station, originally 3XC, later 3ZC, broadcast as Radio Caroline until 1995. The name was taken from "Caroline Bay", a popular recreation area nearby.
In Palmerston, Radio Caroline International, based in Tenerife, Spain, acquired an AM commercial broadcasting licence in 2008, and was seeking wavelengths in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Daytime programming was leased to a community radio service called Puketapu Radio on 756 kHz.
References in popular culture
- The Golden Age of Wireless album by Thomas Dolby, Track: "Radio Silence" - reference to a woman named "Caroline" and lamenting a lost love like an empty radio frequency.
- Freeze Frame album by Godley & Creme, 1979, Track: "Get Well Soon" - reference to Radio Caroline.
- Rock and roll track by Status Quo - "Waiting all the time to find radio plays on Caroline".
- Pirate Radio track by Ska band The Toasters - Reference to Radio Caroline.
- Hearthammer by Scottish Folk Rock band Runrig - "Lying under the covers, with the radio on. Settle down with Caroline as she sailed all summer long".
- Walking down the King's Road track by Squire - Reached top 75 - "In a Chelsea drug store with some friends of mine, mini skirts, dolly birds and Radio Caroline".
- The Goodies episode Radio Goodies, parodies the then-contemporary pirate radio stations but does not mention Radio Caroline.
- The Boat That Rocked 2009 movie is set in 1966 and uses a vessel that is similar to the 1983 MV Ross Revenge, but according to the producer, the movie is pure fantasy.
- The rock band Green paid tribute on the song "Radio Caroline" on their album Elaine MacKenzie.
- It has to be remembered that the tuning of radios in those days was purely by sight and sound - i.e. no precise digital readout. This allowed a leeway between the frequency used and the channel announced on the air. Stations in the UK, at this time, announced the wavelength in metres, not the frequency in kilohertz. The station preferred using a "9" as the last digit, in order to rhyme with its name.
- Pirate radio in the United Kingdom
- Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 - The UK legislation aimed at offshore radio, enacted August 1967.
- Harris, Paul (1977). Broadcasting From The High Seas. Paul Harris Publishing Edinburgh. ISBN 0-904505-07-3.
- Mike von Joel and Stuart Henry (1984). Pirate Radio: Then and Now. Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1497-2.
- unknown (unknown). "Queen; UK, Fortnightly since 1862". Luxembourg: Colophon / Maison Moderne.
- Simon Garfield (8 March 2009). "When pop pirates ruled Britannia's airwaves". The Observer (Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 16 June 2011.
- "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" Radio Caroline Retrieved 2 February 2010
- Life Photo Archives, available online
- "Radio Caroline North". Selling the Sixties by Robert Chapman, ISBN 0-415-07817-2. Routledge. 1992. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
- unknown (unknown). "The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame: Sylvan the Stowaway". unknown.
- unknown (8 March 2010). "Dorothy Calvert: Rock’n’roll entrepreneur and pirate radio pioneer". Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- "Wireless and Television (Pirate Stations)", Hansard, HC Deb, vol 730 cc858-70, 22 June 1966
- Imogen Carter (27 September 2007). "The day we woke up to pop music on Radio 1". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
- "Defiance, Defeat and Retribution," Radio Caroline Retrieved 5 December 2009
- Daily Telegraph article from 30 June 1970, reproduced on the Pirate Radio Hall of Fame website
- Caroline Television description on Cherished Television website
- Noakes, Bob (1984). Last Of The Pirates: A saga of everyday life on board Radio Caroline. Edinburgh: Paul Harris Publishing.
- "Tribute to Sylvain Tack". Offshoreechos.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Eder, Bruce. Biography of Loving Awareness at AllMusic. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
- "This site is put together by Johnny Lewis, an engineer and presenter who worked on the station at the time". Roundsandsounds.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame: the seventies". Offshoreradio.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "STATIONS 1". Offshoreechos.com. 20 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Unknown (2004). "Sheerness Lifeboats: Station History and Awards".
- Firsthand account - During a training mission on a HH-53 rescue helicopter from the 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron out of RAF Woodbridge, UK in 1983, we flew over the mast of the MV Mi Amigo as identified by the aircrew --~~~~
- "Appeal for memories of the Grimsby trawler Ross Revenge". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- "The wet and wild history of Radio Caroline (4)". Icce.rug.nl. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "Photos of the transmitters can be found here". Eylard.nl. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "Territorial Sea Act 1987". Statutelaw.gov.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "Hansard 5 June 1990". Hansard.millbanksystems.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Charter 88 - Why break a butterfly upon the wheel?
- "First & last". Offshoreechos.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Caroline Movement history on Surrey Anorak's Society webpage
- "Radio Caroline Streams Guide".
- Bringing Caroline into the new millennium
- "Radio Caroline finally appears on Sky EPG". Media Network. 12 June 2006.
- "Radio Caroline decides to get rid of its EPG slot". Media Network. 18 May 2011.
- "Radio Caroline App for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch on iTunes Store".
- "Radio Caroline Android App".
- "Radioplayer UK - About". Radioplayer.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "Radio Caroline campaign website ''(retrieved 20 February 2011)''". Radiocarolineonair.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- official UK Parliament website (retrieved 21 February 2011)
- "Timaru". Theradiovault.net. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Bill Campbell (2 August 2008). Radio Puketapu stakeholder has pirate past. Otago Daily Times. Allied Press Limited. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
- Radio Caroline. Venmore Rowland. John. Landmark Press. UK. 1967 - The original book about Radio Caroline.
- When Pirates Ruled The Waves. Harris, Paul. Impulse Publications, UK, 1968.
- History of Radio Nord. Kotschack, Jack. Forlags AB. Sweden (Swedish). English version published in 1970 by Impulse Publications, UK.
- From International Waters. Leonard, Mike - Forest Press. Heswall, UK. 1996 ISBN 0-9527684-0-2 - An encyclopedia about the history of offshore broadcasting until 1996.
- The Beat Fleet: The story behind the 60's 'pirate' radio stations. Leonard, Mike. Forest Press. Heswall, UK. 2004 ISBN 0-9527684-1-0.
- Last of the Pirates. Noakes, Bob. Paul Harris Publishing, Edinburgh. 1984. ISBN 0-86228-092-3 - This book is written by an engineer and DJ who worked on the MV Mi Amigo during the last phase of life prior to sinking.
- Butterfly upon the Wheel. Moore, Peter. Offshore Echo's. London, UK. 1992, ISSN 0150 2794 - Written by the station manager, this book recounts the adventures and struggles to keep Radio Caroline on the air.
- Records at Sea - The Story of the Ross Revenge. Weston, Mike. Radio Caroline Sales. UK, 2002 - A detailed history of the MV Ross Revenge.
- The Autobiography.Walker, Johnnie. Penguin Books. London, 2007. ISBN 978-0-14-102428-8.
- Ships in Troubled Waters. Harris, Nigel. MyWayPublishing. UK, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9563996-0-1 - This book details the author's long history with Radio Caroline.
- Shiprocked - Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline. Conway, Steve. Liberties Press. Dublin, 2009 ISBN 978-1-905483-62-4 - This book tells the story of Steve Conway's career with Radio Caroline in the late 1980s.
- Radio Caroline UK website
- Radio Seagull website
- Horizon magazine website
- Radio Mi Amigo website
- The Dutch Caroline Radio Club
- RADIO CAROLINE, RAMSEY HARBOUR 15/08/1967 & 28/08/1964 from Border TV archive
- RADIO CAROLINE INTERVIEW 07/08/1967 w/ Postmaster General Edward Short, from Border TV archive
- The attack in 1989
- A Day in the Life - broadcasting offshore from the M.V. Ross Revenge
- I Love Caroline on 199, 1965 documentary