Offshore radio

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Offshore Radio is radio broadcasting from ships or fixed maritime structures, usually in international waters. Broadcasting in the territorial waters (up to 22 km from shore) or the exclusive economic zone (between 22 km and 370.4 km from shore) remained illegal. Even in the international waters the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (article 109) supports the suppression of pirate radio (called "unauthorized broadcasting").[1]


The claimed first wireless broadcast of music and speech for the purpose of entertainment was transmitted from a Royal Navy craft, the HMS Andromeda, in 1907. The broadcast was organized by a Lieutenant Quentin Crauford using the callsign QFP while the ship was anchored off Chatham in the Thames Estuary, England.

However, the majority of offshore broadcasters have been pirate radio stations using seaborne broadcasting as a means to circumvent national broadcasting regulations, for example the practice has been used by broadcasting organizations like the Voice of America as a means of circumventing national broadcasting regulations of other nations. Offshore pirate stations have operated off the coasts of Belgium, Denmark, Israel, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, The United Kingdom, Yugoslavia and the United States. See Pirate radio for full details.

By the late 1920s the BBC was formed, and the “UK government concluded that this was such a powerful means of mass communication that it would have to be in state control.” Because of rigid governmental controls and a lack of popular music broadcasting, much of the UK population began to turn to radio stations from abroad, such as Radio Lyon, Radio Normandy, Radio Athlone, Radio Mediterranee and Radio Luxembourg. In the UK, only signed artists from major labels were broadcast, and only for short periods of time during the day.

Unauthorized offshore broadcasting stations operating from ships or fixed platforms in the coastal waters of the Northern Sea first appeared in 1958. There were as many as eleven such stations in the mid-1960's.[2]

One of the most popular offshore radio broadcasts in Europe came from Radio Caroline, which developed out of the strict broadcasting regulations in England in the 1960s.[3] The Radio Caroline name was used to broadcast from international waters, using five different ships of three different owners, from 1964 to 1990. Radio Caroline was the brainchild of Ronan O'Rahilly, who dreamed up a way to air music by “unestablished” rock and roll artists[3][4] Other well-known stations of the period were Radio Atlanta, Radio London, Radio 270 (broadcasting of the coast of Filey, Yorkshire) Radio 390, and Radio City.[3]

Most offshore broadcast is usually associated with European pirate radio stations; the trend never caught on as much in the United States as most organizations that could afford an offshore broadcasting boat would instead buy a legal station. Still, there were a few American offshore stations that made a lasting impression. The first station to broadcast in the U.S. from international waters was RXKR off of the coast of California.[5] and broadcast from May 1933 until August 1933. It was operated from a cargo carrier named the S.S. City of Panama, a ship that was actually supposed to be advertising tourism in Panama to Americans from California. The operators of the ship actually broadcast popular music and advertisements, fooling the Panamanian government and eventually being shut down at the request of the U.S. Department of State.[6]


Pirate Radio and TV Noordzee since August 1964 used REM island offshore paltform for broadcasting aimed at the Netherlands. On December 12, 1964, a law, which split the North Sea into continental sections was passed in the Netherlands. The sea bed under REM Island, to which the structure was attached, was declared Dutch territory. Five days later, Royal Marines boarded the platform and ended the broadcasting.[7]

The Council of Europe in 1965 passed the "European Agreement for the Prevention of Broadcasts transmitted from Stations outside National Territories" to address this loophole, although some member states were slow to implement this in national law.[8][9]

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.


Aimed at British listeners

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Article 109
  3. ^ a b c Robert Chapman, Selling the Sixties: The Pirates and Pop Music Radio London: :Routledge, 1992 ISBN 0415078172
  4. ^
  5. ^ Yoder, Andrew R. Pirate Radio: The Incredible Saga of America's Underground, Illegal Broadcasters. Solana Beach, CA: HighText, 1996. Print.
  6. ^
  7. ^ H.F. van Panhuys (1966), "Legal aspects of pirate broadcasting: a Dutch approach", American Journal of International Law 60 (2) 
  8. ^ "European Agreement for the Prevention ofBroadcasts transmitted from Stations outside National Territories". European Treaty Series. Council of Europe. 22 January 1965. pp. ETS No. 53. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  9. ^ Rugge, Hans (October 2003). "The fight for free radio". Soundscapes 6. ISSN 1567-7745. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 

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