pirate radio

pirate radio
   ‘Pirate radio’, as we know it, began at sea in 1958 with Radio Mercur broadcasting to Denmark from the ship Cheeta. Piracy hit Britain from Radio Veronica’s ship when the Commercial Neutral Broadcasting Company made its first ever sea pirate broadcast in 1961. Ronan O’Rahilly hoisted the jolly roger from a converted ferry situated in the Irish port of Greenore, to launch Radio Caroline on Good Friday 1964; DJ Simon Dee opened the station officially on Easter Sunday. Within a few months, Radio Caroline was attracting seven million listeners. New stations appeared and disappeared within the next nine months, including Radio Atlanta, Radio 207, Caroline North, Radio Scotland and 370. The Marine Offences Act laid down tight control in 1967, in the same year that the BBC restructured its services (from which emerged Radio 1). The first voice heard on Radio 1 was that of ex-Radio Luxembourg and pirate DJ Tony Blackburn. In this year the BBC also launched the first of their local radio stations, Radio Leicester (there are now thirty-five local stations). Piracy on the high seas saw its heyday from 1968 to 1970. Stations were raided, disappeared and only sporadically reappeared. Radio Geronimo, a survivor of the earlier raids, claimed over two million listeners; Radio Veronica survived until September 1972. Radio Jackie, a new station, appeared in 1969 and broadcast twenty-four hours a day during 1970, and Radio North Sea International came on the air.
   1983 and 1984 marked the return of large-scale sea piracy in the form of Radio Laser and Radio Caroline, both transmitting from the North Sea. Landbased pirates emerged, at first transmitting taped music and then later live programmes in high-quality stereo, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As a result of this, the Telecommu-nications Act was passed in July 1984 to tighten up any loopholes that pirates operating on land might slip through. Of the many land-based pirates to have emerged, Radio Invicta, London Weekend Radio (LWR) and Dread Broadcasting Station (DBC), are the three most noteworthy. Radio Invicta led the way in black music pirates in 1970, as the first soul pirate station. Started by soul enthusiast Tony Johns, it lasted fourteen years. The station played live for forty-eight hours over Christmas and New Year in 1976, and received a summons and a fine for it. At the same time, Robbie Vincent was given a soul show on Radio 1. LWR’s Tim Westwood did for hip hop what Johns did for soul. On LWR you could hear mix tapes from local crews running side by side with their New York counterparts. In September 1984, Tim Westwood held a GLCbacked hip hop festival on the south bank in London that drew in a crowd of thirty thousand people. He now hosts Radio 1’s Hip Hop show. Dread Broadcasting Corporation emerged around 1981 to play reggae presented by Rastas. DBC used echoes, sirens and all the sound effects used by sound systems in the bluesdance. In 1984, DBC disappeared off the airwaves; DBC’s Miss P was recruited as a Radio 1 DJ. Globe FM’s DJ Jack-Undercover, operating in Nottingham, 1996, points out how Radio 1’s strategy for survival in the 1990s is to poach new talent and audiences from the pirates: he cites the recruitment of ex-pirates Lisa L’Anson and Steve Edwards as evidence.
   See also: commercial radio; DJs; Radio 1
   Further reading
    Hind, J. and Mosco, S. (1985) Rebel Radio: The Full Story of British Pirate Radio, London: Pluto.
   EUGENE LANGE

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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