Radio Caroline

This article is about the radio station. For the album by Miss Kittin, see Radio Caroline Vol.1.

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.[1] Unlicensed by any government for most of its early life, it was a pirate radio station that never actually became illegal, although after the Marine Offences Act (1967) it became illegal for a British subject to associate with it.

The Radio Caroline name was used to broadcast from international waters, using five different ships of three different owners, from 1964 to 1990, and via satellite from 1998 to 2013. Radio Caroline currently broadcasts 24 hours a day via the internet and by occasional restricted service licence, they also broadcast on DAB radio in certain areas of the UK. Radio Caroline broadcasts music from the 1960s to contemporary, with an emphasis on adult-oriented rock (AOR). The company also licenses other stations around the world to use the Radio Caroline name.


Radio Caroline North (original) and Radio Caroline South (former Radio Atlanta)
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 (1493/1520 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

The MV Mi Amigo, c. 1974, which had been used as the home of Radio Caroline South from 1964-1967

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 it was committed to sponsored programmes promoting major record labels; EMI, Decca, Pye and Philips.

Encouraged by Scandinavian and Dutch pirates, 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 was equipping the MV Mi Amigo at Greenore, where the two competed to be first on air.[2]

Financial backing for the venture came from six investors, including John Sheffield, chairman of Norcross, Carl "Jimmy" Ross of Ross Foods, Jocelyn Stevens of Queen magazine, with which Radio Caroline shared its first office.[3] O'Rahilly named the station after Caroline Kennedy, daughter of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.[4] On a fund-raising trip to the US, O'Rahilly reportedly saw a Life Magazine photograph of Kennedy and his children in the Oval Office that served as the inspiration for the name "Caroline Radio". In an extant photo, Caroline Kennedy and her brother, John F. Kennedy Jr., are apparently dancing in the oval office as their father looks on, an activity which O'Rahilly reportedly interpreted as a playful disruption of government.[5][6]

First transmissions

The Fredericia was renamed MV Caroline and anchored off Felixstowe, where it began test transmissions on Friday, 27 March 1964. On Saturday, 28 March, it began regular broadcasting at noon on 197.3 metres (1520 kHz, announced as 199 metres) with the opening conducted by Simon Dee.[7] 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, The Fortunes recorded Caroline, which became the station's theme. Round Midnight was confined to close down on Radio Caroline North after The World Tomorrow. 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 name, but was actually broadcasting on 197.3 metres (1520 kHz). Stations in the UK announced the wavelength in metres, and radios at that time were tuned using an analogue dial. The absence of precise digital readouts allowed for some leeway between the precise transmission frequency and the channel announced on the air. The Dutch offshore station Radio Veronica was on 192 metres (1562 kHz) and Radio Atlanta broadcast on 201 (1493 kHz).

Radio Caroline's transmission output was almost 20 kW, achieved by linking two 10 kW Continental Electronics transmitters. Broadcasting hours were 6am to 6pm to avoid competition from Radio Luxembourg. After its close-down, the station returned at 8pm and continued until after midnight. This was to avoid competition with popular television programmes. Most of Radio Caroline's pop music programmes were targeted at housewives, and some later programming was aimed at children. Without serious competition, Radio Caroline gained a regular daytime audience of some 10 million.

Merger with Radio Atlanta

Emperor Rosko

On 2 July 1964, Radio Atlanta and Radio Caroline's companies, Project Atlanta and Planet Productions., announced the stations were to merge, with Crawford and O'Rahilly as joint managing directors. Radio Atlanta closed at 8pm that day. It was renamed Radio Caroline South and MV Mi Amigo remained off Frinton-on-Sea while MV Caroline broadcast as Radio Caroline North. MV Caroline sailed from Felixstowe 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 in Ramsay Bay on 6 July 1964. The two stations were 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 programme changes and regain the audience from Radio London. Lodge hired new DJs and introduced free-form programming which, by August 1966, had succeeded, creating an audience of 23 million.

When the US-backed Radio London arrived off the coast of England, there was an unsuccessful attempt to merge its sales operation with that of Caroline before Radio London started transmissions.. The new station introduced British audiences to slick American-style top 40 radio with electronic jingles produced by Dallas-based PAMS - and was an immediate success.

Broadcasting personnel

Radio Caroline's first programme, on 28 March 1964, was presented by Chris Moore.[8] Presenters Tony Blackburn, Roger Gale, Mike Allen, Ray Teret, Roger Day, Simon Dee, Tony Prince, Spangles Muldoon, Keith Skues, Johnnie Walker, Robbie Dale, Dave Lee Travis, Tommy Vance, Paul Noble, Bob Stewart and Andy Archer became well known. Some DJs from the USA and Commonwealth countries, such as Graham Webb, 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 for Radio Caroline. Syndicated shows from the US and 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.

Tom Lodge was a radio disc jockey for Radio Caroline from 1964 until his death in 2012

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". Whittingham was unable to leave on the tender when a storm arose. The only singer to stay overnight, she helped present programmes, make jingles, and close the station at night.[9]

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.[2] 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, negotiations began for Radio Caroline to take over Radio City, which broadcast from Shivering Sands Army Fort, a Second World War marine fort off the Kent[2] coast. One of Radio Caroline's directors, Major Oliver Smedley, formerly of Radio Atlanta, entered a partnership with Radio City's owner, pop group manager 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.[10]

On 20 June 1966, Smedley boarded the Shivering Sands Fort with 10 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.[2]

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.[2]


Radio Caroline International
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
Power 50 kW
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.[11] 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 remaining 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.[12]

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 Transport[2]

1970: Radio North Sea International

Radio Caroline 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.
Owner Mebo Ltd

On 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 medium wave, short wave and FM. Its medium wave transmission was jammed by the UK authorities 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.[13] It was not until RNI returned to its original anchorage off the Netherlands that the jamming ceased.

Caroline Television

News stories appeared in Europe [14] announcing the start of Caroline Television[15] from two Super Constellation aircraft using Stratovision technology. One would circle over the North Sea in international air space near the United Kingdom, while the other remained on standby. Presentations were made to US advertising agencies. These stories continued and included co-operation by a former member of the Beatles and a sign-on date of 1 July; the station failed to appear.[2]

It was later shown to be a publicity stunt.[16]

1972-1980: Mi Amigo rescued

Radio Caroline and related stations
Broadcast area Broadcasting from various offshore locations to Western Europe
Frequency various
First air date 1972
Format album rock
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 Gerard 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.[17] The ship anchored off the Dutch coastal resort of Scheveningen and was serviced and operated from the Netherlands. It restarted as Radio 199 but became Radio Caroline with a Top 40 format. DJs Chris Cary, 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)[17] manned the station.

In late 1972, Radio Caroline had money problems. 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 on board. Two days later, Mi Amigo was towed to IJmuiden and seized because of unpaid bills.[2] 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 by hull damage and repaired before writs could be issued.[17]

Between 11 and 20 April 1973, the ship broadcast for Radio Veronica while its ship, the Nordeney, was aground. Because of a law that allows pirates in distress to come ashore without arrest, the running aground had no consequences for the crew.[2] During summer 1973, it broadcast separate stations in English and Dutch simultaneously, on 389 mtr - 773 and 252 mtr (announced as 259) 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, just in front of the bridge, was employed as the other end for the main mast.

Radio Atlantis and Radio Seagull

Main article: Radio Atlantis

Around this time, O'Rahilly decided Caroline should adopt an album format similar to FM progressive rock stations in the USA, an audience not catered for in Europe. This service was Radio Seagull and broadcast live during the evening.

Since Radio Caroline could not find adequate advertising it shared its nominal 259 metre wavelength, actually 1187 kHz or 253 metres, with Dutch-language pop stations. The first was a Belgian station called Radio Atlantis, owned by Belgian businessman Adriaan van Landschoot. Programmes were recorded on land and broadcast between 6am and 7pm. Rough weather sometimes prevented tapes from arriving 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 Jeanine ,[2] although she was named as 'Janeine' on her hull. Jeanine was the housewife of Adriaan

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 launched on 1 January 1974. Radio Mi Amigo was run by Belgian businessman and Suzy Waffles owner Sylvain Tack.[18] The station's offices and studios from as from March 1975 after the Belgium Police did raid the illegal recording studio in Brakel Belgium. And where moverd to Castell-Platja d'Aro , Costa Brava , Spain where they produced programmes for Dutch-speaking holidaymakers. Most of Radio Mi Amigo was recorded 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 Radio Mi Amigo had little competition from the former BRT State Radio and TV (today VRT Flemisch State radio and TV) and became very popular in Belgium and the Netherlands, and the UK. For the first years, advertising on the station was in demand. When Radio Veronica closed in 1974, some presenters moved to Radio Mi Amigo.

Loving Awareness

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 philosophy of love and peace. Some DJs were embarrassed but some were fascinated by the challenge of an abstract concept. Disc jockey Tony Allan developed a following, combining Loving Awareness with a professional style, humanity, 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 has been reissued on CD. The band broke up in 1977, Watt-Roy and Charles played on Ian Dury's New Boots and Panties!! album, and Turnbull and Gallagher joined them on the Stiff's tour, becoming The Blockheads.[19]

Dutch legislation

In 1974 the Dutch government banned unlicensed offshore radio on 1 September. Radio Caroline continued, moving its headquarters and servicing operation to Spain. Mi Amigo moved from the Dutch coast to the Knock Deep Channel, approximately (12 miles) 30 km from Britain. After 31 August, shows for Radio Mi Amigo was the very first Offshore Radio Station ho where revolutionary and were delivered on cassettes rather than big reel to reel tapes. As from 1975 those Cassette Tapes where transported from Playa De Aro with the Europa Bus Service ho did travel people from Amsterdam , The Netherlands all the way to Madrid , Spain at very low prices. The Tapes where pick it up by a person in Belgium where the bus also do stop. And taken to the ship by a small sports plane and drooped in the Sea close to the Radio Ship. After the did listen on land to the weather forecast at sea near the ship. The Mi Amigo Top 50 tapes where fly over with a helicopter to get it much faster on board for transmission.

On 1 September, a small motor launch had difficulties in rough seas. Radio Caroline broadcast appeals for help, giving the ship's position as 51°41′N 1°35′E / 51.683°N 1.583°E / 51.683; 1.583. A coastguard vessel escorted the launch back to shore, but the authorities were unhappy that Caroline listeners had jammed the emergency switchboards.

The Mi Amigo was tendered clandestinely from Britain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Tenders and boat owners were warned, and some were prosecuted for ferrying staff and provisions to the ship. Belgium outlawed offshore radio in 1962 and prosecuted advertisers, cutting the station's revenue. Belgian courts sentenced Tack and some DJs to fines and jail in absentia — although the prison terms were later cancelled.

Wavelength changes

The two stations experimented with different 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 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 had greater night-time interference, and it was decided to move Caroline to a new frequency. On 3 March 1977, Caroline closed, announcing that it would return six days later on 319 metres. To allow Radio Mi Amigo to continue broadcasting by day, the engineering work for Caroline's move had to be carried out over six 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 gave reasonable reception by day but strong heterodyne interference at night because the transmitter crystal was off-channel. In July Caroline moved to the adjacent channel, 962 kHz (312 metres but still called 319) and reception in the UK improved. Meanwhile, Radio Mi Amigo had interference on 1562 kHz and changed to 1412 kHz (212 m).

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 more mail from the continent. At times, a 10 kW transmitter was used to save fuel and relieve the generators. The 10 kW transmitters could run on the Henschel generator beside the two main MAN units and also a Cummings on the aft deck behind the wheelhouse.[20]

In late 1977, Radio Caroline began sponsored evangelical programmes, and music programmes began at 9pm. On 20 October 1978, technical and financial problems put the Mi Amigo off the air. Unhappy at the loss of advertising, 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. On 19 January 1979, the ageing ship took in water and a lifeboat was called to rescue the crew members.[21] 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.[22] During this period each night transmission of Radio Caroline started with Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft by the progressive Rock Band Klaatu, issued in 1976 on their album 3:47 E.S.T.

Mi Amigo sinks

Main article: MV Mi Amigo

Just after midnight GMT on 20 March 1980, the Mi Amigo foundered in a storm after losing its anchor and drifting. It began taking in water and the crew were rescued by lifeboat.[2] The generator was left running but the pumps could not manage and the vessel 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:[23]

(Gordon): "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." (Anderson): "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." (Gordon): "I think we'll be back in one way or another." (Anderson): "Yeah. I think so." (Gordon): "For the moment from all of us, goodbye and God bless."

The crew of the Sheerness lifeboat Helen Turnbull were commended for 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 13 times in high seas and a north-easterly gale earned Coxswain Charles Bowry an RNLI silver medal. Each of his crew was awarded The Thanks of the Institution on vellum.[24]

The Mi Amigo's 160-foot (49 m) mast remained erect for six years.[25]

1983-1991: MV Ross Revenge

Main article: MV Ross Revenge
Radio Caroline
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, home of Radio Caroline from 1983

MV Ross Revenge

The station restarted in August 1983 from a new radio ship, the MV Ross Revenge, an ex-North Sea factory fishing trawler used during the Anglo-Icelandic Cod War by Ross Fisheries.[26] It had an antenna system radiating from a 300-foot (91 m) high mast, the tallest on any ship in the world. It left Spain, with an incomplete studio, to avoid legal entanglements. Radio Caroline began from the ship on 19 August 1983, with unwanted mechanical sounds on speech. The station was opened by DJ Tom Anderson, who had said "goodbye" from the sinking Mi Amigo in 1980.[27]

The Ross Revenge was larger than Mi Amigo and with more elaborate transmitting equipment: in 1983, two 5 kW RCA transmitters and a RCA 50 kW unit. One 5 kW transmitter was initially 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.[28] The remaining 5 kW transmitter was later converted for short wave use.

O'Rahilly wanted Radio Caroline to become an oldies station. He was opposed by some DJs and crew who had worked on the Mi Amigo and the album format stayed along with presenters such as Andy Archer, Samantha Dubois and Simon Barrett. Officially, Radio Caroline was managed from offices in North America, with advertising from the US and Canada. In practice, day-to-day servicing was carried from France and the UK.

From the anchorage in the Knock Deep the Mi Amigo's mast could be seen on the horizon. Four studios were on board, enabling other services. Radio Caroline tried 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 multiples of nine. In the evenings on 963, some alternative music programmes were tried, including the reggae "Jamming 963", and in 1986 and early 1987, a progressive and indie rock programme called Caroline Overdrive hosted by Kevin Turner, Peter Phillips, Mark Matthews, Peter Phillips, Rob Charles.

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 movements around the Ross Revenge and the MV Communicator, Laser 558's ship. On 3 September 1985 at 24:00 hours the Dioptric Surveyor departed in a storm.

Radio Monique

Main article: Radio Monique

From December 1984 the Ross Revenge broadcast Radio Monique, recorded and live Dutch-language programmes of a Dutch music radio production company using the 50 kW transmitter during daytime. They were pop and Europop aimed at the mainstream Dutch audience. Radio Monique was popular throughout Benelux.

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 after 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 inferior frequency of 576 kHz.

The mast collapses

In 1987, the Territorial Sea Act[29] extended the UK maritime limit from three to 12 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. However, in October 1987 a massive storm hit southern England, causing deaths and severe damage. MV Ross Revenge weathered the storm in the North Sea.

The following day, Caroline was one of few stations in the South East still broadcasting. However, the storm had weakened the mast, which collapsed in another storm later. Caroline returned to the air using a makeshift aerial with a less powerful signal. This was replaced by a twin-mast T-antenna. For several months only one transmitter could be used, leading to the loss of the 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 Caroline. On 18 August, a British government chartered ship pulled up alongside the Ross Revenge and asked to board to "discuss the future" of the Ross Revenge and the stations operating from it. This request, and one to stop transmissions on 819 kHz, was refused. A request to stop broadcasting on short wave 6215 kHz was complied with, and after several hours the government ship returned to port.

The following day James Murphy, an investigator for the UK Office of the Official Solicitor, acting for the Department of Trade and Industry, joined colleagues and counterparts from the Netherlands Radio Regulatory Authority to execute an armed raid on the Ross Revenge in which equipment was damaged or confiscated.

Part of the raid was broadcast live[30] before officials disabled the transmitters. Dutch nationals were arrested and returned to the Netherlands, together with most of the broadcasting equipment. Non-Dutch staff were given the option of staying on the ship or returning to the Netherlands - most chose to stay on board. Caroline claimed boarding the ship and removal or destruction of equipment was piracy. The Dutch claimed the ship's Panamanian registration had lapsed in 1987 and it was not under legal protection from any country and that its transmissions breached international regulations which since 1982 had prohibited broadcasting from outside national territories. Several years later some of the seized items were returned to the station.

In 1990 the UK government amended the 1967 anti-offshore law to allow the boarding and silencing of stations in international waters if their signals could 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?"[31] In a 1995 article for the pressure group Charter88, 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."[32]

This legislation remains in force.

1990-1991: After the raid

On 1 October 1989, Radio Caroline restarted broadcasting from the Ross Revenge using makeshift equipment and low power, 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 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 in London, was officially allocated 558 kHz. Caroline caused more interference to Spectrum than vice versa. Caroline broadcast regular apologies to Spectrum 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 kHz. On 5 November 1990, lack of fuel and supplies forced the station to cease. The final song was Pilot of the Airwaves by Charlie Dore.[33]

Although most broadcasting staff left at that time, some remained for a year as caretakers while funding and equipment were sought. The station tried to obtain a licence from a third-world country,[34] hoping it might offer protection from the new provisions in the 1990 Broadcasting Act which came into force on 31 December that year.

In November 1991, the ship lost its anchor in a storm and drifted on to the Goodwin Sands in the Channel. The crew were rescued by a RAF helicopter. The Ross Revenge was salvaged and brought into harbour in Dover, ending 27 years of Radio Caroline's unlicensed offshore career.

Radio Caroline
Broadcast area UK
Worldwide (Internet);
Europe (up to September 2013) (Eutelsat 28A)
Frequency Various Internet streams [35]
UPC Ireland: Channel 927
Smallworld Cable: Channel 855

Eutelsat 28A (to 30 September 2013):
Freq. 11.426 GHz
Polarisation: Horizontal
Symbol Rate: 27.5
FEC: 2/3
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

Since 1991, the Ross Revenge has been maintained by enthusiasts called the Radio Caroline Support Group, originally the Ross Revenge Support Group. From 2007, the ship was docked at Tilbury, where a volunteer crew repaired and maintained it. The ship has working radio studios, from which both Caroline and BBC Essex have broadcast. On 31 July 2014 the ship was moved to the Blackwater Estuary in Essex.[36]

Former offshore broadcasters who continue on the station are: Roger Mathews, Nigel Harris, Martin Fisher, Marc Jacobs, Johnny Lewis, Doug Wood, Dave Foster, Cliff Osbourne, Chris Pearson, Bob Lawrence, Jeremy Chartham and Ad Roberts. Evangelical programmes and sponsored specialist music are broadcast. During Easter 2008, the station broadcast live for three days from the Ross Revenge, featuring 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 licences

Radio Caroline was off the air for most of the 1990s, except for occasional low-power broadcasts of one month. 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, Caroline returned on 1503 kHz from the LV (Light Vessel) 18 in Harwich harbour. This two-day broadcast featured Phil Mitchell, Paul Dennis, Colin Lamb, John Patrick, Barry James, Steve Cisco and Clive Boutell.[37] The LV 18 would later be used by the BBC for BBC Pirate Radio Essex broadcasts.[38]

Another RSL broadcast ran from 7 August until 3 September 2004, with the ship moored at the cruise liner terminal jetty at Tilbury in Essex. It 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 programmes were sent through ISDN landline to Maidstone and via the internet and broadcast on satellite. The supermarket chain Asda and English Heritage were among the backers.

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 also within a few days of the 50th anniversary of the ship's first voyage.

Satellite and internet broadcasting

Using land-based studios leased in Kent[39] in the late 1990s, the station began broadcasting via satellites Astra 19.2°E and Eutelsat 28A, covering western Europe. These analogue transmissions ended and a full digital service from Astra 28.2°E started in February 2003.[40]

In 2002, Caroline began on WorldSpace satellite radio, continuing until Worldspace went bankrupt and re-organised its operations in 2008. On 12 June 2006, the station bought an EPG slot on Sky channel 0199.[41] This ended on 1 July 2011 after a failure to renegotiate costs with Sky and deciding not pursue a Freesat EPG slot.[42] Surveys in 2008 and 2010 showed a small percentage listened via Sky, and that satellite listening had dropped by 9% since 2008, while on-line listening had increased by around 40%. Radio Caroline continued on satellite but required manual tuning.

During 2013, a survey showed a continued move from satellite reception and growth in internet listening. Following negotiations with the service provider, satellite transmissions ended at midnight on 30 September 2013. Programmes were still heard on satellite until the provider replaced the signal with a 1 kHz tone on the morning of 1 October 2013. Internet streaming of Radio Caroline programmes continued.

The station has been streamed on the internet for many years, accessible via the station's website, with more streams on various devices.[35] Dedicated apps for listening via Apple IOS[43] and Android[44] devices are also available. In 2011 Radio Caroline joined Radioplayer UK, an internet service formed by the BBC, Global Radio and the Guardian Media Group that supplies a live feed of UK radio stations to across the world.[45] From 4 May 2015 Radio Caroline has a special Flashback webstream.[46]

Radio Caroline also broadcasts for a whole weekend once per month from its former home the Ross Revenge on the Blackwater Estuary in Essex via Manx Radio's 1368 kHz transmitter. See

Radio Caroline at 50 years (1964 – 2014)

From 31 March to 27 April 2014, a Caroline North tribute station, based on the Planet Lightship berthed in the Albert Dock complex on Liverpool's waterfront, broadcast locally on 87.7FM and on the internet. Programmes were presented by current and former DJs from the BBC, ILR, Ireland, Luxembourg, offshore and land-based pirate stations, and other international and freelance backgrounds, including Tony Prince and Emperor Rosko. Original 1960s Caroline North jingles were interspersed with generic Radio Caroline ones. The station played a wide selection of music from when Caroline started in the 1960s, but also included music from the 70s and 80s and early 90s to widen the audience profile. The four-week event was funded through on-air local business commercials.

Medium wave campaign

In December 2010, Chatham and 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".[47]

The full text of the EDM is:

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."[48]

International operations

The Netherlands

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.

Mediterranean Riviera

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.


Radio Caroline is broadcast in the Republic of Ireland on channel 927 on the UPC Ireland cable service in the main cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Cappoquin, and the County Waterford towns of Lismore and Tallow.


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.

New Zealand

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.[49]

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.[50]

References in popular culture

See also



    1. Harris, Paul (1977). Broadcasting From The High Seas. Paul Harris Publishing Edinburgh. ISBN 0-904505-07-3.
    2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Mike von Joel and Stuart Henry (1984). Pirate Radio: Then and Now. Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press. ISBN 0-7137-1497-2.
    3. "Queen; UK, Fortnightly since 1862". Luxembourg: Colophon / Maison Moderne.
    4. Simon Garfield (8 March 2009). "When pop pirates ruled Britannia's airwaves". The Observer. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
    5. "Snubbed by the radio and music establishment, O'Rahilly devises the sweet revenge of Radio Caroline". Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    6. Life Photo Archives, available online
    7. name="Henry/von Joel"
    8. "Radio Caroline North". Selling the Sixties by Robert Chapman, ISBN 0-415-07817-2. Routledge. 1992. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
    9. "The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame: Sylvan the Stowaway".
    10. "Dorothy Calvert: Rock'n'roll entrepreneur and pirate radio pioneer". Times Newspapers Ltd. 8 March 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
    11. "WIRELESS AND TELEVISION (PIRATE STATIONS) (Hansard, 22 June 1966)". 1966-06-22. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    12. Imogen Carter (27 September 2007). "The day we woke up to pop music on Radio 1". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 September 2007.
    13. "Caroline continues alone, is overwhelmed by difficulties but returns to punish the politicians". Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    14. "Caroline TV - the press cuttings". 1970-06-30. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    15. "Caroline Television". 1970-02-16. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    16. "How a radio ship and 7 men shook up Britain in 1964". Flashes & Flames. Retrieved 2015-11-01.
    17. 1 2 3 Noakes, Bob (1984). Last Of The Pirates: A saga of everyday life on board Radio Caroline. Edinburgh: Paul Harris Publishing.
    18. "Tribute to Sylvain Tack". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    19. Eder, Bruce. Biography of Loving Awareness at AllMusic. Retrieved 18 February 2009.
    20. "This site is put together by Johnny Lewis, an engineer and presenter who worked on the station at the time". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    21. "The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame: the seventies". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    22. "STATIONS 1". 20 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    24. "Sheerness Lifeboats: Station History and Awards". 2004.
    25. 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 --~~~~
    26. "Appeal for memories of the Grimsby trawler Ross Revenge". Retrieved 2012-03-12.
    27. "The wet and wild history of Radio Caroline (4)". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    28. "Photos of the transmitters can be found here". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    29. "Territorial Sea Act 1987". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    30. "Dxradio".
    31. "Hansard 5 June 1990". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    32. "The Real story of Radio Caroline". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    33. "First & last". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    34. "Caroline Movement". sasradiogroup. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    35. 1 2 "Radio Caroline Streams Guide". Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    36. Radio Caroline. "The Ross Revenge Move Gallery". Retrieved 2015-01-06.
    37. Dr. Martin van der Ven. "Radio Caroline: Into the new millennium". Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    38. "Pirate BBC Essex". BBC. Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    39. "Home | The Maistone Television Studios". Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    40. "Bringing Caroline into the new millennium". Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    41. "Radio Caroline finally appears on Sky EPG". Media Network. 12 June 2006.
    42. "Radio Caroline decides to get rid of its EPG slot". Media Network. 18 May 2011.
    43. "Radio Caroline App for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch on iTunes Store".
    44. "Radio Caroline Android App". Retrieved 2014-08-03.
    45. "Radioplayer UK - About". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    46. "Radio Caroline". Retrieved 2015-11-01.
    47. "Radio Caroline campaign website ''(retrieved 20 February 2011)''". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    48. Early day motion 1163
    49. "Timaru". Retrieved 2011-11-04.
    50. Bill Campbell (2 August 2008). "Radio Puketapu stakeholder has pirate past". Otago Daily Times. Allied Press Limited. Retrieved 30 June 2011.

    Further reading

    External links


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