#OTD in 1967 – The Marine Broadcasting Offences Act became law.

This was the Act by which the government sought to ban broadcasts by ‘pirate’ radio stations, mostly operating from ships outside the UK’s territorial waters. These had flourished since 28 March 1964, when Radio Caroline went on the air and initiated a spate of such ventures, proving the public appetite for music-based commercial radio. 

When it came into force at midnight on 14 August only one station, Radio Caroline, defied it and continued on air. Caroline even turned the tables by claiming the Act recognised her right to be at sea and broadcast. Caroline’s radioships, the former Radio Atlanta boat Mi Amigo anchored off Harwich and the MV Caroline near the Isle of Man, were tendered by the Dutch tender company Wijsmuller. When payment by Caroline didn’t arrive at all, the boss of Wijsmuller decided it was time to act. On 3 March 1968 in the very early hours of the morning both radioships were towed away by strong tugs and brought into Amsterdam harbour. They were auctioned in May 1972. The Caroline organisation succeeded to buy the MV Mi Amigo back, so they could restart their programmes in September 1972.

Radio Caroline came on-air and pioneered British broadcasting’s development. Even when faced with tough competition, it managed to carve a niche and won the hearts of millions of listeners — not only in Britain, but also in Ireland and on the Continent. From 10,000 Watts it became 50,000 Watts on an even better frequency. From playing pretty-much easy listening and jazz, R&B and swing, it became the station that promoted new music — from Tamla to Stax, Atlantic and so much more.

Despite a setback in 1968, it returned in the early seventies and brought Europe the first taste of the album format. In the eighties, aboard the superb Ross Revenge with its 300 foot antenna mast, Radio Caroline was a match for anyone — even the popular Laser 558. But time went on and Radio Caroline was allowed to fizzle out. 

MV Mi Amigo, Radio Caroline, 2 March 1976 (catalogue reference: HO 255/1235)

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