Could Radio Caroline return from a ship at sea?

I read with interest that some men who wear armchairs want to re-start Radio Caroline back in the North Sea as a pirate radio station.  Back in the 1960s Radio Caroline did this very thing and was very popular for so doing.

When it finally died in 1990, nobody really knew it was there apart from the thousand or so devoted ‘anoraks’ who loved it so dearly.  Radio had moved on and normal listeners too.  Radio Caroline had been left behind.

So, when I happened upon a romantic sounding proposal to take the ship it last used back out to sea, I, as a fellow sufferer of anoraksia, smiled nostalgically.  Yes, it does sound exciting for those who recall this international radio station broadcasting across the UK and parts of Europe.  The idea that a ship could once again park itself at sea and play songs without paying royalties, seems a cool idea.

However, out from the shadowy darkness of their snarling pits came the frantic tapping of keyboards from further men wearing armchairs.

Their negativity ranged from suggesting that the ship was not seaworthy, through to those saying it wasn’t seaworthy being accused of being part of a group of squatters who wanted to keep the ship to themselves.  (The actual owners of the ship have kept themselves quiet for the last couple of decades whilst a group occupying the ship have lovingly tended it and kept it from the knackers’ yard.)

One lot suggested that taking it back to sea would instantly cause the Government to blow it out of the water with Anglo-French sea-to-sea missiles, or a million storm troopers boarding it and shooting everybody in a style more suited to Israelis boarding a ship bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza.  Another lot suggested it would finally give various commercial radio networks a kick up the arse and show them how it was done.

Well, I can’t see any of this.  I mean, were a radio ship to park up and start broadcasting Radio Caroline from without our territorial waters, nobody would really notice.  Most radio listening is done via FM.  Radio ships can’t really broadcast very far on FM (due to their lack of height by being at ‘sea-level’) and so have to broadcast on AM. Nobody in this country listens to AM except for sport commentary.  They certainly aren’t listening to music radio on AM.  Why would anybody want to do that?  So, in that context, nobody would know Radio Caroline was back, let alone the missile-toting ‘Authorities’.

As for giving the commercial radio networks a kick up the arse, that would require some form of modern or different and radical new programming.  Historically it was actually the commercial radio stations that showed Radio Caroline ‘how radio should be done’.  By 1990, the listeners had moved on and were happily tuned to legal stations.  Listeners had left Radio Caroline all alone just broadcasting its unadventurous programming to itself and its loyal band of anoraks.  However, Radio Caroline never responded to this obvious kick up its arse, and so by its 1990 death it had become a bit of a joke and a parody of its former self, unfortunately.

In truth, there are radio stations out there giving the commercial radio sector a kick.  These are today’s pirates. They are on FM, covering huge population areas, and building massive audiences amongst the young by doing what the offshore stations of the 1960s did – playing young people’s popular music and presenting it in the style that fits the day.

The constant patter of the DJs and MCs that accompanies the latest dubstep or even slightly old-school house from these stations like (that are internet only stations that some irresponsible well-wishers re-broadcast via London-wide FM transmitters) shows commercial radio how it should be done.  Career progressions for those very DJs and MCs being via legal stations like Kiss, Choice or BBC 1Xtra, in a very similar vibe to how the offshore pirates of the 1960s came ashore and infested BBC Radio 1 and the early commercial radio sector.

So, to be honest, I can’t really see how a return of Radio Caroline from the North Sea would be anything but an embarrassing failure all round.  However, as an anorak, I’d enjoy it if it happened.


  1. We will have to beg to differ on your conclusion. Be assured that Caroline has a dedicated core group working hard to return her to the international waters. We firmly believe a free Radio Caroline is the way forward. We hope to be celebrating her 50th birthday back where she belongs. Why not join us in our efforts to keep the dream alive?


  2. Just writing to support the article and its, to my mind, very fair and honest conclusion which I share. Yes, I wish the 'group' all the best and, yes, I'd tune in to the AM or internet broadcast and even encourage my teenage children to do so too on the day, but this would be very much from an old fan's aspect of nostalgia. Unless the broadcasts, DJs and music are really remarkable I will inevitably re-tune after a while to the likes of Johnnie Walker, Tony Blackburn or even The Oldies Project. There is so much good stuff on radio, tv and the internet nowadays that simply wasn't there in 1966 when I was 14 and the pirates were essential listening.
    Incidentally, if it were not for CE, I would never even have known anything about this!


  3. This is nothing new Chris – It is what it is and if the Ross was still out there, just how would it be any different?

    You refer negatively to the post 1990 period and team – have you a chip on your shoulder that you are not part of this operation.

    Who know's what the future holds – did we think that Rinse would ever be licensed…


  4. I refer 'negatively', as you put it, to the pre-1990 period. The article is about a ship at sea -vs- licensed land-based radio. Radio Caroline ceased broadcasting at sea in 1990, and for its latter years before its death, post Laser probably, the public had tuned away and were listening to what stations on land had to offer, is the driving point I was making.

    If the Ross Revenge was still out there, there'd still be nobody listening!

    As for Rinse, well, Kiss being licensed should be an indicator that stations like Rinse will be licensed as and when they can be, so, yes, we did think that Rinse would be licensed.

    PS, Loving the “chip on your shoulder” argument. Where in the article am I talking about anything post the 1990 death at sea?


  5. Goodness Me Chris !

    I enjoyed posting stuff on your forum and each morning, prior to looking at my e mails, I would look at a couple of Anorak discussion sites and http://www.rampant nymphs ( er, delete that ) and England's England. But then I became very busy and drifted away from E's E for many months.
    Now I take another look and there you are still banging an about Radio Caroline.
    You still don't think much of it. Yes, we know that already. Maybe you feel that the final days at sea could havbe been better handled. Yep, we heard that before. You feel that the music is unremarkable. No change of view there then.
    Is there some time clock in your clever head that says 'Hey Chris, time to moan about Radio Caroline again'. But really my old pal, you have nothing left to say.
    Can't you just let it be ?


    Peter Moore.


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