The offshore radio future for Radio Caroline

I recently wrote about offshore radio and Radio Caroline being the last ever offshore radio station (here).  

Peter Moore from Radio Caroline made the following comment, which I have elevated into its own article here in order to give it more prominence.  Peter Moore writes:

Your summary of Radio Caroline is correct in many respects. When launched, it did not have to be particularly good, it only had to play music all the time, round the clock, which the BBC would not do and Radio Luxembourg could not do.

As you say, the station was silent for long blocks of time and last broadcast a signal from a ship beyond UK territory 23 years ago.

The present incarnation of Caroline using Satellite, Internet (here) and Apps, now represents the longest span of unbroken transmissions of the station’s history.

Radio Caroline was placed on a ship in 1964 since at the time, this was the only way to operate a private radio station.

This era will never return for legal and practical reasons and because of technology and because of the huge proliferation of radio stations on platforms that did not exist years ago. The cake has not really got any bigger but it is now sliced into hundreds of tiny slivers.

The present Radio Caroline is enjoyed by sufficient people that it can be sustained by their voluntary donations. It entertains them and does no harm. Agreed it is not ground breaking only in that it is not profit driven and can thus play a higher percentage of music per hour than stations that have to fill their time with advertisements and promotions.

It is fine to look back at the history of offshore radio with nostalgia. It was a charismatic thing to do and there were many adventures.

But, there are a tiny number of people who have turned it in to a complex religion, where the only true God is an AM radio signal coming from a pirate ship in the ocean. These are the Ultra Orthodox Anoraks. Others, less radical, will accept a signal that is licensed so long as it comes from a ship. Maybe they can barely hear it, but will tune in anyway as it represents ‘Offshore Radio’. Some will listen to a modern means of delivery such as Internet, so long as the signal originates from a person sitting on a ship.

Obviously it cannot be proven 100%, absolutely, certain, for sure, that nobody will ever again put a radio station on ship far out to sea. So the Ultraraks speculate on how this might be done. What might it cost, would the authorities close it down?

One person asks to be given £30,000 to revive offshore radio, but refuses to say when, where and how. Another feels that it would cost maybe a million pounds as everything ought to be done by the book and with high wages for all concerned.

It is harmless enough stuff with which to pass the time.

I could pose the question, that if my age were magically halved, my hair transformed from grey back to brown and if I became a Rock Star and my penis doubled in size, how many groupies might I sleep with per tour and what would their names be.

Some of these guys would say this was a ridiculous question, but I swear that some would say ‘about twenty, called Suzy, Lulu, Tracey, Linda ‘ etc. While others would ask how long the mythical tour may be, which country and whether I would play Classic Rock, Melodic Rock or Heavy Metal.

Peter Moore.
(Guest Author)


  1. I cannot take this seriously since 1) looking back at the history of offshore radio cannot be defined as a “charismatic thing to do”. somebody might manage to do it in a charismatic way (Michael Portillo ?) but this is not what you said. 2) radio Caroline would ever have a studio like that. there is reason to expect valve and dial based mixers to go away any time soon.


  2. sorry try again:-
    I cannot take this seriously since 1) looking back at the history of offshore radio cannot be defined as a “charismatic thing to do”. somebody might manage to do it in a charismatic way (Michael Portillo ?) but this is not what you said. 2) radio Caroline would NEVER have a studio like that. There's NO reason to expect valve and dial based mixers to go away any time soon.


  3. I really do not understand all the mental masturbation of putting a ship to broadcast music in 2013.
    To begin with it costs a small fortune and anyway where would the ads come from.
    In 2013 the transistor radio has been replaced by the mobile entertainment tool called a SmartPhone.
    Companies actually take well run net stations very seriously. Ask Mr Barclays who I have just been talking to for a listener who now has his correct bank balance and a letter of apology on the way. I can just see that happening from a ship based station – NOT!
    Like so many others, I love the fact I was around in the 60s. There again I was equally excited with other eras such as satellite and now FREE RADIO via the internet. All have and will have great points of nostalgia for those you enjoy the services on offer today. Before anyone jumps in, yes there are thousands of stations available – the major difference is you can actually hear them when and where you like, even up mountains 🙂
    Have a good Easter Weekend


  4. Does anyone have listening figures for an internet station?. Pick an live? OK stupid example – Caroline then. example of real DJs and on all the time. I hear 200 from some 2Million from the guys themselves. One day soon ish this may be the standard way of doing it – when it becomes easy in the car.
    Yes AM from a ship was iffy in the late 70s and certainly today is nuts albeit orgasmic obviously.

    I missed the 60s go at this but at the risk of becoming tedious it had a good second shot in the 80s -specifically Laser 558 but Caroline 558 was a good sound too.

    For me the current incarnation is quite professional but does not really do it for me. it's really the oldies that get on my pinny.


  5. I only know our figures.
    They are in hours listened not people. When we created our graph it showed 20.000 hrs of listening a month. Obviously that could be 80.000 people listening for fifteen minutes, or a much, much smaller number listening for long blocks of time.
    I only know that now our hours are 210.000 a month. That is a good improvement and it seems to increase by 8% a year. Again I do not know how many humans that equates to. Someone said that to attract a serious advertiser you need a million hours a month so we have a way to go, but that figure could have been plucked out of the air.
    I am not going to argue about my use of the word ' charismatic '. I think that is our studio pictured, that is based in Kent. There are two traditional studios on the old boat and one modern one as well.

    Peter Moore.


  6. Peter

    thanks for the considered reply and those stats. Interesting. Good that internet lets you get that info without commission some agency. Agree interpreting into numbers of punters is tricky, but please to see you must be in some thousands (if I can add up).

    from what I've heard you have a good sound and with a volunteer base this is a credit to all.

    I pine for son of 558 format, perhaps only for your possible AM service. On internet I accept the mission statement as carving a niche

    Am not alone in noting caroline's place in radio history. it is always good to know she continues, even if I feel the AM deal would make it feel more like the old girl.

    happy birthday (to the old girl/queen)


  7. “In 2013 the transistor radio has been replaced by the mobile entertainment tool called a SmartPhone.” – say it as many times as you like, but actually, smartphone listening is a tiny proportion of internet radio listening, which in turn is a tiny – TINY – proportion of all radio listening.


  8. Mrs Trellis ??

    Reminds me of that criminal Ray Ling, the Chinese fence. Boat That Rocked was quite a while ago and you must realise that each news piece gets maybe a minute or two at the best. With the opening announcement, where the presenter establishes the story, some archive audio and some arty camera angles, the interviewee i.e. me may get 15 seconds to get a point across. So, one says the most relevant thing in the fewest possible words. I tend to say, concerning the ship, that we would like to use her for her original purpose, and that is sufficiently open ended. But equaly I might tell a fib for dramatic effect.

    If I said ' Well it is not possible to tell what the future holds, hopefully we will be able to use the boat maybe as a tourist venue, but that depends on where we can place her i.e. in a public or private location or maybe on a river ', that woud be edited out and the presenter would say ' When asked, Radio Caroline have no clear idea what to do with this piece of radio history '.

    Peter Moore


  9. Actually Eric, how far away from mobile phone signals are most mountains? However my little Eton E5 radio will work just fine at the top, even if I have no credit left for data.

    Given the keys to Ross Revenge and enough for a few months worth of diesel, I'd have that wank.

    The USA radio market seems to still listen to ye olde AM radio, don't write it off yet!



  10. Keep up Earnest,

    Is there an 'a' in there that should not be present. Maybe you are ' The Importance Of Being Ernest '.
    I said that it was OK to look back at the history of offshore radio wth nostalgia. I said that the activity itself was charismatic not the observation thereof. Indeed it was, i.e. exciting, dangerous, adventurous, mysterious etc.
    This is why some people are still captivated by the memory of something that they never actually took part in, but they feel sure they know what it must have been like.
    Bit like speculating what it is like to have sex with Vanessa Paradis. A thousand opinions, but Johnny Depp knows for sure.

    Peter Moore.


  11. Hard to argue with the facts, tragically. Whilst I found Mr Moore's predecessor funnier – on my route to the station with his critique of the handling shortfalls of the Vauxhall Nova – I have met Mr M and respect him.

    That said if Roger Day, a famous ex Caroline bod, says, as he does, it should go back to sea and he'd do it all again, that's good enough for me. And so would I. Can't we go to Dragon's Den – I will make up the business case.

    having just listened to said tribute on, who on earth needs porn sites.


  12. Peter, I was being mischievous as you doubtless guessed. You did make the best of the opportunity and I have to admit I cannot think of a better approach. of course the academic point you raised (for the student/orthodox anorak) is “does broadcasting offshore (legally) make a difference to the station/presenters' style”. I guess it makes no sense that it would, any more than when anchored in Tilbury or wherever. Unless perhaps being on it (rather than a studio on land) reminds the presenter of the legacy/freedom of it.

    thanks, Mrs T

    (PS Mrs T is a artificial letter writer to the radio 4 programme I'm sorry I haven't a Clue. New series coming soon)


  13. I first stumbled across Caroline in the late 70s. became obsessed. Don't fully know why. Probably the illegality and the fact it was there against the odds. I wrote about it in the school magazine – having been challenged to, since I was going in about it all the time. Even promoted Loving Awareness and played Peace by Peter in a school assembly. They bought the peace message a bit but said I was a huge caroline nerd. I was. The daft thing is I did not really like the music. I much preferred the dutch Radio Mi Amigo and even picked up some of the lingo (a sail has just fallen off your windmill etc). In the 80s it was perfect for me, some witty and good DJs. now I listen, I feel sad. The 70s format is back, but, aside from the great sound quality, feels worse because I think I recall the 70s incarnation playing more current albums. I admit to not listening to the whole output but what I hear sounds serious, with good deep voices, with very little fun or wit. I'm sorry to say I don't feel anoraky about it any more. I would not listen if it were back at sea. I would just be pleased in principle she was out there. I'm disappointed too to observe no celebration/ top 30 for the birthday. As someone else commented Roger Day seems to be the only person with an enthusiasm to impart the history and reminisce to the long term fans. And those fans may well not be orthodox anoraks – just people for whom Caroline was central to their youth in the 60s.

    Now on the topic itself, I don't see that the 'back at sea' is the point. The at sea question seems to be what marketing folks tell me is 'implementation detail'. They would say you need to step back and confirm the strategy. For example 1) define the target market – music style and audience 2) decide that making it easy to receive is important – perhaps this includes “in a quality suited to a music station” 3) define the USPs – maybe this is the name, the goodwill and the history.

    The need for financial viability goes witout saying – clearly offshore fails any test, aside from the legal no go, and does not deliver 2013 level of listenability.

    The current album focus is a niche, which is fine, and seems to be aimed at the aging legacy caroline listeners. I see Christopher E has views on this business of whether a station should age with the listeners or stay put. I vote for the latter. In 1983 18 year olds were listening to Caroline – a new generation. Why have we in 2013 apparently switched focus to 50+ years olds?. An internet station lends itself to specialism and I am pleased to see the current set up is meeting a need, is viable and growing. But if Caroline ever again goes terrestrial please re consider the format. I'd urge you to pitch it between ILR and Radio 1. more new music than commercial but maybe reign back a bit from the whole hog and the “street talk” style of radio 1. The result should suit 30 plus as well as the “oldies” who do NOT want to hear the music they grew up with for ever more.

    many thanks


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