draft of data collected from a number of sources
- this page not complete.
Interest here is
how British Governments have regulated radio from
1874 - Guglielmo
Marconi born on 25th April in Bologna.
1895 - The first
wireless transmissions at Villa Griffone,
1896 - Marconi
comes to London in February to exploit his
invention. The British patent number 12039 is
filed on the 2nd June.
1897 - The
Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company is
registered on the 20th July.
1899 - The Hall
Street Works, Chelmsford is acquired by the
Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company to become
the first radio factory in the world.
1899 - Marconi
achieving ranges of sixty miles. His equipment
used for ship to shore communication.
1901 - The famous
'7777' patent granted allowing simultaneous
broadcasts on different frequencies. Company name
changed to Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company.
The Marconi International Marine Communication
Company Ltd. formed.
1902 - Pouson
developed the arc transmitter.
1906 - R.A.
Fessenden, USA, transmitted speech over several
1909 - Nobel prize
for Physics awarded to Guglielmo Marconi and Karl
Ferdinand Braun "in recognition of their
contribution to the development of wireless
1910 - Arrest of
the infamous Dr. Crippen and his mistress
following a wireless message from S.S.
Montrose to New Scotland Yard.
1912 - Wireless
distress calls from the Titanic save 705
1913 - German
wireless station in Nauen transmitted morse 1550
1914 - Marconi
Company start experimental speech transmissions
from Marconi House London.
1915 - American
Telephone and Telegraph Co. with Western Electric
sent speech fron The Naval station in Arlington
to The Eiffel Tower.
1918 - The Marconi
Co. start experimental speech transmissions from
Iceland to North America.
1919 - Marconi
buys yacht Elettra as a floating
1919 - The Armed
Forces put pressure on the Post Office to ban
further broadcasts until the Government could
think up ways of regulating it.
1920s - 250,000
amateur radio enthusists in the early 1920s -
annual licence fee imposed upon them by the
1920s - In
the twenties, Marconi's Managing Director,
Godfrey Isaacs became embroiled in what was to
become known as the Marconi Scandal. A Select
Committee had to be set up to investigate the
serious allegations of insider dealing between
himself; his brother Isaac Rufus (who was then
Attorney General); the Postmaster General,
Herbert Samuel and the Prime Minister, Lloyd
George. Licences were eventually issued by
the Government allowing stations to broadcast
just 15 minutes a week.
1920 - The first
advertised public broadcast programme. A song
recital by Dame Nellie Melba is broadcast from
the Marconi works in Chelmsford.
1920 - Start of
twice daily experimental programmes from
23 February 1920 -
Broadcasting tests start from The Marconi Company
22 Jun 1920 - Dame
Nellie Melba sings from Chelmsford.
1921 - Regular
programmes start from The Strand. Other stations
set up in Birmingham and Manchester.
1922 - Broadcasts
commence from Marconi House in London (2LO) and
The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) is formed
by Marconi and five other companies.
1922 - First
broadcast made from a wooden hut at Writtle near
Chlemsford by Peter Eskersley (1892 - 1963).
Ceased broadcasting on 17 January 1923.
Real Audio of Writtle Broadcast.
1922 14 Feb - 1st
broadcast from Marconi station 2MT at Writtle.
11 May 1922 - 1st
broadcast from Marconi station 2LO LONDON.
16 May - 1st
broadcast Metropolitan Vickers 2ZY Manchester.
18 October 1922 -
Government decides to let only one
company to broadcast - the British Broadcasting
July 1922, one of these new stations broadcast
some rather trivial local news of a garden fete.
The press were quick to respond, calling it:
"unconsidered trifles of the lightest
type," so the Conservative Government
resumed responsibility for broadcasting and
formed the British Broadcasting Company Limited
under the directorship of a rather dour Scotsman
called John Reith. Sculptor Eric Gill was
commissioned to work on a statue of Ariel, now
posing above the doorway of Broadcasting House.
Real audio of Lord Reith.
1 Nov - Broadcast
Receiving Licence started. 10 shillings per year.
BBC given monopoly status for public radio
14 Nov - The
British Broadcasting Company first station 2LO
2LO London, 5IT
Birmingham, 2ZY Manchester.
24 December 1922 -
13 February 1923 -
6 March 1923 - 5SC
10 October 1923 -
17 October 1923 -
21 July 1924 - 5XX
tests on Long Wave.
1925 Radio Paris.
First commercial broadcast from the Eiffel Tower
in English by Captain L.F. Plugge.
31 December 1926 -
Government decides to control all
broadcasting. British Broadcasting Corporation
1926, 16 participating European countries,
including Britain, sat at the first conference on
radio in Geneva and carved up the airwaves
Radio Luxembourg, Captain Plugge toured France
with the very first car radio manufactured by
Philco and beamed music from Radio Normandy to
Britain after midnight. 'Auntie'was not amused.
Even less so when she heard the French government
was behind the 200 kilowatts of dance music
pumping out from Luxembourg to England every
night. The Postmaster General wrote to the Head
of the BBC saying: "We must use all our
influence to stop this." In an internal memo
of 7th April 1933, the BBC suggested persuading
leading newspapers not to refer to it. It went on
to say: "It seems to me that a possible way
of combating Luxembourg would be to allot the
wavelength to somebody else, not as their only
wavelength, but to get someone with a sporting
spirit to take it on and try and clear the
- Hilversum broadcasts Sunday concerts.
- Radio Toulosse in English until 1931.
1931 - International Broadcasting Company starts
transmissions over Radio Normandie.
1932 - Radio Luxembourg - 1250 metres tests.
1933 - Radio Luxembourg starts transmissions.
Real Audio clips from Luxembourg and Normandy.
British Government monitored Radio Luxembourg
from its listening post at Tatsfield, compiled a
list of foreign stations they claimed might be
experiencing interference, and demanded
Luxembourg accepted a frequency more befitting
the size of the country. Luxembourg refused. The
Government then successfully persuaded the
Newspaper Publisher's Association to completely
censor any information connected with Radio
By now, any
artistes who worked for Radio Luxembourg were
blacked by the BBC while its own announcers spoke
in punctilious statements between records and
women addressed the microphones in ball gowns.
1937 - Guglielmo
Marconi dies in Rome on 20th July. The Company
starts Government orders for 'Chain Home'
stations, Britain's first air defence radar
- All overseas broadcasts stop except Radio
International from Normandie. Closed in 1940.
During the war,
Radio Luxembourg was used as a propaganda station
by the occupying German fascists. In 1944, a
special American task force under the direction
of the Psychological Warfare Division liberated
the station and silenced Lord Haw-Haw's (alias
William Joyce's) infamous voice. He was later
hanged for treason.
Real Audio of Lord Haw Haw.
- Of the continetnal broadcasts to Britain, only
Radio Luxembourg recommenced broadcasting.
the fifties, the 500 or so new records released
each week in Britain could only be aired on the
BBC Light Programme's 'Mid-day Spin', Sunday's
'Family Favourites'or the daily
In 1960, Macmillan's
Conservative Government set up the Pilkington
Committee to discuss local radio of which they
found "no evidence of public demand". However they did recommend
a trial, but the Government resisted in its White
Paper of July 1962 saying that they "would
prefer to take cognisance of public reactions
before reaching a decision". (A little
difficult considering the last time the public
had heard local radio was before the Home Service
was set up at the outset of World WarII)!
very first European offshore free radio station -
one of a handful, off Scandinavia - was Radio
Mercur, broadcasting off Denmark in 1958. The
Scandinavian Governments put their heads together
to enact their own anti-'pirate'legislation on
August 1st, 1962. Radio Syd, however, continued
and resulted in the imprisonment, in Sweden, of
the station's owner, Ms Britt Wadner.
benefited by the arrival of Radio Scotland whose
broadcasts reached then from off the coast at
Dunbar on 242 metres from the MV Comet on New
Year's Eve 1965 before it sailed round the coast
to broadcast off Troon.
In 1964, channel
tracking stations watched as several new radio
stations set themselves up around the British
coast. One of them was Radio Caroline, carrying
Britain's popular DJ: Kenny Everitt.
Postmaster General, Reginald Bevins, declared
that Radio Caroline was causing interference to a
Belgian station concerned with communications to
ships at sea and that she was interfering with
British Maritime Services. A former BBC radio
engineer reported back in theaily Mail that Radio
Caroline was broadcasting nowhere near the
Post Office cut off the ship-to-shore service and
permitted its use for maritime emergency use
only. They then set about warning the general
public that they would be liable for prosecution
under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1949 if they
even so much as listened to the stations!
and Excise Officials sent out the Venturous in an
attempt to board Radio Caroline to see her bonded
stores. After it was pointed out to them that the
ship was in international waters they steamed
away. HM Customs and Excise ruled that passports
had to be carried by all persons on board tenders
going out to the ships. HM Waterguard, HM
Immigration. Special Branch, CID, Board of Trade,
Ministry of Transport, British Railways, the Port
of Health Authority, Trinity House and the Local
Harbour Board continued to make regular
inspections and Caroline House in Chesterfield
Gardens was forbidden an entry in the GPO
It was reported
that less than 1% didn't support the stations.
The Daily Telegraph reported that "Radio
Caroline has a bigger afternoon audience in the
areas that it covers than all the BBC programmes
put together." The Labour Government was
determined to ignore public opinion, but with
such a slim majority they couldn't risk taking
any action at this stage. Conservative
backbenchers, however, were making maximum
capital out of the situation, openly supporting
the free radio stations.
sudden introduction of The Continental Shelf Act
in September 1964 extended UK territorial waters
to include the continental shelf and putpaid to
stations like Radio Sutch and 390 broadcasting
from old sea forts whose structures rested on it.
Ships would not be affected by this act since
they were afloat and outside the three-mile
limit. Talk by some of the free radio stations of
moving to the only fort outside this new limit
was thwarted at the last minute. The Government
had it blown up.
21-year old Jean
Ollis appeared in a series of BBC advertisements
that read: "People like me like the BBC
Third Programme", (the forerunner of Radio
Three). After payment she was happy to announce
that she in fact listened to Radio Caroline.
attempted to put its case backed by a team of
independent radio experts but were unable to gain
any time on BBC radio or television to do so.
Phonographic Performance Limited and the
Musicians' Union also refused to discuss the
matter with them. Radio Caroline was particularly
eager to point out that prior to its broadcasts
just four companies owned 100% of record sales.
The free radio stations had been successful in
whittling that down to 80% in just three years.
All the leading stations continued to pay money
to the Performing Rights Society and were
regularly bombarded by performers and promoters,
eager to have their material broadcast.
1967, after just three years of opening, the
National Opinion Polls announced Radio Caroline
had the greatest weekly audience of any
commercial station in the world.
Labour Government under Harold Wilson did its
best to avoid free radio becoming an election
issue until they had a bigger majority in the
House: which they did in 1966. Then, the
Postmaster General, Tony Benn, prepared the case
against free radio. He argued that they stole
wavelengths; paid no copyright on the records
played; were a hazard to shipping as they
interfered with ship-to-shore communication;
flouted international regulations and gave the
country a bad name abroad. The Government went on
to cite 12 European countries registering
complaints of interference with their own
authorised broadcasts. They were all signatories
of the Strasbourg Treaty.
one minute past midnight on 15th August 1967 the
Marine Offences etc bill became an Act of
Parliament and one by one, the offshore free
radio stations closed down.
March 1964 - Radio Caroline from International
Waters off Felixstowe.
May 1964 - Radio Atlanta starts.
May 1964 - Screeming Lord Sutch starts
transmissions from the Shivering Sands Fort.
June 1964 - Jeremy Thorpe - "A radio
station could easily be inflamatory, seditious,
obscene or undesirable, with no protection to the
August 1967 - Marine Broadcast Offences
Marine Offences Act, young listeners were left at
the mercy of BBC ' Wonderful' Radio One. Records
were selected by a panel of five producers headed
by a woman in her fifties and by the end of 1973.
Edward Heath's Government was establishing local
commercial radio stations licensed by the
Independent Broadcasting Authority, (IBA). The
Director General was appointed by the Prime
Minister, and the 11 Government Appointees
selected from a Civil Service list. The IBA
stations pressed ahead with their expansion
across the country, imposing themselves upon the
listening public in varying degrees of awfulness.
By 1970. the Dutch free radio station, Radio
Veronica was Joined by a new Dutch neighbour:
Radio North Sea International. On FM, Medium Wave
and Short Wave, RNI - like the BBC World Service
- could be heard world-wide from its transmitters
on the MV Mebo II, anchored in international
British Government ordered jamming of the
transmissions; something no western nation had
ever done since the war. In 1973, Billboard's top selling
pop newspaper, Record Mirror, were stunned by the
results of their survey which saw BBC Radio One
collect less than 5% of votes for best radio
station! Radio North Sea International, Radio
Caroline and even the Dutch service of Radio
Veronica were voted better in the poll. European
Governments abiding by the terms of the
Strasbourg Treaty put heavy pressure on Holland
to close the stations. At midnight
on August 31st, 1974, minister Harry van Doorn
successfully introduced legislation to close the
All but one ship
stayed at sea to broadcast. Whilst Radio Caroline
broadcast album music in the evening, another
entrepreneur, Sylvan Tack, the manufacturer of
'Suzy' waffles In Belgium, broadcast the Dutch
language programmes of Radio Mi Amigo from the MV
Mi Amigo 18 miles from the English coast. Radio
Mi Amigo broke a virtual American monopoly an
imported music to Britain. In 1975 the Belgium
police carried out raids in search of the offices
of Radio Mi Amigo but Sylvan Tack had moved all
the operations to Playa de Aro in Spain, a
country not yet a signatory of the Strasbourg
Convention. The British Government assisted the
Belgians by making frequent raids on any boat
tendering the MV Mi Amigo from Britain. Of those
tenders making the Journey from Spain, they were
escorted by two Police launches, a Naval Patrol
Boat and a helicopter. A fishing boat, anchored
half a mile from the ship was staffed by British
Government officials and photographers.
Government were monitoring Radios Caroline and Mi
Amigo from their listening post, more sinister
developments were taking place on land. On
January 11th, 1979, the police and a Home Office
official raided the home of Derek McCauney, a
medical student, without a search warrant. A
model boat bearing the name Mi Amigo was found
and McCauney was arrested and charged with
advertising a 'pirate'radio station. He had been
making a number of these boats to sell at a
benefit dance in aid of a children's hospital.
About the same time, the printers of the Caroline
Newsletter, Southline Printers, producing a
hand-typed newsheet for free radio enthusiasts
campaigning for a review of Clause 5.3 (f) of the
Marine Offences Act, had pressure put on them by
representatives from Scotland Yard to stop
printing and Michael Brigden and Carolyn Oakley
appeared in court facing 24 charges under the
Marine Offences Act for offering for sale various
souvenirs of Radio Caroline in their magazine.
Geoffrey Baldwin. the founder of the Caroline
Movement was also visited by Scotland Yard. He
had the facilities of a PO Box address used by
the Caroline Movement withdrawn and was also
warned that he might face prosecution.
April 1975, free radio supporter Jackson Hunter
was convicted after refusing to pay his fine in
Liverpool Magistrate's Court and subsequently
imprisoned for 60 days for displaying a Radio
Caroline car-sticker! David Hutson was also
convicted and fined for selling badges bearing
the words: 'Radio Caroline'. LASER 558 On January 19th
1984, a new free radio station took up anchor
close to Radio Caroline: Laser 558.
backing, Laser 558 began broadcasting from the MV
Communicator anchored 14 miles off the Essex
coast and quickly became very popular as the
first station to use women deejays. With its
claimed audience of 8 million listeners, mostly
in southern England, it was seriously threatening
the BBC/IBA duopoly on radio broadcasting whose
listeners were deserting then in droves for the
brash, new American station. The American
Government was asked for their assistance in
identifying the stations financial backers and
Lord Thomson of the IBA accused the Government of
'apparently condoning theft' of the airwaves for
not acting more firmly against Laser. Both
Vatican Radio and Voice of America are amongst
many stations that have not been
'allocated'wavelengths. The USA boarded their
only free radio station after just 4 days of
broadcasting yet regularly beam 'pirate' TV
programmes to Cuba. In Britain, the attempt to
broadcast anti-Chinese Government propaganda from
the Goddess Of Democracy was met with widespread
support from MP's and programmes from a ship
broadcasting to the former Yugoslavia even
received financial backing from the EC. During
the course of their programmes, the MV
Communicator was told by North Foreland Radio
that they were getting interference, claiming
their transmissions were coming out over their
signal on 500Khz. Laser 558 switched off its
transmitter but still the interference persisted.
Radio Caroline offered to turn off its
transmitter to see if the interference could be
traced to then. It could not, and was later
traced to BBC Radio One and the World Service.
During the early
eighties, a profusion of small, land-based pirate
stations were taking to the airwaves. Their
popularity was briefly glamourised by Lenny
Henry's portrayal of Delbert Wilkins of the
Brixton Broadcasting Corporation. Robert Atkins,
Under-Secretary of State for Industry remarked
rather ominously: "It has been suggested to
the BBC that they should consider their
position." New legislation was brought
in making it a criminal offence to make an
unlicenced broadcast with a prison sentence of up
to five years!
The DTI erected notices all around the British
coast warning boat owners the penalties of
supplying 'pirate'radio ships and began an
expensive surveillance operation 15 miles off the
English coast beside the MV Communicator and MV
Ross Revenge. The DTI kept records of any
visiting vessels and journalists and passed them
on to the Director of Public Prosecutions. An
embarrassing situation occurred one weekend when
the DTI vessel gave chase to a boat full of
sightseers. A Customs and Excise Vessel came out,
presumably to watch the ships while the DTI
vessel was away. As it prepared to leave, the DTI
vessel ordered It to stop. At this point the
Customs boat sped off north with the DTI vessel
in hot persuit. "We are a Customs
boat!" they called back on the radio
telephone. Another sightseeing boat had meanwhile
come out to see the ships, so the DTI vessel
simply turned round and chased that back to
Ramsgate instead. On occasion, it has been
alleged the DTI vessels cut across the bows of
visiting boats. The DTI counterclaim this with
reports of sightseers pelting them with bottles.
The DTI called a conference of hand-picked media
representatives to explain why they wanted the
stations off the air, adding that it was costing
the taxpayer around ukp25,000 a month.
On November 6th
1985, the Government gained a substantial victory
and, after a long siege, the MV Communicator,
home of Laser 558 was escorted into Harwich.
RADIO CAROLINE Anthony Elliot, editor of London's
Time Out magazine was prosecuted for two offences
in 1987 of publishing times, wavelengths, and
contents of Radio Caroline's broadcasts. Time Out
said it saw the prosecution "as another
attack on the freedom of the press. The case
calls into question the legality of any media
examination where such examination Includes the
report of truthful information about station
operations or programmes. Apparently, the
Government wishes the public to believe that
pirate radio stations do not really exist. So the
media must not, on pain of heavy fines, report
any evidence to the contrary." Howard Beer,
a boat owner who was unsure of the legality of
organising sightseeing trips to Radio Caroline
telephoned the DTI for clarification. He received
no satisfactory reply and when he was
subsequently arrested, received a nine month
prison sentence. It was overturned after seven
weeks in remand by an appeal court ruling the
sentence too long. Quite suddenly, the Government
introduced the Territorial Sea Act, 1987,
extending British territorial waters to a further
twelve miles. The incident went virtually
unnoticed. It took the unusual course of being
passed in the House of Lords before receiving a
reading in the House of Commons, this being
because it was considered a 'non-political bill.'
The MV Ross Revenge took up anchor from her
previously safe haven in the Knock Deep and moved
14 miles off the English coast off North
Foreland. Like Peter Tatchell of Outrage, John
Birch of the Caroline Movement claimed his
organisation and that of Caroline's had been
subject to phone tapping, saying: "a certain
amount of key Information had only been discussed
on certain telephone lines. This immediately
caused Caroline's Station Manager, Peter Moore to
have some checks made on certain telephone lines.
Radio Caroline has a number of high level
contacts within various organisations and it was
soon established that at least four groups of
telephone lines had been found tapped into."
For several weeks the MV Ross Revenge went under
surveillance by the DTI who anchored a mile from
the ship at night and flew low-flying light
aircraft over the ship to take photographs while
a helicopter filmed the ship and crew. Tenders
approaching the ship were warned there was a
half-mile exclusion zone round her. At 10.50 on
August 18th 1989, John Lennon's 'Imagine'and
Chris de Burgh's 'Lady In Red', were broadcast
indicating an emergency on board. At 12.22,
broadcasts from the Dutch station on 819kHz
abruptly ceased in mid-record, unceremoniously
ending 30 years of Dutch free radio to Belgium
and Holland. Music continued on Radio Caroline's
frequency on 558kHz. Radio Caroline's 13.00 news
revealed that the Landward, a vessel of the DTI
carrying DTI officials and Dutch PTT officials
had attempted to board the ship to 'discuss its
future.'Programmes continued as normal the next
day until 12.42 when Chief Engineer, Peter
Chicago interrupted Caroline Martin's programme
to announce that the Dutch tug Volans had pulled
alongside. Later, Caroline's theme tune by The
Fortunes was interrupted by another announcement:
"This Is Radio Caroline, the radio-ship Ross
Revenge, anchored in the international waters of
the North Sea. This is a Panamanian vessel being
boarded Illegally on behalf of the Dutch and
British Governments. There's a Dutch tug
alongside, and they are already an board the
ship. They have already used violence against
certain crew members here on board the Ross
Revenge. If you can help us, please call your
local radio; station, local media, anything.
anyone you think can help us, Call, please, now,
before Caroline goes" Listeners jammed the
Dover coastguard with calls whilst records with
cryptic messages played: '....Do You Know What It
Is Like To Be Free....?'the Beatles singing 'All
You Need Is Love'and 'Love, Love, Love.' Whilst
the officials from the Dutch PTT were smashing
equipment in the generator room, an official came
into the studio. A deejay asked: "Would you
like to say anything, sir, before we go off the
air?" At that point, at 13.08, 19 August,
1989, the transmitter fell silent. With tragic
irony, the world was destracted from the news by
a Thames motor vessel owned by Amalgamated
Roadstone Corps, the Bow Belle, ramming and
sinking a boat full of gay partygoers on the MV
Marchionesse. There has never been any
prosecutions or public inquiry. Radio Caroline's
station manager, Peter Moore, was said to have
been outraged by the act of piracy. But he was
wrong. In law, piracy cannot be committed by
Governments. Radio Caroline attempted to make a
comeback by broadcasting at night. A few days
later, the DTI paid then a visit. As the spectre
of the Landward approached them, the Captain on
the Ross Revenge asked them their intention.
"Fishing," they quipped. The Captain
then asked them how long they were intending to
stay. "Longer that you will be," came
the sinister reply. Radio Caroline went off the
air on July 2nd 1990 since its signal had become
too distorted and completely jammed by Spectrum
Radio, a small incremental station for the London
area, licenced by the government, whose test
transmissions on 558 kHz were so powerful they
were being received by listeners from Scotland to
the Dutch coast. On 1 January 1991 the
Broadcasting Act gained royal assent and the free
voice of Radio Caroline was finally silenced. By
the time Jeremy Joseph's programme began
broadcasting, reception was barely audible north
of the Watford Gap. Bob Geldorf's film company
Planet Pictures began filming a documentary about
Radio Caroline for BBC 2's Arena programme, It
was shown on March 1 1990. Three days before its
broadcast, the producers were contacted by the
legal department of the DTI, warning them that
they could be committing an offence. The BBC
bowed to pressure and important cuts were made to
the footage. On Wednesday 20 November 1991, Radio
Caroline's ship, the MV Ross Revenge broke her
anchor chain in a violent storm and was later
towed to Dover harbour after hitting a sandbank.
Upon reaching Dover she was cordoned off and bby
20 customs officials.