Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Beginning of pirate radio - Radio Caroline.

With Caroline as the catalyst and its audience of tens of millions, new music and youth fashion accelerated at astonishing speed and hundreds of new bands achieved massive and sometimes lasting success.

From the day that Caroline appeared the UK government made threatening noises but no serious action was taken. Now there were several independent broadcasters sending programmes into the UK and twenty million people were listening. Further stations were rumoured to be in preparation and for the government things were getting out of hand. It was a delicate matter trying to legislate against a pastime which was providing a third of the population with the best fun they had enjoyed in a long time.
Grumbling about unauthorised use of radio frequencies and the vague potential for cross channel interference cut no ice with the offshore radio listeners who perceived the government and the BBC to be grumpy killjoys. Legislating against the pirates was a vote loser and for some time there was a stand off where the authorities made dire threats but did nothing. As famous Radio London DJ Dave Cash recalled many years later, 'they could not act against us for the reasons stated. They needed something heavy like drugs or murder – we gave them murder'.

In a fit of fury Calvert, who was known to be a violent and irrational person, burst into Smedley's home and hurled a heavy stone ornament at him. He also claimed to be armed with a tear gas pistol. Smedley took up his shot gun and killed Calvert. The image of the offshore stations as jolly buccaneers using spare radio channels to provide popular free entertainment was irrevocably shattered. Now the government could portray them as battling, murdering gangsters and now that the Labour Government were secure in power for five full years, losing votes was no longer an issue. It was proposed to silence the pirates using The Marine etc. Broadcasting Offences Act, which would deprive the stations of staff, supplies and most importantly of revenue.
No more was heard about new stations being planned. Those on air began strident campaigns against the proposed law. Having previously embraced the term 'pirate radio' they now wished to be known as free radio stations. Most outspoken on the subject of freedom of the individual against the system was Radio Caroline.

As the days of 1967 ticked away, while the music and happy DJ banter still flowed from the marine transmitters all were aware that the good days were drawing to a close. There was speculation as to how many stations would or could continue in the face of the new law. It was generally thought that the smaller stations would fail but that the major players, London and Caroline, would survive.

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