Radio Caroline: The Iconic Pirate Radio Ship Now Became Legal After 50 Years

iconic caroline pirate radio
Radio Caroline in the 1980s

Once upon a time pirates and music and in this story they lived together for 50 years. But what does music have to do with pirates? This is the “adventure” of Radio Caroline from UK.

After 50 years of illegality, and a shipwreck, Radio Caroline pirate radio has now been legally recognised and authorised and you can also hear it from everywhere on streaming.

Let’s start from the beginning

It was 1964 and the music entrepreneur Ronan O’Rahilly got tired of the countless rejections by BBC, the British monopolist in the industry at the time – who was used to broadcast only its artists – decided to found his own private radio.

But it was illegal at that time and he cleverly – and bravely – got a bright idea. He bought the decommissioned Ross Revenge ship, built a radio station with studios, a 50 kW radio transmitter and a 300-foot (91m) antenna mast, and placed it in international waters (or trans-boundary waters). International waters have no sovereignty (they are “Terra Nullius”), therefore the state couldn’t control Radio Caroline, that became the icon of the era of the offshore pirate radio in Europe.

Radio Caroline revolutionised the world of broadcasting, and despite the opposition of the British government, the pirate radio was an immediate success. Just to give you some numbers, Radio Caroline built an 11 million people audience…and a lot of emulators. The success was so stunning and big that the British government introduced the so-called “Marine Broadcasting Offences Act” to forbid any kind of support to pirate radios (including advertising).

tony blackburn radio caroline
Tony Blackburn on board the Radio Caroline in 1965

But this wouldn’t stop the phenomenon and Radio Caroline moved to Holland and then Spain. Although a whole Country was fighting against her, Radio Caroline continued the broadcasting and innovations, launching music bands that became famous all over the world such as “Dire Straits” and “Pink Floyd”.

The shipwreck and the end of a “myth”…before its rebirth

In 1991 the big and thrilling adventure of Radio Caroline “suddenly” and “dramatically” ended when a thunderstorm broke the anchor and the ship went aground on the Goodwin Sands in the month of November. The ship was however salvaged and the crew and staff rescued by a Raf Helicopter. Since then, the ship has been maintained by the Caroline Support Group (a group of supporters and enthusiasts).

The radio presenter Grant Benson moved to Italy, starting to work for Radio Number One in Milan (and several other radio stations). But now, after over 25 years, he will go back to the sea, along with other historical presenters of the radio, on board of the same Ross Revenge ship, now restored and placed on the River Blackwell near London.

He will be the Radio Caroline presenter again, after the station went back on air last week-end 12th August 2017. But the radio ship, who inspired “I Love Radio Rock” film, is not pirate anymore, but recognised after winning a “legal battle” lasted 50 years.

Grant Benson, who has been working in Italy for so many years, declared to be happy and honoured to “came back to the origins” and also confessed to have a little fear: “not remember how to present in English!!!”

radio caroline finally legal

Judge by yourself by hearing the reborn Radio Caroline on streaming.


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