Ever heard of pirate radio? Most people have, but not everyone knows the full history of it, or even understands what pirate radio is all about. When we delve a little deeper into the topic you’ll be surprised by what comes out.
For starters to operate a radio station of any kind you need to have a license. Operating a radio station without a license will earn you the nickname of a pirate, as you’ll be running a pirate radio station. Some believe the name came largely from the fact that some stations were operated out of boats offshore.
Take Radio Caroline for example. This particular radio station started life way back in the mid-1960s. It operated out of a ship that was anchored in deep waters – international waters, helpfully enough – off the south eastern corner of England in the UK. Radio Caroline initially lasted until 1968 when the ships being used for the station were seized. That wasn’t the end of the station though, as it managed to carry on in one form or another right up until 1980. According to the official Radio Caroline website (yes there is one), the ship they were using then was sunk by bad weather.
But this isn’t the only pirate radio station most people know of. The famous Radio Luxembourg channel has been around in one form or another (with the odd break here and there) since 1933. Many see it as one of the main channels that pre-empted pirate radio, existing many years before other pirate radio stations were around.
Many of the best known pirate radio stations in the past were situated around the United Kingdom. Radio Jackie used to be an illegal station but got a license at some point and still exists today. The same is true of Rinse FM, also broadcasting out of the UK and also a pirate turned good today.
One of the best known American pirate radio stations in the U.S. is Free Radio Santa Cruz. As the name suggests it operates out of Santa Cruz, California. It has been raided in the past but to this date it is still operating – against federal US law.
Pirate radio may not be as much in the public eye as it used to be in the heady days of Radio Luxembourg and Radio Caroline. But it still makes it into the headlines on occasion, most notably in recent times as a result of a fictitious British film called Pirate Radio. For many, listening to pirate radio gave them a sense of anarchy. These radio stations did their own thing in the face of the establishment. Many were started as a direct challenge to the censorship and controlled nature of legally established radio stations.
It’s easy to see how people would be attracted to listen to an illegal radio station. With no rules to follow, as long as they stay under the radar they’re able to present what they like. All that freedom must be a tempting prospect.