In 1963 radio listeners in the UK faced a bleak radio dial. Eager listeners could seldom hear the revolutionary popular music that was emerging such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Frustrated by the situation, music promoter Ronan O‘Rahilly came up with the idea of starting an offshore radio station that would not be governed by British law. The station – Radio Caroline – signed on March 26, 1964 on a ship located 3.5 miles off the British coast, outside of British jurisdiction. It was an instant hit:
By 1965 Radio Caroline reached an estimated twenty million weekly listeners. It became a major force in the British music industry. The British government couldn’t touch Radio Caroline because maritime law prevailed.
Radio Caroline inspired other pirate radio broadcasters. Finally the Brits had had enough. Parliament passed the Maritime Broadcasting Offenses Act that made it illegal for a British citizen to work for a pirate radio broadcaster. The new law went into effect on August 14, 1967.
Every pirate station ceased broadcasting that night except one: Radio Caroline. Millions of people listened at midnight and cheered for the crew of Radio Caroline as the station kept rocking.
The government couldn’t stop Radio Caroline so the BBC gave it a competitor. In October 1967 the BBC debuted Radio 1, a 24/7 rock station that copied Radio Caroline. Since then Radio Caroline has existed in various forms.
Promotional Poster 1965
Crew of Radio Caroline
August 14, 1967