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volume 6
october 2003

The fight for free radio


  The political activation of offshore radio's fanbase, 1964-1989
by Hans Knot
  In the 1960s and 1970s, people went out on the streets of the big cities to demonstrate for a lot of causes. There were protest marches against the war in Vietnam, against the use of nuclear energy, against racism and for better education — all very serious matters. Sometimes, however, people amassed on the streets out of more frivolous reasons, for instance because their music was in danger. So, in these years, a real host of radio lovers participated in the marches to protest against the abolition of offshore radio. In 1967, the "Free Radio Association" organized a march from Trafalgar Square to Fleet Street. In 1970, the British offshore stations even were campaigning for the Tories to prevent the jamming of Radio Caroline and Radio Northsea International. The success of the Tories, however, did not change anything in the attitude of the British government towards offshore radio. Neither did the Dutch government reverse its decision to end the transmissions of the offshore stations, despite the huge demonstration of 1973 in The Hague in favour of Radio Veronica. On September 1st, 1974, a new law became effective that signalled the end for the Dutch offshore radio stations. Looking back at the demonstrations and all the organisations behind them, Hans Knot invites you to raise the banners again and to accompany him on this walk through memory lane.
1 Right: On April 18th, 1973, over 150,000 people were marching for Radio Veronica to the Dutch Parliament Building at the Binnenhof, The Hague

Thirty years ago ... Quite a lot of people in the Netherlands still love the style of radio and radio music that developed in the 1960s and 1970s. As a consequence, for most of them April 18th is an important date to commemorate. On that day, now thirty years ago, over 150,000 people overflowed the city of The Hague for what — at the time — was the biggest demonstration ever held in the country "behind the dykes." The demonstration of 1973 was organised by people who loved the offshore radio station Veronica, a notable frontrunner in the new style of pop radio. The organisation committee had asked the listeners to come out in the open to protest against the Dutch government because of its plans to close down the beloved offshore radio station.

The Dutch were rather late to do so. Already on September 26th, 1965, the European Council had signed the Strasbourg Treaty, or fully: the "European Agreement for the Prevention of Broadcasts Transmitted from Stations outside National Territories." In October 1967, Denmark, Belgium and Sweden had ratified the agreement, followed by Great Britain on December 3rd, 1967. Germany followed track on February 28th, 1970. The Netherlands would do it on September 27th, 1974. But even before signing the treaty, national legislation would have to be passed to act effectively against the offshore radio stations. In 1973, that was about to happen in the Netherlands. To show that they did not agree with such a decision, on April 18th, 1973, from all over the country people gathered in the Dutch government capital. People even came from neighbouring countries like Great Britain, Germany, Belgium and France. All the "anoraks," as the offshore radio fans were called, assembled on the Malieveld — a large city park near the Central Station. From there, together, they walked through the city to the Dutch Parliament Building at the Binnenhof to hand over a huge load of petitions and signatures to a representative of the Dutch government.

  Radio Veronica itself was closely tied to the action. In the previous weeks, countless promos were transmitted by the station, asking the listeners to come to The Hague, joined by their family and friends. "Play hooky" was a common game at the time. The staff and deejays of the station knew for sure that the demonstration would be a success in respect to the number of people showing up at the demonstration, as they had some experience in these matters. In 1971, some people in the organisation had decided to smash their competitor Radio Northsea International, which had started airing Dutch programmes. They took their decision literally: in May 1971, they paid three divers to throw a bomb into RNI's vessel, the MV MEBO II. The incident gave the station a very bad press and to restore their good name and reputation, the Veronica-deejays decided to start a campaign — only a few weeks after the bomb attack. The campaign went by the name: "Veronica blijft als U dat wilt" — Veronica stays if you want it. Postcards were printed and distributed among the audience. By filling in their name and sending the cards back the station, the listeners could show that they still stood behind the station.
2 Left: Veronica stays ... post card

Sending postcards. Of course, the campaign was heavily promoted on the station and proved to be succesful from the very start. Only 53 hours after the campaign had started, a spokesman of Veronica told the press:

"We now can give you some more figures. One million postcards have been distributed all over Holland and already more than 200,000 of those have been returned by mail. The response of the public is really fantastic. The Dutch PTT (The Post Office) was so kind to deliver the cards with a special car. For one thing, we asked the people to mention their age on the card. By this, we know that the cards have been sent in by people in the ages from 5 up until 93 years. The majority of cards, though, was sent by people in the age between 20 and 30 years."

Beaming with pride, the spokesman finished his account by saying that yet another million cards would be rolling from the presses the very next day. From that moment on, all over Holland, about 15,000 people were volunteering to provide as many citizens as they could reach with the special Veronica-cards. School kids furnished the cards to their friends, schoolmates and families. Petrol stations had them on their counters. The cards were distributed at the gates of the football stadiums and for the occasion, also special concerts were held. A cigarette company even sponsored twenty girls to distribute the cards in the shopping centres of the big cities. On every Dutch road, you could see cars driving by with stickers on the back saying, "Veronica blijft als U dat wilt." The result was striking. On Thursday, August 19th, 1971, a total number of one million cards had been counted, which were signed and sent back to Veronica at the Utrechtseweg in Hilversum.

  Admittedly, not everyone was as happy with the campaign as you could also find stickers saying "Veronica Rot Op Nu." A words play with the acronym VRON, the official name of the "Veronica Radio Omroep Nederland." The sticker text translates into something like "Veronica, get lost." It was a smear campaign, organised by some people whose names never became known officially. Luckily enough, within a few weeks everyone had forgotten the stickers of this anti-campaign. The tremendous success of the postcard campaign in the summer of 1971, by itself, for many people was reason enough to join the station again for a follow-up in 1973. So, the organisers knew on forehand that the people of Holland wanted to keep listening to their favourite station for the years to come. Next to that, they were helped by a research project on the listening behaviour of the Dutch population. The outcomes of this study showed that over 75 percent of the Dutch tuned in to one of the offshore radio stations or both on a daily base. Next to Radio Veronica, in 1973, that was only Radio Northsea International — the station had persevered after the failed bomb attack. From that category 80 percent — i.e. 60 percent of the population — wished the offshore stations to continue their programmes. Despite this all, on June 28th, 1973, the Dutch Parliament voted ninety-five to thirty-seven in favour of outlawing the offshore stations. The act would become law on September 1st, 1974.
3 Right: A Dutch family, campaigning for Radio Veronica at the entry of the Pier of Scheveningen, June 1973 (photo: W. van Heeren-de Geus)

A leaflet from autumn 1964. Of course, there were more demonstrations than the one that now is remembered every year. Over the years, several demonstrations have been held. Next to that, several organisations were set up to organize actions on behalf of offshore radio. The first form of protest I could retrace in my archive was a leaflet dating back to autumn 1964. It was produced by the VVRT, short for "Vereniging Voor Vrije Radio en TV" — the Society For Free Radio and Television. With this leaflet, the organisation asked their members to sent a letter of protest to the Dutch government against its plans to issue a special law, forbidding the REM Radio and Television to transmit its programmes from a platform anchored off the Noordwijk Coast. The next leaflet from the VVRT provided a report of the results of this campaign, written by the chairman of the organisation, Mr. Cobet:

"On the day of the first discussion in Parliament, we've sent a letter of protest to the responsible Ministers as well as the members of Parliament. This action was followed by sending copies to 70 different newspapers. From 40 different cities, letters were sent to members of the following political parties: VVD, PvdA, ARP, KVP, CHU. While I attended the discussions, several telegrams were brought in and the letter of protest was officially signed in as an "incoming item"."

Reviewing the bulletin of the VVRT after so many decades, it's very strange to read nothing at all about the contents of the discussions. Instead Cobet went on, like so many other organisations would do later on in the history of offshore radio, to discuss the financial problems of his organisation, asking his readers for as much money as possible to sustain the good cause of the VVRT. For membership, the foundation asked an annual donation of one Dutch guilder. Cobet, however, was so bold to add that it would be very nice if the readers did send in a hundred guilders instead. He also wrote about setting up local branches, something that in later years would happen with other organisations related to the Fight For Free Radio. Members would be called "real members" if they would bring in at least five new ones. To this end, they could get free transfers (stickers) with a drawing of the offshore platform with its impressive television tower. The only thing they would have to do, was to send an envelope including a return stamp to the address of the organisation, the Herenstreet 111 in Bussum, near Hilversum. Next to that, the organisation asked to send in all newspaper cuts that could be found in the press, as they wanted to get a complete rundown of all the publicity around Radio and TV Noordzee.

  For a final remark about this VVRT, we can mention that they had also some problems with a certain journalist, who wanted to give his own turn to the story. In the biggest newspaper of the Netherlands, De Telegraaf, the man wrote that the VVRT would end all its activities as soon as the Dutch Parliament had passed the special law that would make an end to all activities concerning the REM Isle. Cobet called this a serious mistake of the journalist in question. Instead, he bravely declared:
  "We will be going on with our aim to make the whole system of radio and television in Netherlands different to what it is nowadays."
  However, in the end, the journalist proved to be right. After bulletin number 7, issued during the early part of 1965, nobody did hear anything anymore of the protagonists of this early fight for freedom in the air. Still, because of this protest, next to the years 1971 and 1973, the year 1964 still is an important date in the history of the Dutch radio. The Netherlands, of course, were not the only nation struggling with the legal problems posed by the offshore stations. The government of Great Britain had its own share of difficulties and, with it, its load of demonstrations.
4 Left: Logo of the "Free Radio Association" (FRA)

The "Free Radio Association". In England, offshore radio also gave ample reason for debate and demonstrations. On May 28th, 1967, there were about 2,000 people marching from Trafalgar Square to Fleet Street to sustain their favourite stations. The summer of 1967 saw the "Free Radio Ball." In August 1968, the first of a series of annual meetings was held to commemorate the end of offshore radio. In 1969, from June 10th till 17th, the Free Radio Week was held. The event started and ended with a massive meeting, again on Trafalgar Square. In June 1970, the offshore radio bunch even took a turn into politics with the Anti-jamming Rally of Radio Caroline. And, in between there were many local actions, for instance in Newcastle.

The main reason for all these activities was what has become known as Black Monday, August 14th, 1967. Just before Christmas 1966, the British Government published a so-called "White Paper," revealing its plans for the future of broadcasting. Next to the plan to start a National Pop Station (BBC Radio One), they also had the idea to start nine local BBC stations. As a consequence, the introduction of a Marine Offences Bill was announced, meant to end offshore broadcasting off of the British Coast. Of course, the loyal following of the many offshore radio stations was not happy about these plans and on January 29th, 1967, the "Commercial Radio Listeners Association" (CRLA) was formed by Miss Catherine Baker to prevent the passing of the Marine Offences Bill. The CRLA was not the first to protest the legal threats to the offshore stations nor the only one. Even earlier, on October 24th 1966, the National League of Young Liberals launched their "Save Pop Radio" campaign. However, after that announcement, nothing was heard anymore about their vague plans. Another organisation would lead a longer life, be it after it had merged with the CRLA: the "Free Radio Supporters Association" (FRSA).

On February 19th, 1967, a meeting was held by the CRLA, the FRSA and all concerned to form an organisation that would represent all listeners of commercial radio, and also have the full support of all the offshore stations. And indeed, most of the offshore stations had a representative attending the meeting. During this meeting, the participants agreed that the stations would help the listeners association in every way they could, particularly by broadcasting free spots on air, to support all the organising matters from the CRLA. However, to guarantee the neutral stance of the organisation, no representatives of the stations would take a chair within the organisation, nor would the stations one way or another finance the listeners' organisation. This decision gave birth to another one. In the wake of this meeting, the CRLA and the FRSA merged into one organisation within a few weeks. Initially the organisation went by the name of the "Free Radio Supporters Association." This name, though, was dropped the very next day, as Ronan O'Rahilly, director and owner of Radio Caroline, announced that promotion spots for the new organisation only could be broadcast if the word "supporters" was dropped. From that day on, the organisation would be known as the "Free Radio Association" (FRA) and prove its existence to the outside world by organising a demonstration on Trafalgar Square.

  First, however, the new organisation had to be staffed. It needed a strong voice, which it found in the person of Glasgow property developer Sir Ian Mactaggart, Managing Director of the Western Haritalbe Investment Company in Glasgow, and also a renown conservative. The multimillionaire barony was chairman of the National Council of the Society for Individual Freedom and also a former Conservative member of the London County Council for Fulham. Mactaggert was to become the FRA's president. Next to that, there was the office for a chairman, that was taken up by Geoffrey Pearl. Helped by a changing guard of general secretaries and treasurers, both these men would represent the FRA for the years to come. A home base for the organisation was found at 239 Eastwood Road in the town of Rayleigh in the county of Essex. For many offshore radio listeners "Rayleigh" would become a synonym for the "Free Radio Association" itself. Here was the city where they could order, as their form of protest, all kind of small things like stickers, leaflets, buttons and petitions. In one of the petitions they could read what the FRA was and where the organisation stood for:
  "The "Free Radio Association" is fighting for free speech, free enterprise and free choice. The government is trying to crush all competition over the air by silencing the commercial stations — thereby preserving the monopoly of the BBC and depriving us of the freedom to listen to the stations of our choice. This is a step towards dictatorship. If the Marine Broadcasting Bill becomes law in its present form, free speech will be suppressed, and the "Free Radio Association" will be partially silenced. We have pledged that we will fight until we win."
  "This is more than a petition. It's a declaration that we, the British people, will fight for freedom of the air as we have fought before when our freedom has been threatened. It is a declaration that we, the undersigned, support the "Free Radio Association" in its fight for the right of the public to listen to the independent radio stations. And it is a declaration that we the undersigned will use our votes to remove this government from power at the first opportunity, and replace it with a government which believes in free speech, free enterprise and free choice."
5 Right: FRA's president, Sir Ian Mactaggart, speaks at the FRA demonstration (1967) (photo: Franko Rosso)

Marching Trafalgar Square (1967). The FRA was quick to organise some actions. Already in the middle of January 1967, still some weeks before the merger with the CRLA, a four-page magazine was published. This publication was a free supplement to the National Advertiser. Of this magazine, called Radio News, nine issues would be published. Each issue presented a defence of a specific pirate station and the magazine consistently pleaded for the introduction of free, commercial radio in Britain. Just two months later, on March 16th, 1967, the Radio News became part of the Time and Tide publication, an established news magazine. The first combined edition of the magazines included an interview with Ronan O'Rahilly, the founder of Radio Caroline. O'Rahilly commented on the plans of the Government to bring the Marine Offences Bill to the Parliament and thus turn it into an Act:

"Most of the thinking people in Britain are unaware of what the Marine Offences Broadcasting Bill will do to us. It will make Radio Caroline international — internationally recognised and legal. For the public however it does this: if a British shopkeeper sells cigarettes to a Radio Caroline announcer, he [the shopkeeper] becomes a criminal. If the Archbishop of Canterbury or Cardinal Heenan or the Chief Rabbi gave a sermon on Radio Caroline, they would become criminals too. If a journalist writes a newscast or talks on Radio Caroline, he becomes a criminal. If a British advertiser advertises on Radio Caroline, he becomes a criminal. If, on the other hand, the Pope were to write a sermon for Radio Caroline, he would not be a criminal, nor would any foreign figure who wanted to use the medium to voice publicly something he wanted to say. In other words it is stifling the freedom of speech of the British subject to speak where he likes about to speak."

  Left: People gathering on Trafalgar Square for the FRA demonstration (May 1967)

The FRA also tried to assemble its followers in local branches and the association organised some rather big demonstrations too. One of the latter took place on May 28th 1967 in London. Some 2,000 listeners of the radio stations came together to listen to a number of speakers and subsequently walked in a protest demonstration from Trafalgar Square to Fleet Street. In those days, the Free Radio coalition was a curious mixture of leftist and right-wing groups. By that time, Labour had been in government for three years, with Harold Wilson serving as Prime Minister. Therefore, the Free Radio movement had attracted some right-wing opponents of Labour. Most listeners, on the other hand, adored the music, they saw as the core of their new-won freedom within their own youth culture — and that culture had a strong leftist tendency. By 1967, this tendency had even become stronger. In those days of pop art and psychedelics, pop music even tended to be judged as "commercial" compared with the "artistic" accomplishments of "alternative" rock music. In those hippie days, there were a lot of so-called "underground" magazines, which were distributed unofficially in the pop scene and could not be bought at a newsstand. One of the more famous magazines was The International Times, which brought a report about the demonstration. It was written by Frank Fuchs, who had interviewed some of the participants for the occasion. As could be expected, Fuchs proved sceptic of the event, declaring it to be a festival of young adolescent "teeny-boppers", some more and some less serious about their reasons to attend the happening. This is what he wrote:

"A sunny Sunday afternoon in Trafalgar Square, and a crowd of 2,000 teeny-boppers gathered to support for Free Radio. Swaying slowly in the interval music (courtesy of Radio 390), putting their coppers in the collecting tins, giggling in the sun."

  - "Hello, what's your name? Where're you from?"
- Barbara (giggle) from Ilford: "I'm fourteen."
- "Why have you come?"
- "To hear what they're saying and all that."
- "Have you been listening to the speeches?"
- "Mmm, yes, they're very good ..."
- "What did they say?"
- "... (giggle) ... Mmm ... well, they're very good, though."
  But, then there was Martin, a serious 17-year old from Sutton:
  - "I'm interested in keeping Free Radio going, as an alternative to the Home and the Third ... it's something I enjoy, and something I don't want to be stopped."
  When he was asked if this made him feel anti-government, Martin answered the interviewer:
  - "Oh, it defiantly does, and I think it makes a lot of people feel like that. And they've taken it out in the Council Elections. My both parents listen to three-nine-oh and they both voted against Labour."
6 Right: FRA demonstration on Trafalgar Square (May 1967)

Who owns whom? In his report for the International Times, Frank Fuchs clearly was trying to set the motives of the organizers apart from those of their audience. According to him, this is how the people listened to the speeches:

"No one seems to be taking in what the speakers are saying: "We all know we're are here, because we just like to listen to the radio." Anyway, the talking is just about over and everyone is forming up to march down to Fleet Street. Think I ought to interview some of the organisers."

Luckily for Fuchs, Radio Caroline had decided to delegate one of the deejays to the meeting. It was Rick Dane, who did his best to recommend his station and his boss Ronan O'Rahilly in terms of freedom:

  "Ronan really believes in Freedom. That's why he started Radio Caroline. He's serious about Freedom. He's a Kennedy-ite. He doesn't need to work ... his old man owns shipyards."
  About Caroline's main competitor, Radio London, Dane had also his own vision:
  "Radio London is only interested in making money. They couldn't care a stuff about Freedom, you can tell just by listening to the station."

Apart from Dane, Fuchs also spoke with some of the people who had organised the meeting. First of all, there was a 17-year-old guy, called Alan Clark, who professed to be the treasurer of the FRA. Trying him out, interviewer Frank Fuchs asked him if he saw any connection between the State putting down the Pirates and the State putting down smokers and trippers. The answer could scarcely have been more wrong:

"Not really, no. You can look at it this way: Free Radio isn't really harmful to health. And it's not likely to cause ... er ... national ... er, people sort of running round raving lunatics and this sort of thing, is it? And when people take LSD, it's all you know, hallucinations and go around smashing things up and that sort of thing, but Free Radio is hardly likely to do that ... it's a bit different really."

  Next to Alan, who clearly didn't "dig" the hippy scene, there was Sir Ian Mactaggart. At that stage, the man was also chairman of the Society for Individual Freedom, a bulwark of conservatives. Fuchs had no difficulties to get some nice quotes. Not particularly impressed by the where-abouts of the reporter, Mactaggart declared:
  "This, amongst other freedom-defending activities, tries to support "trade unionists" against "communist influence" and "closed shops"."
  It may come as no surprise, that in contrast, the report of the International Times ended with a conclusion that was just the reverse of Mactaggart's stance:
  "The teeny-boppers in Trafalgar Square really care about Pirate Radios, and the music they broadcast. Harold Wilson and his Victor Sylvester Formation Team had better face this instead of driving them straight into the ranks of the British Free John Birchers. Or could that be perhaps the whole plan? Who owns whom?"
7 Right: Cartoon of the British Post Master General

Letters to 10 Downing Street. We don't know for sure how many people participated in the march of 1967. The estimates differed. Where the International Times mentioned the number of 2,000 participants, the FRA itself soon after the demonstration claimed that the demonstration was visited by 4,000 people. They may have been right, but it proved difficult for them to make themselves heard in the newspapers. Apart from the promotion spots on the offshore stations, they had no easy access to the press. Chairman Geoffrey Pearl duly complained:

"The press is playing down the efforts of the association. They see commercial radio as competition for their advertising revenue."

The special promotions for the FRA, played on the offshore stations with regular intervals, however were rather effective — as is shown by the next example. In some of the promos the listeners were asked to write to their local MP. In spring 1967, they were also asked to send a letter to the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. In the letter the listeners had to voice the reason why they were disappointed about Wilson and his Government banning the offshore radio stations. All the letters, received at 10 Downing Street, were passed on to the Post Master General. At that time that office was taken by Mr. Edward Short, who let his private secretary, Mrs E.E. Frankham handle all the letters. I can tell you she had a lot of work with responding to all of them. A standard response letter was sent to thousands of listeners all over Great Britain and even to Holland and Belgium. This is what the Post Master General wrote:

  "Many people have been very disappointed to hear that pirate broadcasting is to be stopped. It seems so harmless, and it is enjoyed by so many people. In fact, despite the repeated claims of the pirates, their broadcasts are far from harmless. The pirates are using wavelengths, which we have undertaken to leave clear for the broadcasting services in other countries. By so doing, they prevent people in those countries from hearing their own domestic programmes. They also represent a danger — slight but ever-present to the radio services — on which safety at sea depends. Moreover, broadcasting from the high seas is forbidden, all over the world by international law, and the pirates make almost unlimited use of recorded material, threatening the livelihoods of the musicians and the other performers whose work they use, without permission or payment."
  "To date twelve European countries have complained to the Post Master General about the pirates' interference with their broadcasting services. And communications between ships and the shore have been seriously interfered with. If the pirates were allowed to continue unchecked, there would soon be so much interference that broadcasting as we know it would become impossible. This threat to the future of broadcasting has caused the maritime countries of the Council of Europe to agree to legislate on common lines to deal with it. The Bill, which is being considered by Parliament, carries out our obligations under the European Agreement. Many people feel that an easy solution would be to "bring the pirates ashore," that is, to licence them to operate on land. That is just not possible. There are no unused wavelengths on which powerful stations like the pirate stations could operate without causing interference. In any case, if they operated within the control of the copyright laws, they could not transmit the sort of programmes that they have been transmitting."
  "The Government's plans for the future of sound broadcasting, which have recently been announced, are designed to match our broadcasting services more closely to our needs without interfering with other people's rights. But the most pressing need is to silence the pirate radio stations, which are flouting international regulations, earning us such a bad name abroad, endangering shipping and threatening to make broadcasting end in chaos, not only in Britain but over most of Europe."
8 Left: Wilf Proudfoot, Managing Director of Radio 270

On a boat trip to Radio 270. Though their fate was at stake, most of the offshore radio stations kept far from politics, as they always had done. One of the exceptions to this rule was the short-lived Radio 270, a station transmitting off the coast of Scarborough from the former "Oceaan 7," a former fishing trawler from Scheveningen. The station declared itself prepared to carry free political messages for all parties, who wanted to be on the station. There was only one restriction: the messages were not allowed to be inspiring race hate. Managing Director Wilf Proudfoot even claimed that the Communists were allowed to transmit their message over the Radio 270 transmitter. The very first political party, which bought airtime with Radio 270, were the Young Conservatives at York University. Their special broadcast, with a speech from MP Patrick Wall, was planned to be aired on May 1st, 1967. This, however, didn't happen as the recorded tape had a technical problem. The message had to be rerecorded and was transmitted on another date. In the month of June, that year, another political broadcast was made by the same group. It was the same Patrick Wall, who interviewed John Biggs Davidson, another Conservative MP, about the way government handled the problems with and in Rhodesia, Israel and the Middle East.

  Confronted by the threats to offshore radio, Managing Director Wilf Proudfoot even went further. He not only offered free publicity to all political parties, but he also invited MP's to visit the "Oceaan 7." His invitation was accepted by Paul Bryan, the Shadow Post-Master General, and some other local MP's also took a day out to sea. Proudfoot even invited Mr. Short, the Post Master General himself, but this official never did show up. The action, though, had some effect. After his visit to the old fishing trawler, Paul Bryan, a Conservative, stated:
  "Twenty million people have all the right to complain to the Government and protest against the plans to ban the stations without any real attempt to provide alternative programmes."
  Radio 270, we may conclude, did its utmost best to defend the cause of the offshore radio stations. Of course, the station aired the same "Fight for Free Radio" spots that were also launched by Wonderful Radio London. But, Proudfoot also decided to publish a booklet, in cooperation with the Institute of Economic Affairs. It was written by Dennis Thomas. In Competition in Radio Dennis describes the development of the radio industry in Britain and abroad. For the outcome, he voiced the conclusion that the introduction of a legal commercial radio system was needed as soon as possible. However, it would take up to October 1973 before the very first commercial (Independent Local Radio Station) actually went on the air. Meanwhile, as told before, spots were transmitted on the offshore stations in their Fight for Free Radio. On Radio 270 one of those, initially addressing Prime Minister Harold Wilson, went as follows:
  "Sir, in enforcing a state controlled alternative to commercial radio in Britain, has it occurred to you that the people don't want to be forced to listen to an alternative, but they want the real thing and freedom of choice? Before offshore commercial radio in Britain, radio was dying. Are you going to hand it back to its executioner — the monopoly? Think, more than half of the population listens to commercial radio. It must be what the people want. Is Britain a free country?"
  Next, a second voice came in:
  "Yes, of course it is, don't ask me mate, I'm not Wilson."
  The promo, at the end, concluded with a general call to write a letter of protest to the Members of Parliament:
  "Well why doesn't it act like one? It's up to you to fight for Free Conservative radio in Britain. Do not tolerate state controlled radio. Write to your Member of Parliament today."
  This and other spots were transmitted on regular timeslots on Radio 270.
9 Right: FRA demonstration 1967 (photo: Franko Rosso)

The local elections of April 1967. Another exception to the rule of political abstinence was Radio Scotland. In September 1966, the station announced that political airtime would be sold in the near future. In the same vein, Gordon Wilson, Secretary of the Scottish National Party claimed his Party could soon be heard on "242," but actually nothing happened. Promises, made by Radio Scotland's Managing Director, Tommy Shields, to go for a "place" during a local by-election in Glasgow, too came to nothing.

The bigger stations, yet, were slowly becoming involved politically. The process had already started before the meeting on Trafalgar Square of May 1967. One month before, in April 1967, Radio Caroline as well as Radio London had spent some airtime on political issues. On April 13th, there were local elections in England and Wales. Both stations intervened in the previous days by airing special spots in which the question was raised: "How many of your local candidates are in favour of Free Radio?" The spots answered this question suggestively by giving figures of 20% for the Labour Party, 98% for the Conservatives and 82% for the Liberals. Robert Chapman, a researcher in Media Studies and writer of the book Selling the Sixties comments:

  "By pledging to close the pirates down, Labour by inference, was leading the electorate down a totalitarian road. In an increasingly hysterical campaign, the words "police state" also began to enter the vocabulary of abuse. The results of the poll were featured extensively by both Caroline and London during the period leading up the elections. On polling day this coverage reached saturation point, with news bulletins making great play of the newly released monthly trade figures, which showed an overall deficit of 29 million Pounds. Caroline's campaign was particularly efficient. It's coverage of the election results began at midnight, as soon as the first results came in. The Conservatives did have the victory in those elections and in the morning of April 14th, Caroline claimed it had some influence on the results."
10 Left: The story of "Offshore Sid," as published by the "Broadside Free Radio Movement"

The "Broadside Free Radio Movement". In the Fight for Free Radio there were some other notable organisations, all carrying colourful names such as the UDAS — the "United DJ's Appreciation Society" — look for a leaflet in Appendix 1 — and the "Broadside Free Radio Movement." The name of the latter was mentioned on a couple of offshore radio stations in the form of promotional spots. The "Broadside Free Radio Movement" was headed by Peter Philipson, a Cambridge student. In April 1967, he recruited a number of students, mostly from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Radio Caroline did a lot of promotion for the BFRM and in June 1967, Philipson decided that his headquarters had to be moved from Cambridge to London. At the same time, he sent out an outline of what the "Broadside Free Radio Movement" should be:

""Broadside Free Radio Movement" is an independent movement, run by Peter Phillipson, objecting to the "Marine &c, Broadcasting, (Offences) Act, which prohibits British firms placing advertising copy with offshore radio stations, and British subjects from working on them, with the intention of forcing them to close down. In order to do this, the Act incorporates the use of methods which are completely alien to the age-old, traditional ideals of British Justice, including a reversal of the adage "a man is considered innocent until proven guilty." Apart from that, this restriction on radio broadcasting which nearly half the population of the UK like to listen to, bears no resemblance to the concept of a democracy."

"We intend to establish a network of "Action Centres," each responsible for voicing agitation is their area. This will be run by unpaid volunteers, who will hold meetings, canvass, distribute literature, and attempt to persuade people to withhold their support from Parliamentary candidates and MP's who back the "Marine etc. Act". In this way we intend to stir up public feeling to such an extent that the "Act" will fall in its objective."

  The "Broadside Free Radio Movement" also did sent out a leaflet to its members, claiming the organisation had four objectives:
  1. To give a coherent and visible organisation to the many millions of people in this country who are directly opposed to the Government's Marine Broadcasting Offence Bill.
  2. To give to these people a framework within which their protest can take on a more unitary, and united form, and thus, it is hoped, a more effective one.
  3. To expose what the movement considers to be the completely inadequate arguments that the Government has put forward to account for the action that hey have taken, and are still in the process of taking against the pioneers of independent broadcasting in this country.
  4. To support the whole concept of a free and completely independent system of sound broadcasting here, both on a national and a local scale, and thus by implication, to oppose any attempt to return to the air networks of this country to a monopoly control.
  The "Broadside Free Radio Movement" shows that not only "teeny-boppers" but also students were involved in the Fight for Free Radio. It is too bad, we don't know anything about their actual numbers. Philipson must have been exaggerating grossly, however, when — only a month after publishing his outline — he announced that his "Broadside Free Radio Movement" now had a membership surpassing the number of 80,000. He and his circle of friends proved to be inadequate bookkeepers for in October 1967, the BFRM went bankrupt. By the way, that's when the FRA stepped in. The FRA took over the outstanding debts of the creditors of the BFRM. Of course, the members of the "Broadside Free Radio Movement" automatically were counted as members of the FRA, which now could claim over than 100,000 members. I will come back to this trade of members later on.
11 Right: Membership card of the "Broadside Free Radio Movement"

The political defeat of British offshore radio. The FRA kept busy organizing its following. Local FRA-branches were formed and in June 1967, the organisation had no less than 259 branches. All in all, though, memberships counted up to only 1,920 members — a very small number compared with the 20 million listeners the offshore radio stations claimed as their audience over the whole of Great Britain. Not hindered by this, the FRA organised a huge manifestation during the summer of 1967, just before the MOA was passed in parliament. The meeting at Alexandra Palace in London was called the "Free Radio Ball of the Year." About 3,000 people came to see "The Move" and other groups. Deejays Johnnie Walker and Robbie Dale — both from Radio Caroline — hosted the show.

  In the meantime, the political situation did not change. On the last day of June 1967, Post Master General, Edward Short, announced that the BBC would be opening their pop service on September 30th 1967. The station would be known by the name of Radio One and it would broadcast pop music, not interrupted by any entertainment programmes, from 7 up till 7:30 AM. Next, it would be time for some light music and entertainment until 2:00 the following day. By that time it was clear that the protests of the "Free Radio Association" would not be effective. Paul Harris, author and publisher, concludes:
  "It was too obvious, that the FRA had arrived on the scene too late to exert any real or decisive pressure on events. In fact, by the time it was formed, the most important reading of the Marine Offences Bill, the Second Reading in the House of Commons, had taken place and had been carried."
  Left: Robbie Dale, speaking at the commemoration meeting, Trafalgar Square, London (1968)

On August 14th, 1967, the Marine Offences Bill was passed. This, however, did not mean the end of it all. Radio Caroline, for one thing, continued its transmissions for almost seven months. Radio One also did not fill the gap the offshore stations had left, though the BBC hired a lot of the former deejays right after August 14th, 1967. Radio One did try to copy the offshore radio stations. Even the jingles were copied, although overproduced. Still, the loyal audience was not particularly happy with the new station. So, they kept on reviving the memory of that Black Monday, August 14th 1967, when the last programs were transmitted. On August 14th, 1968, the first meetings were held, commemorating the end of Pirate Radio. In his hometown Romford former Radio London deejay Mark Roman was carried around in a coffin that was delivered at the marketplace. It was also his farewell to Great Britain. A day later, he left England to restart his radio career in his native country Australia.

  In that same month of August 1968, another big demonstration was held on Trafalgar Square. One of the speakers, again, was Robbie Dale. Dale was one of the deejays of Radio Caroline, the only British offshore station that had continued its transmissions after the MOB was turned into an Act. In March 1968, though, that station had had to stop too. Because of outstanding debts, both its ships were taken away from international waters by creditors. Dale, next, had started to work for Radio Veronica. A year later Free Radio London, a land based pirate radio station, was on the air for the first time to remember Big L, Wonderful Radio London — a station that closed down on August 14th 1967. This practice became a tradition. In the years to come, the offshore radio stations would be commemorated by several radio stations in England and the Netherlands.
  Next to the demonstrations, there were other visual signs of protest. To express their indignation, the supporters of the offshore stations made their affections known by painting tags and graffiti's. This art of painting blind walls or doors of buildings like railway stations or garages was very popular at that time, though the products still were rather simple. Lacking spray cans, the youth of the 1960s used real paint and brush to write down the names of their favourite pop groups and artists or to express their political likings and aversions. If they used good quality paint, the results still can be admired nowadays. In 1967, a few young guys from my hometown Groningen took a paintbrush, when they heard that the Marine Offences Bill would become act. On a shed in their fire corridor, they painted the words "Radio London." There, those two words still can be seen, though now it is somehow hidden behind an iron fence, as a small but enduring contribution to the Fight for Free Radio.
12 Right: In the 1960s many Dutch people took a liking to Radio London. In the Fight for Free Radio, many graffiti were painted on the walls. In the city of Groningen, this one still is visible (photo: Jana Knot-Dickscheit)

FRA-leaflets. Meanwhile the FRA kept trying to keep its organisation alive. To this end, the organisation published loads of leaflets — see for instance Appendix 2 and Appendix 3. However, it did choose an approach, which threatened to estrange its membership. In the eyes of a lot of its loyal members, the association even became greedy and unreliable. A quick look at the text of one of the leaflets, published in 1968, shows why. The leaflet opens optimistically:

"The Marine Offences Act is almost dead. Caroline plays on. A new "sweet music" station (hush hush) is coming. The members of "Broadside" and the "Free Radio Association" have come together in a big new 100,000 strong "Free Radio Association." We fought and now were are winning."

Now, with its 100,000 members the FRA should have enjoyed a fine financial condition. In fact, the organisation professed to have some serious financial problems:

""But, as you will see, we have some problems. We must not weaken now, or we've had it, so please help in all the ways I ask you in this newsletter. "Broadside" had a debt of 800 Pounds, mainly because it had no membership subscription. Much of this debt has been cleared, but we are short of money and have had to take a temporary loan. Because all "Broadside" members became associate members of the FRA, there are now 4,500 full-paid members, but 95,500 associate free members. I'm sure you can see this puts a terrific strain on our finances. This won't be a problem if you, associate members, fork out five bop for Full Membership. This will give us the money, which every big association doing a big job must have! So, please, please fill in the below form."

  The above information, we may safely assume, was sent to only a few thousand people instead of all 100,000 professed members and associate members. It gave the supporters a lot to think about. What about all these associate members? Were they really members or just fictive figures? Moreover, five Pounds for a membership of the FRA? In those days, that was a lot of money for young people. What would they get in return? Well, as the leaflet's author stated, not much more written information:
  "Now we are so large, we only can write to members once a year. If you are a full member, and your subscription falls due any time in 1968, may I please ask you to renew now?"
  So, the FRA-supporters had to make a considerable donation, even in advance with just a little in return. Instead, the FRA promised its members, that they would be participating in a Football Pools Syndicate. The FRA also started a promotion campaign to turn their members into "FRA Sellers:"
  "In other words sell the things (books, photo's recordings, stickers, buttons") we've in stock and get our free logo in display."
13 Left: Banners at the commemoration meeting, Trafalgar Square, London (1968)

Dark clouds gathering above the FRA. Because of this, many people lost their faith and confidence in the FRA. Years later Geoffrey Pearl himself wrote his personal "history on the FRA." This is how he described the situation in the months directly after August 14th 1967:

"Almost immediately, the "Free Radio Association" ran into difficulties. The subscription rate was adequate when free advertisements were being broadcast, but did not cover more than a fraction of the expense when this facility was no longer available. The FRA found itself losing money at the ratio of 30 Pounds a week. Unfortunately, the Committee had been infiltrated by an element who did not have the interests of the "Free Radio Association" at heart. They now seized their opportunity to strike when the association was at it weakest. By disrupting Committee meetings, they prevented the decisions being taken which would have enabled the serious financial situation to have been dealt with."

"As the only possible means of saving the association, the Chairman personally made the necessary decisions. The disruptive element, who had by then gained the support of other members of the Committee, then formed an opposing group, which made every effort to smash the association. The persuaded the association's bankers that a dispute existed, which resulted in a complete freeze of the association's bank accounts. A bank freeze at a time when the association was running a very heavy weekly deficit could have been expected to bankrupt the FRA within three weeks."

  The association was saved by a merger and a loan from a bank:
  "We were saved by two bold moves which the opposing group had not bargained for. Firstly, a large loan was made to tide it over the bank freeze. Secondly, an immediate merger was arranged with the successor organisation to "Broadside Free Radio Movement." Backing up these moves was a total refusal to accept the defeat by those whose job it was to run the association."
  Pearl, however, forgot to mention that he stepped into the "Broadside Free Radio Movement" at the moment this organisation went bankrupt. He also forgot to add, that the members of the FRA that were opposing him, had accused him of using large sums of money to finance other aims than where the FRA stood for. For some time the opposing party also claimed to represent the FRA and tried to attack every move of Pearl's Group. In March 1968, though, both groups again came together and worked out their problems and the frozen bank account was re-opened. Outside the FRA, the members of Committee still continued to fight each other and their quarrels even condensed in written leaflets, in which members or former members gave their own one-sided story of the conflicts within the FRA. By then, it seemed, the Fight for Free Radio was turning into an internal fight. We will go into details. Still one interesting fact came out of the debates: many of not most of the so-called "members" of the FRA had only written in to ask for more information and some even had only written because they thought to get a free radio! So that's why the "Broadside Free Radio Movement" and, later on, the FRA could claim such a large membership.
14 Right: FRA-Leaflet (click on the picture for a larger view)

High expectations. Thirty-five years now have gone by and, looking back at the FRA and its leaflets at that safe distance in time, we can only smile at its ambitions and expectations. Remember, though, that we were young in those years and that every active member was really proud to be part of the FRA. Of course, in these years, being young, one had to protest, no matter against what. On the other hand, youth had democratic ideals and actively believed that their actions would further these. The same goes for the FRA. And, paging through its leaflets, one can see that the expectations were rather high. Look, for instance, at the membership targets of the FRA — written down by Geoffrey Pearl in capital letters:

"Now we have 100,000 members, we are setting ourselves a fantastic new target — ONE MILLION MEMBERS! Just think, suppose you, and every other member, send in the form overleaf and ask for 10 memberships forms and make 10 new members (it will be very easy), then we will become the biggest association in Britain. And the best! And the most powerful! And Free Radio will be guaranteed."

Moreover, it becomes clear, that the FRA knew whom to fight but not how:

  • Fight the miserable little band of kill-joys who have tried to take away our freedom to listen to the friendly independent radio stations. All except Radio Caroline have been forced off the air. And the vicious Marine Offences Act stops anyone from giving details about Radio Caroline's programmes. Who would have thought that free speech would be suppressed in Britain?
  • Fight the questionable devices used by the Government in its efforts to silence the fort based stations. When Radio City wanted help, it was refused because the station was outside British jurisdiction. But when the government decided to close the station, it suddenly became part of Britain. And why was Radio 390 prosecuted in two counties?
  • Fight the Government which is trying to preserve state-control over radio by crushing all competition to the BBC. And fight the government which tricks the people by delaying the Marine Offences Act until is has majority of 97, and says nothing about its proposed legislation in its Manifesto. Its scheme is to get the whole issue over as soon as it can so that everyone will have forgotten all about it by the next General Election.
  • Fight for the freedom of the air, as we have fought before for a free press and free speech. Remember that without these freedoms a country becomes a dictatorship. Under the Marine Offences Act, the "Free Radio Association" is partially silenced. This is what the Government wanted. But the Government will never silence us completely. We shall fight until we win.
15 Left: Roger Day was one of the deejay's to speak at the Free Radio Rally of August 17th, 1969

The National Free Radio Week (1969). Geoffrey Pearl may have overestimated the following of the FRA in respect to numbers and motivation. Yet, the organization succeeded in organising, in cooperation with the FRC, the "National Free Radio Week", which took place starting August 10th, 1969. On this day, another "Free Radio Rally" was held. On Trafalgar Square, this time it was Ted Allbeury, former director of Radio 390, who spoke to the public, pointing out the wide variety of music and light entertainment that could be offered by a free commercial system. Jason Wolf (Radio Caroline) next delivered a call, straight from the shoulder, for action and support. And if that was not enough, yet another Rally was held in London on August 17th 1969. Now some 4,000 people were demonstrating. At the occasion, an FRA-T-shirt was delivered at 10 Downing Street for Harold Wilson. Speakers at Trafalgar Square included Roger Day, Andy Archer, Jason Wolfe and Sir Ian Mactaggart.

  Meanwhile the FRA kept on begging its readers for donations (see for instance Appendix 4). In 1969, though, its members, and even its former members, got something in return, as the FRA sent out its official magazine Free Radio Times. The editorial described the magazine's objectives:
  "Free Radio Times is non-profit motivated, our object is to build up a mass circulation so that we can make a significant contribution on the Fight for Free Radio. Of course, when we get free commercial radio, FRT will assume the role of programme guide and news magazine. The policy is to report all important Free Radio events and news, with articles of general interest."
  This first issue not only offered news on radio, but also on the music industry. By the way, paging through the only copy I have preserved in my archive, I was amused to read the message that Harold Wilson had send back the free T-shirt he got from the FRA. The editor wondered if, perhaps, the colour of the shirt had been wrong, as it was not red. The magazine also reported on a protest action in Newcastle, some days after the London Rally of August 17th. By 11.45 PM a group of almost fifty people, adorned with banners and placards, had gathered for a vigil outside the Newcastle Civic Centre. Tony Rounthwaite reported on the demonstration:
  "At 13 minutes to midnight a tape recording of the closedown of Radio 270 was played for all to hear two years after the official close down. On the last stroke of midnight, exactly two years after the Marine Offences Bill had become law, the people marched through Newcastle, while chanting: "Freedom died at August 14th." The march with a suitable police escort worked their way down to the Region Press at "Thompson House." Here they were interviewed by a reporter. Next stop was BBC Newcastle Broadcasting House & Tyne TV, where a letter was delivered."
16 Right: Geoffrey Pearl speaks at the Rally of 1969

The Dutch scene. Apart from activities like these, the FRC organised branches abroad. In 1969, the association claimed to have members in 23 countries, including Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Eire, Luxembourg and even India. People in a range of countries were asked to set up branches of the FRC or the FRA. The Dutch preferred a branch of the FRA, which initially was run by J.J.L van der Meer from Rotterdam and at a later stage by Hans Verbaan. Germany also had a local branch of the FRA, the "Freie Radio Assoziation," in Frankfurt and, next to that, there was a branch of the FRC, that from 1971 on was publishing the magazine Free Radio News. Denmark had the FRC Denmark, run by Paul S. Hansen. France also had its branch, which during the 1970s evolved into the "France Radio Club" with its excellent Offshore Echo's Magazine. This magazine is still alive and kicking. Speaking of magazines: from the 1970s up till the early 1990s there was yet another Free Radio magazine, titled The Monitor Magazine. Headed by the late Roland C. Pearson, this magazine was an offspring of the local Southend branch of the FRC England.

The Dutch FRA-branch had been started by Edward van der Meer in 1967. Initially the organisation, called the "Free Radio Action," was just a private initiative and not yet related to the British FRA. Future members were attracted by promising perspectives. Interviewed by the press, Van der Meer summed up in the newspapers a whole range of things the members could acquire for low prices. Next to that, the lofty aims of the organisation were spanned out extensively. The organisation was a private initiative of Van der Meer, who used to present himself also as Edwin Lake, with his last name translated in English. At the time, he was only 17 years old and he had his address at the Kromhoutstraat in Rotterdam. In one of the interviews, he confessed that he was completely addicted to offshore radio and that he had enlisted five hundred signatures of his countrymen for the cause. These, he said, would be delivered to Harold Wilson, attached to a petition declaring that not only the British people, also the Dutch were deeply disappointed by his decision to ban the Pirates.

Just like his British predecessors, Van der Meer soon came in financial problems and then contacted the people of the FRA in England. They made an agreement and Van der Meer subsequently posted an official letter to his supporters, indicating that the organisation had adopted the new name of "Free Radio Association, Department Holland." By then, it was already 1968 and, again, Van der Meer promised his members a lot of things, including a news bulletin with news every six weeks — real interesting news for the fans, not the usual dreary things about offshore radio normally to be found on the subject in the newspapers. I don't know if someone ever saw or even touched a copy. All I can say, after having paid my subscription for the first year to the Rotterdam banc account, is that I never received a single bulletin.

  Van der Meer was a confirmed fan of Radio Caroline and he wanted to revive the station. To this end, he tried to make some money by sending out letters under the heading of "The Caroline Action." Filling his lines with rhetorical questions, he wrote:
  "This sound may return in the airwaves. However, it all depends on you because we can't do it single-handed. We need you! Caroline was all we wanted, the station was good, and we loved it. We still don't know, why it did have to go. Why? When we — that includes you too — bring Caroline back on the air, it will be to prove to the British Government, that we want the station back. Bringing Caroline back will be the only way to have Freedom. If there is no freedom in the air now, what will they do next? Make an end to the freedom of press or even the freedom of speech?"
  By now, you can certainly guess the topic that was being addressed in the next lines of the letter. Indeed, Van der Meer asked to send him for money, as much as possible, to turn his dream of restarting Radio Caroline into reality. Van der Meer clearly tripped over his own enthusiasm and his plans did not succeed. Some time later, Hans Verbaan became the new representative for the FRA/FRC in the Netherlands. Verbaan was a very relaxed person, who decided to fill his job by setting more realistic targets. He organised boat trips to the offshore radio stations off the Dutch coast and also brought many nice products on the market. Next to that, cooperating with the FRC, he realised the "Caroline Request Show," presented in Dutch as well as in English that was aired by Radio Caroline in 1973.
  As for me, my personal membership of the "Free Radio Association" ended in 1968. Subsequently, I had to look for other sources of information in the Fight For Free Radio, so in 1969 I subscribed to the Pirate Radio News. This was an English language magazine, published in the Netherlands, which informed people about the developments in the world of Free Radio on a monthly base. Incidentally, I myself wrote some short articles for the magazine, and, from 1971 on, the board asked me to become their executive editor, a job I took up until late 1976.
17 Left: Cartoon of the British Post Master General in Radio Caroline's studio

RNI shows up. In 1970, three years after the passing of the Marine Offences Act, the Fight for Free Radio again became actual in Great Britain. In 1969, two Swiss business men — Edwin Bollier and Erwin Meister — who had made their money by selling electronic equipment all over the world, conceived the plan to start their own radio station. Both men first had worked for a company in Germany, helping to rebuild the former Radio London ship, the MV Galaxy. The ship lay moored in Hamburg and was owned by a Greek Company. The owners, though, had forgotten to pay a huge bill to the harbour authorities and so the project did collapse. Still, in the minds of Meister and Bollier the idea was born of having their own radio ship (Knot, 2002). They were quick to realise their plan by acquiring and equipping their own radio ship.

Radio Northsea International, as the station was initially called, started airing test signals on January 23rd, 1970, from the radio ship MEBO II. Regular programming could be heard on 102 MHz FM, 6210 kHz SW and on 1610 kHz (186 metres) AM from February 28th on. The programming was bilingual with an English as well as a German Service. As soon as the transmissions had started, some Dutch newspapers ranted and raved against the new station. Only one day after the official start, the Dutch PTT (GPO) indicated that it had received some serious complaints from the Norwegian Government. The broadcasts on the 186 metres, according to the Norwegian Government, were interfering with distress frequencies of the Norwegian Navy. A journalist of the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, moreover, added that his research proved that the frequencies of the pilot service in Flushing also were hindered by interference from the RNI-signals. RNI was having other problems too. Shortly after the opening, it became clear that few Dutch people were attracted by the station. There seemed to be no need for a second offshore radio station off the Dutch coast next to Radio Veronica that had been there since 1960. Radio veronica was transmitting a very successful format, which attracted a lot of advertisers. RNI had also the problem that its programmes were transmitted in foreign languages, and thus were not that interesting for the Dutch world of advertising.

  Because of this, Meister and Bollier decided to move their ship. On March 23rd, 1970, the MEBO II left her anchorage off the coast of Scheveningen, while deejay Carl Mitchell was conveying his British audience where the ship was headed: "England, here we come." Having arrived at its new location, though, the transmissions on 186 metres again proved to cause severe interference, now to the British Coastguard. Letters of protest were sent to RNI by the Trinity House, responsible for lighthouses and light vessels, by the Coast Guard Service and by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. A few days later, on March 27th, 1970, RNI ceased broadcasting on the medium wave band and not much later also on the other wavebands. On April 10th, 1970, the station came back on the air, this time using the 1578 kHz (190 metres) for its AM output. The change, however, did not help much. The British newspapers soon reported that the new frequency interfered with those of some Italian and Norwegian radio stations, as well as with the 192 metres band of competitor Radio Veronica. The British Government took action. Minister John Stonehouse announced that soon a jamming signal would be on the air soon to interfere and even block RNI's transmissions on the AM band. To this end an 800c/s tone, transmitted by the Beacon Hill Naval radio station, located in Rochester Kent, came on the air.
18 Right: Because of outstanding debts, the ship of Radio Caroline, the former passenger ferry MV Fredericia, was towed into Amsterdam harbour by the Wijsmuller Company in March 1968

A jamming protest in Rochester. In those days, I was listening to the programs of RNI on a daily base and, I'll never forget how the jamming signal of the British Government came on the air. Right in the middle of the record "Spirit In The Sky," a song by the American band Norman Greenbaum, a whistling sound could be heard, beeping noisily through the music. No wonder, that many listeners were put off by this irritating noise. After loosing a considerable part of its audience, RNI decided that the frequency had to be changed again. First, the station switched over to 217 metres and later, on May 13th, the 244 metres became the station's new place on the medium wave band. This frequency, though, was very close to the frequency of BBC Radio One, the public pop station that was launched in 1967. As the 244 metres, officially, constituted a free frequency and also lay close to the Radio One frequency, the owners of RNI assumed that the signal would not be jammed. But, this hope proved false, as the jamming transmitter in Rochester also changed frequency to block the new RNI signal.

RNI reacted by transmitting official protest spots on a regular base, taking a stance against the Labour Government of Harold Wilson. The very first I heard was voiced by Larry Tremaine, an American deejay who presented himself as "the gitour with the heather" on air:

  "RNI apologises to you, our listeners for the interference heard on our transmissions. This illegal jamming is directed by the Labour Party and organised by the Post Office. This action is meant to discourage us from providing you with our normal service. However, RNI shall make every effort to continue programmes as usual. No free western country has ever jammed a free broadcasting station before, even in times of war."
  Now RNI was becoming involved in a new political fight with the British authorities. Not long after the first announcements, the deejays asked their listeners to participate in their protest. They asked them to attend a demonstration that would be held on May 31st 1970 outside the Naval premises in Rochester, where the jamming signal originated. About a hundred people showed up for the occasion, some of them trying to get on the premises but nothing serious happened. A day later, Edwin Bollier himself, turned the whole affair into a political issue by announcing to the press that, if and when the General Election of June 18th, 1970, would again be won by the Labour Party, RNI would be closed down for once and for all. To this he added that also the German Service would stop broadcasting.
19 Left: During the campaign of 1970, Radio Caroline had several double-deck buses riding around. Here you see the Caroline Music Bus with Mike Baron in front (photo: Kyp Koumi)

The return of Radio Caroline. What the offshore radio listeners didn't know at that time, was that Meister and Bollier in the meantime had made a massive deal with Ronan O'Rahilly, the former director of Radio Caroline. The three men had agreed to interfere in the political campaigns of the General Election by opposing Labour. During the week before the General Election, RNI would be renamed into Radio Caroline. As the latter station, until its demise in March 1968, had been so popular with the young, the use of its name would have a better impact, they thought. The British government had reduced the voting age and so British youth from 18 years on now could vote for their favourite Party. The new young electorate, so Bollier, Meister and O'Rahilly thought, had to be made aware that it was the Labour Party that had made the MOB into the Marine Offences Act. Now, young people could show their liking for offshore radio by voting for the Conservatives. Initiating offshore radio's most political statement ever, real anti-propaganda for the Labour Party was put out on the air for a few days and Free Radio spots, again, were transmitted. To further their case, they even hired some double-deck buses, painted and pasted with slogans. In the streets of London a special double-deck bus, the Free Radio Election campaign bus, was featuring Free Radio slogans on as well as posters of Harold Wilson, clad as the Chinese communist Chairman Mao.

  At a later press conference, O'Rahilly claimed that over 5.5 million leaflets changed hands on the streets of London in what was known as the "Campaign for Independent Broadcasting." Accompanied by former Caroline deejay Simon Dee — he had been with the station from the very first hour in 1964 — O'Rahilly attended the tour with the special buss. In Clacton-on-Sea, Meister and Bollier meanwhile installed special ultra-high frequency equipment, facilitating direct contact with the deejays on the MEBO II and helping them to bring instant information on the campaign as well as on the results on Election Day. And that's where also the "Free Radio Association," with Geoffrey Pearl, came round the corner again. Though the FRA never joined the "Campaign for Independent Broadcasting," its phone number was open 24 hours a day for listeners to voice their opinions about the elections as well as bringing them in contact with the station. Of course, the listeners were also asked to help the people of the FRA distributing their leaflets.
  On the airwaves, even the music was put to the political test. On the tune of the popular television program "Dad's Army," called "Who do you think you're kidding Mr. Hitler," new lyrics were written. The song was recorded and played on a regular base during the days RNI's name was changed into that of Radio Caroline:
  Who do you think you're kidding Mr. Wilson,
If you think Free Radio's down?
We are the boys who will stop your little game,
We are the boys who will make you think again.
So, who do you think you are kidding, Mr. Wilson,
If you think Free Radio is down?
Mr. Stonehouse starts to jam at 5.21,
And he goes home at 2 am, his dirty work is done.
So, who do you think you are kidding Mr Wilson,
If you think Free Radio's down.
If you think you can crush us,
We're afraid you've missed the bus.
So, who do you think you are kidding Mr. Wilson,
If you think Free Radio's down?
20 Right: The Free Radio Election Campaign bus (1970)

The Anti-Jamming Rally. Sunday, June 14th, 1970, saw another march, organised jointly by the Campaign for Independent Broadcasting (CIB) and the FRC (Free Radio Campaign), which went down into history as the "Anti-Jamming Rally." On Sunday, June 14th, 1970, this march was held in London with Hyde Park as its starting point and 10 Downing Street as its goal. During the whole event, Radio Caroline was transmitting a special report from the MEBO II to guide the crowd through the City of London. Over 10,000 people assembled in Hyde Park for the march. Next to Ronan O'Rahilly %mdash; who always showed up when news could be made and who also fronted the march to Downing Street — speakers at this Rally were the chairman of the CIB, Mr. David Prewitt, and also Martin Rosen (Press/Public Relations Officer), Ronan O’Rahilly and some others. Deejays Simon Dee, Roger Day and Mark Wesley also joined the march.

Harold Wilson, so it seemed, was not particularly pleased with this huge demonstration against his government and he decided to retaliate. Two days later, the British Prime Minister announced that he had given permission to use the most powerful transmitter (1,000 kW) at the transmitter plant in Droitwich to jam the RNI AM-signal. This transmitter was far more stronger than the earlier one used at the Rochester plant. By giving this permission, Wilson by the way went into illegality. He was not only jamming a broadcast from a ship in international waters, officially registered by a foreign country, but the jamming signal was also interfering with the signals of regional and local radio and television stations in large parts of the county Essex and some parts of the South East of England. Even the signal of BBC Radio One, the national pop channel, was hindered by interference in certain parts of the South East.

21 Left: Simon Dee and Ronan O'Rahilly in front of the Free Radio Election Campaign Bus (1970) — notice the posters of Harold Wilson in Mao style

The Conservative deception. On June 18th, 1970, all kind of local and regional results were reported by Radio Caroline. At the end of the day, after most of the votes had been counted, it became clear that the Conservatives finally had beaten the Labour Party. Maybe the "Campaign for Independent Broadcasting" and the propaganda broadcasting of RNI / Radio Caroline had some real effects on the outcome. Now, after more than thirty years, the question is still being discussed. One thing, however, is sure. The greater London area, with its huge mass of new voters between the aged of 18 and 21 years, as well as the South Eastern regions of Britain in fact drew a bigger amount of votes for the Labour Party than in the years before. These particular regions had been among the core targets of the "Campaign for Independent Broadcasting," which indicates that the campaign not really did change the political preferences of young people.

The day after Election Day, Caroline's name was dropped again in favour of RNI and the owners hoped, after winning, the Conservatives would order to stop the jamming. It must have been a big deception that this did not happen. Additional jamming even was started on the 6210 kHz, the short wave frequency of RNI. Consultations were needed and a meeting was arranged with people of the Conservative Party. However, they were not prepared to stop the jamming in any way. Maybe they too were afraid of the potential political power of the media or, maybe, they were deterred by the contacts of the owners of RNI with the governments of rebellious countries like Biafra. Whatever the reason, having grown disappointed with the course of things, Meister and Bollier in the end decided to return their ship to the Dutch coast to see if the advertising market had improved in the meantime.

  During the Election week on RNI/Radio Caroline, the listeners were also frequently asked to write and protest to the Prime Minister and their local MP's. A response was given in a letter from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, stressing the argument of international obligations:
  "Following the recent change of Government the Minister has carefully considered the problems of pirate broadcasting and has stated that the Government must abide by its international obligations in combating the illicit use of wavelengths. In order to force a pirate radio station, Radio Northsea International, off the air a transmitter has been activated, but not before its interference potential was tested. Tests with ordinary domestic receivers show no interference to Radio One beyond the immediate vicinity of the transmitter."
  "Our action in opposing the pirate stations has been fully accepted by the International Frequency Registration Board of the International Telecommunications Union, which is the international authority on interference and the control of frequencies. If in maintaining our stand in defence of law and order we have caused interference to the reception of Radio One to a very small number of listeners it cannot be compared with the number of listeners who are receiving interference from the pirate by his own deliberate act. I am extremely sorry for any interference you are experiencing from our transmitter. But I am sure you would agree that it is essential to maintain law and order in the field of broadcasting and in the use of scarce radio frequencies and that is the sole aim of our action."
  RNI went on for some other months, transmitting with some ups and many more downs off the Dutch coast. The station closed down in September 1970 for the first time. British offshore radio, so it seemed, was defeated. Still, in 1970 the FRA promised their members a regular magazine with news on the offshore radio stations. Its title was Sound Magazines. I don't know how many issues other people got, but I received only three copies, although I did pay for twelve.
22 Right: Ronan O'Rahilly makes his voice heard by the PA of the Free Radio Election Campaign Bus (1970)

A young man from The Hague. Though the Fight for Free Radio clearly was lost in Great Britain for the moment, people elsewhere still were continuing. While Radio Veronica was busy distributing and collecting postcards for the "Veronica stays ..." campaign, some Dutch offshore radio fans were trying to organize the fanbase. Mobilise all Dutch and Belgian Free Radio fans, was the idea of a young lad from The Hague in 1971. To this end, he formed the ISFRA, the "International Society for the Promotion of Free Radio." Together with Hans Verbaan, who in those days lived in nearby Scheveningen and who was the chairman of the Dutch FRA and FRC branches, he wanted to make a front. By a written protest to the government, they wanted to make clear, that the ratification of the Treaty of Strasbourg would make it almost impossible for the Dutch offshore radio stations to continue their programming. This young man was also the driver of the car that in those days picked up the people of the RNI at their Naarden studio to bring them to the tender in Scheveningen harbour. He told a journalist:

  "We simply have to try to get more members. At the moment, we've 1,000 members in Holland. In Germany and Belgium, we now have around 10,000 members and we hope that this all eventually leads to a total of 250,000 members. That would be fine."
  It is clear, that — just like the spokesman for the FRA in England — this guy not really had a good sense for numbers, though, he certainly had a good sense for drama. In the interview he said that the FRA stood for answering just this one question about Free Radio: "Going on or not going on as legal stations."
  The journalist and this young guy next discussed the fact that the Dutch national pop station Hilversum 3 in the meantime, according to the results of recent polls, had recruited more listeners than Radio Veronica. These facts, though, didn't impress him at all. He even made some critical comments about the fact that the programmes of Hilversum 3 were not interrupted by commercials, by saying that commercials were an essential part of the attractiveness of any radio program. This man, who was the RNI driver and front man of the ISFRA, I can now reveal, was no other than Gerard van Dam, also known as Gerard van der Zee. Moreover, in many ways he proved succesful in his love for Free Radio. He worked for Ronan O'Rahilly, bringing back the MV Mi Amigo to sea in 1972, next for Radio 199, Radio Caroline and Radio Atlantis. For his own station Radio Delmare, he brought several ships to sea.
  Left: Gerard van Dam, RNI driver and front man of the ISFRA

Gerard van Dam made a remarkable appearance in the press in July 1971, just after the MV Fredericia and the MV Mi Amigo were sold. The buyer of MV Amigo was Van Dam himself, and he successfully tried to fool the press. Together with the Hans Verbaan, he did sent out a leaflet, revealing their plans with the ship as a temporary resort for nostalgic anoraks:

"After long talks with the owners of the former Radio Caroline South ship, the MV Mi Amigo, we have succeeded in making an agreement. For a short period of time, the ship will be kept away from the ship breakers yard. During the next few months, everyone will be enabled to visit the ship for as short a time as one day, or for as long a stay as is required. Food and accommodation on the ship are being arranged. Original studio guidance will come from a well-known deejay. In case the costs of ship are not being covered by the profits for next few months, the owner will carry out his original plans and scrap the ship. This fate has already befallen Radio Caroline North. So, make the most of this unique offer and use what possibly is your last change to visit the first and last outpost of the golden age of British Pirate Radio."

  This evocative appeal was followed by an extensive price list, stating the costs of different arrangements for stays on the Mi Amigo. The leaflet was taken serious by several newspapers, which uncritically brought the news. The VPRO radio also made a nice small documentary about Van Dam's plans with the former radio ship. In fact, the leaflet contained an error. The MV Fredericia, the ship of Radio Caroline North, was not yet scrapped. It would be on dry land for a long time at the Van Marel Ship Brokery in Ouwerkerk, before the bell was taken away and the rest would be broken up. More important, though, was that Gerard van Dam was not really on the lookout for any paid visitors for his museum ship at all. Instead, the ship was towed into international waters. Equipment, stolen earlier from the ship in Amsterdam by Peter C. and Spangles M., were brought back on board. Subsequently, the MV Mi Amigo would host a whole range of stations like Radio 199, Radio Caroline, Radio Caroline 1 and 2, Radio Atlantis, Radio Seagull, Radio Joepie and Radio Mi Amigo. Those stations were all active somewhere between 1972 and 1980, the year in which the ship finally sank down beneath the waves.
23 Right: Radio City deejay and offshore photographer Martin Stevens

A German initiative. In Germany the Fight for Free Radio also led to the founding of an organisation and a magazine. Already in 1966, in Offenburg, a very young Frank Leonhardt grounded the "German Caroline Club" from which the Free Radio Campaign Germany (FRCG) was born in 1972. Next to Frank Leonhardt, in this respect the name of Ernst Wronna needs to be mentioned. Thart way both these youngsters became active in the FRA. In Germany also a "Nordsee Club" was active, housing at an address at the Krefelderstrasse 60 in Aachen. Living there was Wolfgang Meures, a young man who thought that there had never been a better radio station than RNI. He initiated his club and started writing down his love for the station in a series of leaflets. All the news about the station he could acquire, was mentioned in these bulletins. In issue number six, dated November 1971, however, he stated that he planned to stop publishing his leaflets. Instead, he said, he preferred to work together with other people in one organisation in the Fight for Free Radio. This signalled the merger of the "Nordsee Club" with the FRCG. The FRC Germany started a magazine Free Radio News, later to be renamed in Radio News — a beautiful magazine, appearing on a regular base for many years. The editors stopped publishing it in the 1980s, but in the 1990s, incidentally several issues appeared. An important mark of this German magazine, no doubt, was that they had a very talented photographer at their disposal, who liked to go out to take pictures of the offshore radio ships. With Radio City deejay Martin Stevens, this German photographer, Theo Dencker, still, counts as the best photographer of the offshore period.

24 Marching for Caroline (1989). Nearing the end of this article, I just like to bring back one last, smaller demonstration held in September 1989. Yes, more than fifteen years after the high tides of the Fight for Free Radio. On August 19th, 1989, Radio Caroline and the other stations on board of the MV Ross Revenge, the fifth vessel the Caroline organisation had used over the years to bring its programmes, was raided in a joined action of the Dutch and British Navy. The Dutch OCD, the authority responsible for acting against illegal broadcasting, had asked their British colleagues of the British DTI for help. The MV Landward and the Dutch vessel MV Volans went sent out to collect the main part of the transmitter equipment from the ship, as well as a lot of studio equipment and the record collections of Radio Caroline and its sister station Radio Monique. The very same evening I was asked to comment on this raid in the programme "Met het Oog op Morgen" of Dutch Radio 1. Of course, as I told the listeners that this was the most illegal action ever made in commission of the Dutch Government. I proved right. Some two and half years later, all the equipment had to be handed back to the Caroline Organization. However, the raid of 1989, in fact, meant the end for Radio Caroline as an offshore radio station.
  Left: The demonstration of September 17th, 1989, approaching Westminster Bridge (photo: Chris Edwards /OEM)

Still, at the time, there were some people trying to get the station back in the air. They initiated the "Caroline Movement." Caroline-fans in Holland and England were asked to send in as many records and equipment as they could, so the station could restart on a professional base. Moreover, a few weeks after the event, a demonstration was held in London, organized to show support for Radio Caroline and for those members of the crew who had remained on board after the raid. On September 17th, 1989, over six hundred people were attending the demonstration, which started near Victoria Railroad Station at the Waterloo Bridge Road. From there on, the crowd moved to Westminster Bridge and House of Parliament. The march ended at Lambeth Pier. Here goods were donated to Caroline deejays, including food, records and vital spare parts. Since then, also a "Caroline Legal Fund" was created to collect the donations of the fans of the station. Even now, in 2003, donations are still coming in the fund. They are used to keep the former transmission vessel of Radio Caroline in good condition as a token of the "Fight For Free Radio."


No more offshore radio? Sure, this article does not mention each and every single action taken in the Fight for Free Radio. However, we have covered the most important moments of the fight till the final demise of offshore radio. Will offshore radio ever return? Answering this question, I can do no better than extensively quote Jan Sundermann, who wrote the next lines in Caroline Newsbeat a couple of months ago. Sundermann replied to an article titled "No more offshore radio stations from international waters," which was published in an earlier edition of the same magazine:

  "All these national laws mentioned in the article are based on the "European Agreement for the Prevention of Broadcasts Transmitted from Stations outside National Territories." The Council of Europe, based in the City of Strasbourg, signed that agreement on 26 of September 1965. Since then, all member countries of the council were requested to sign this agreement by introducing a national law reflecting the content of the Strasbourg treaty. In 1993, by request to the council I got a list of all the countries that have signed. At that time, there were 17 countries where the treaty came into force, in between October 1967 (Denmark, Belgium and Sweden) and March 1988 (Spain). The Netherlands did this at September 27th 1974, Germany on February 28th 1970 and Great Britain on December 3rd 1967. So signing always came quite some time later than the national legislation against offshore radio."
  "A number of coastal countries did not yet sign the agreement, such as Iceland, Finland, Lithuania, Malta and others. What will happen in the future? Will the new member states of the EU have to sign the treaty too? We now have a directly elected European Parliament. And we have had non-commercial stations like Radio Brod and Offshore 98, operating from international waters. The EU even financially sponsored the operation of Radio Brod. And now, in 2003, even the Royal British Navy lost innocence when broadcasting to the Iraq people during the war! All these facts show that it could be the time to withdraw the Strasbourg treaty. Would it not be a gesture to the stations and their listeners to declare that treaty invalid from a certain date on?"
  "Members of the European Parliament could do it. We all would have to tell our local candidates before the next election, to start such an initiative. It would show the public, that the EU is not an anonymous body, unwilling to move and governing over everybody's head. Such an initiative of the Parliament would cost nothing, but strengthen the trust into our common European future by cancelling a law, that makes no sense anymore. A commercial offshore broadcaster can hardly compete today with onshore stations. (Well that's not completely true as the ban of advertising for cigarettes, tobacco etcetera, could change that). And the argument that other radio services could be interfered with, is out of date, as ship to shore services on the medium to short-wave range have closed due to other modern and more reliable technologies."
  "So, I'm taking the European idea really serious. And I think, that limiting the "lifetime" of law forces us to rethink its real value or uselessness. Now laws are produced like eggs, and it needs people to administrate them. The Strasbourg convention is only an example of a completely useless paper, and to be sure, it even now costs the taxpayers money to administrate it. So, we are in a very easy win-win situation, when this convention will be trashed. I am not really sure, if the parliament has the power to trash that, or if it needs a summit of all our presidents to decide: this is trash!"
  For several years, Sundermann worked in a committee responsible for some new European standards for products made out of a special steel alloy. So, he knows the European context he is talking about. Maybe, his plea will lead to a new phase in the Fight for Free Radio, now on a European level. It, certainly, would be a recognition of the important role offshore radio stations like Radio Caroline and RNI actually played in bringing the people of Europe a little bit more together.
  Paul Rusling remembers the Fight for Free Radio
  In 1967, Paul Rusling was involved in founding a campaigning body to press for the legislation of commercial radio in the UK. In the early 1970s, he worked as a deejay on the continent before joining Radio Caroline, where he later became the station's breakfast host. Next, he worked as a discjockey and as an engineer with several public and private radio stations in Europe and the USA. Over the last twenty years, Rusling has acted as a consultant to many radio organisations. Nowadays he is a member of the Board of the "Isle of Man International Broadcasting Plc" (IMIB), preparing to launch an international radio station from the Isle of Man. Having read this article, he sent us some more memories of Radio 270 and the Fight for Free Radio:
  "Most listeners first knew about the station perhaps in the same way I did. I was a schoolboy at the time, and the usual radio station was Big L on 266. Well, our radios were only very cheap in those days, very basic and with not much selectivity or sensitivity. So, listening to Big Lil one morning, suddenly it was hidden by a massive signal playing old people's music. Mainly Frank Sinatra — "Strangers In The Night", that sort of thing. This was the first test of Radio 270. I hated it at first, once I knew what it was. My Mum's brother had bought some shares in it, like many people who lived near Scarborough, but he soon sold them when it became official Labour Party policy to oppose commercial radio — he was a schoolteacher, deputy head of the main school."
  Right: FRA-flyer for the Free Radio Rally, August 17th, 1969

"Well, to hear Big L was impossible from that moment on and I tuned to Swinging Radio England; it changed my life completely. My music taste — everything. I needed a better radio and with that I found Radio City and others — that unbelievable summer of 1966. And Caroline was back from the MV Mi Amigo after it was in Zaandam harbour for maintenance, now with 50 kilowatts and on 1187 kHz, so we could hear that in Yorkshire. But the signal was not too strong. Soon, though Radio 270 began changing its music for the better and it became hip groovy and maybe even cool to listen to it again. Everybody else in the North East of Britain was tuned in to the new station. We had some nice guys there. For instance that crazy Aussie Neddy Noel Miller was becoming a household name that every one knew."

  "My involvement was to copy down the Radio 270 "Fun Forty" every Sunday afternoon, and I made up a chart adding up how many weeks at which number, and tabulating them, to show an annual league table of which records were the most popular in our area. I used this when I did my Saturday job, deputising for the regular DJ at the Locarno Ballroom, aged just 13 and a half. I sent this to the station and got a letter back from the Managing Director, Wilf Proudfoot, praising my effort and idea. They talked about this on the station too many times, and my parents became so proud. Even at school, the teachers heard this and they asked if the Paul Rusling they spoke of on Radio 270 was a relation of mine. I had bundles of the Radio 270 stickers and publicity materials and distributed these to every shop and the like in Hull. Boutiques especially. I also used them to get into the "older peoples" night clubs which were strictly over 18s only. That scene also changed my life. I did not know what happened when SRE closed, only that it had "gone Dutch" and I remember one Dutch DJ was pretty good in those days, and full of enthusiasm, now my good friend Lex Harding."
  "It was to be many years before I discovered the stories about SRE. The next year about Easter 1967, we were incensed by the Wilson Governments announcement they would bring in the Marine Offences Act, and I organised a petition to save Radio 270, and the other stations. I wrote to the station telling them about this and said that my friends and I had formed "The Commercial Radio Supporters Club". Radio 270 began talking about this on the air, they gave out our address in Hull for people to write to help with the petition. It was astonishing as we suddenly had about 50 letters every day from all over the North East and other places too — it was hard work organising all this but people did send us money to help, and that paid for the postage costs. We were very poor and I was eldest of seven children. I remember taking a lot of our mail to the Locarno and getting a friendly office worker to put it with their mail for sending to save stamps, so Mecca Ballrooms also helped the cause. Over the next two months we got almost 100,000 signatures on our petition — from Leeds, York, Newcastle, Hull, Sheffield and so on. We took them to Downing Street and went to see the "Free Radio Association" — dear old Geoffrey Pearl and his wife June who made us every welcome and their NE representatives."
  Left: Geoffrey Pearl being interrogated by London Bobbies, while a young Paul Alexander Rusling (seen on his stickered back) watches the proceedings

"After Radio 270 closed our "Commercial Radio Supporters Club" got more organised, running weekly disc nights in Hull, and we invited Radio 270 deejays along as guest presenters. They said that their pay for a nights work was better than their weekly Radio 270 wages! Rusty Allen, Alan West — then called Ross Randell — and Mike Baron were regulars, and we had Don Allen too, just a month after Radio Caroline closed down in March 1968. I still have tapes of them doing these CRSC club nights — being introduced by a very excited sounding Paul Rusling, aged 14 at that time! We could not afford Spangles Maldoon and Johnnie Walker as they were too expensive and wanted 40 Pounds, I think. Some of the Radio 270 staff joined our club, including Maurice Jeffrey, advertising Sales Manager, but it was to be some years before I became friends with the Proudfoot family who became involved in later Rusling radio adventures. We still talk of Radio 270. Ian Proudfoot was my age at that time. I once borrowed his bike when visiting the Radio 270 offices and he was the luckiest boy I can think of as he went with his Dad to Grimsby for the final fitting out and sailed with the ship out to Scarborough for the first broadcasts."

  "In those days my family had no camera, we were much too poor, but visions of those days keep returning as lots of people have pictures of me on the quay side at Bridlington talking to Rusty Allen and Alan West on the tender — I was surprised to see one appear in the recent BBC TV programme about Radio 270 — and in Paul Harris' book Broadcasting from the High Seas his picture of Geoffrey Pearl being quizzed by a policeman also has a young Paul Rusling with the sticker stuck on the back of his anorak for the "Commercial Radio Supporters Club" . Without Radio 270 — and my favourite station, SRE — I would probably have become a TV repairman or a ballroom DJ only."
  • Chapman, Robert (1992), Selling the sixties. The pirates and pop music radio. London: Routledge, 1992.
  • Council of Europe (1965), European agreement for the prevention of broadcasts transmitted from stations outside national territories. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, ETS No. 53 (22.I.1965).
  • Elliot, Chris (1997), The Wonderful Radio London story, 1964-1967. The life and times of Big L. Frinton-on-sea: East Anglian Productions, 1997.
  • Fuchs, Frank (1967), "Free Radio Rally." In: International Times, 1967, 14, London: Lovebooks Ltd.
  • Harris, Paul (1977), Broadcasting from the high seas. The history of offshore radio in Europe, 1958-1976. Edinburgh: Paul Harris Publishing, 1977.
  • Knot, Hans (1993), Radio Noordzee herinneringen. Groningen: Freewave Media Magazine, 1993.
  • Knot, Hans (1996), Herinneringen aan Radio Veronica, 1972-1973. Amsterdam: Stichting Media Communicatie, 1996.
  • Knot, Hans (2002), "Von der Galaxy zur MEBO 1 und von dort aus wieder zur MEBO II." In: Soundscapes, 2002, 5.
  • Knot, Hans (ed.)(1989), Twenty-five years Radio Caroline memories. Groningen: Freewave Media Magazine; Benfleet: Monitor Magazine, 1989.
  • Leonard, Mike (1996), From international waters. Sixty years of offshore broadcasting. Heswall: Forest Press, 1996.
  • Out, Rob (1975), Veronica één jaar later. Een logboek van vijftien Veronica-jaren. Zeist: De beuk d'r in BV, 1975.
  • Shofield, Barry (1969), FRA — Rise and fall of a misguided association. Nottingham, 1969.
  • Skues, Keith (1994), Pop went the pirates. An illustrated history of Pirate Radio. Sheffield: Lamb's Meadow, 1994.
  • Sundermann, Jan (2003), "No more offshore radio stations from international waters? A reply." In: Caroline Newsbeat, Quarterly Magazine of the Caroline Support Group Netherlands, June 2003, Harlingen: Caroline Nederland, 2003.
  2003 © Soundscapes
  Some comments by Fred Bunzl (november 2017)
  In 2017, almost fifteen years after the events described on this page Fred Bunzl, the former honorary general secretary of the CIB, wrote the following comments, pointing to several documents, sound files and photo's on the website of the Campaign for Independent Broadcasting:
  The catalyst which spurred me to take some practical action for "free radio" was the silencing of Radio Caroline in early March 1968. I contacted various organisations including FRA, FRC and NCRM and found that the only one with a thought-out plan of how this could be achieved and lobbying/discussing the issues with MPs and government ministers was NCRM (National Commercial Radio Movement), which I joined shortly after receiving their letter of 14th January 1969:
  Letter from the National Commercial Radio Movement to A.M. Bunzl, January 14th, 1969
  About the end of 1969 it was decided to change the name of NCRM to Campaign For Independent Broadcasting (CIB) for reasons explained in a letter to members and confirmed at its Annual General Meeting in February 1970:
  Letter from the National Commercial Radio Movement to its members, February 26th, 1970
  in your story you mention the RNI jamming protest in Rochester which took place on 31st of May 1970 which CIB organised at short notice:
  CIB Newsletter June 1970

I remember I took my Beolit 1000 portable radio along to this protest. The police were puzzled and bemused (and all the protesters delighted) when hearing RNI booming out very clearly on FM.

Under the heading "The anti-jamming rally" you write about the relationship of the FRA and the CIB. The Hyde Park rally on 14th June 1970 was organised jointly by CIB and FRC (Free Radio Campaign) and was, as you know, heavily publicized by RNI. FRA took no direct part in organising this event. In case of interest I made a recording of some of the speeches made at the Hyde Park rally. Speakers included David Prewett (CIB hon chairman), Martin Rosen (hon press + public relations, and Ronan O'Rahilly:

  Speeches made at the CIB/FRC organised Free Radio rally on Sunday, 14th June 1970, including Ronan O'Rahilly (30 minutes).
  By the way all surviving documents of NCRM and CIB are available here:
  Best wishes,
Fred Bunzl
Former hon. gen. secretary CIB
  2017 © Soundscapes