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Caroline 1990+


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Caroline 1990+ Offshore 1990+ Essex 1997
Radio London 1997 Radio England 1999 Essex 1999
RNI 1999 Caroline 1999 Radio London 2001
Mi Amigo 2002 Pirate BBC Essex 2007 Radio Caroline North 2014

This is a reproduction of my articles on Offshore Radio from the January 2002 edition of Radio Active, and on Pirate BBC Essex from the October 2007 edition of Radio User, with the kind permission of the Editor of Radio Active/Radio User and PW Publishing Ltd.

Radio Northsea International


The Golden Offshore Era: 1990 - 2007

Tom, Jimmy & Liam Read’s Radio Trips to Essex

By Tom Read M1EYP, G-20843, BDXC-1040


I’ve lost count of the number of articles and books I have read, and records and videos played, that cover the offshore era of 1964-1967, Radio Caroline, Wonderful Radio London, Radio 390 et al. There’s been plenty also tracking Radio Northsea International in the 70s and Laser 558 in the 80s. And three cheers for that. This incredible volume of material reflects only our insatiable demand for such, and perhaps a little negatively on the brand of commercial radio as currently delivered from boardrooms around the UK. I was born in 1970, nearly three years after most of the original offshore pirates had been closed down, and yet I have always found the topic to be fascinating, and the style of broadcasting most absorbing.

Voice of Peace


The original commercial pirate for England, Radio Caroline, defied the Marine Etc Broadcasting (Offences) Bill of 1967 by continuing broadcasting beyond 14th August of that year. It managed to maintain an intermittent presence through the 70s and 80s. It was the 1990s that saw British commercial radio revolutionised again, Radio Caroline given its sternest challenges, and a surprising and refreshing new brand of offshore radio by the end of the decade.

Radio Caroline        Radio Caroline

Caroline’s live programmes on 558 kHz MW from the Ross Revenge, anchored in international waters in the North Sea, were heard regularly in my home town of Macclesfield around Easter time, 1990. By June, the new wave of "incremental" radio stations were appearing, and in what was surely a confrontational move by the then Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), Spectrum Radio was allocated the frequency of 558 kHz – Caroline’s frequency! During Spectrum’s pre-launch test transmissions, Caroline broadcast its complaints of "deliberate interference by the DTI" as both stations battled it out on 558 kHz. Spectrum threatened the IBA with legal action, and was hastily assigned 990 kHz as a parallel frequency. On the date of Spectrum Radio’s official launch of a full programme service, 25th June 1990, Caroline vacated 558 kHz.

Caroline made short returns on 558 with brief tests on the 8th July and on air between 1500 and 1630 hours on Sunday 19th August. More substantial was the full programming from the 10th to the 16th of September. This gave a crunching signal into Jersey, where I was working as a professional musician that summer season. But sadly, that was the last I heard of Caroline as an offshore pirate. There followed broadcasting on 819 kHz from 4th October to 5th November, but inaudible to me being based in Newcastle upon Tyne at this stage.

Following storms, power failures and rescues, the Ross Revenge was unmanned in the North Sea between the 10th and 14th December. Then the 1990 Broadcasting Bill became law, extending considerably the powers of the authorities and seeming the final nail in the coffin for a beleaguered Caroline. However, the Caroline management led by Peter Moore, and its supporters ensured that with determination and no little innovation, Caroline maintained its media profile throughout the next decade.

     Radio Caroline    Radio Caroline

    (photographs during the Queenborough August 1997 RSL broadcast - Alan Beech)   

Varied and diverse methods of broadcasting were used, including Restricted Service Licences (RSL) from the Radio Authority, on both FM and MW, satellite delivery, relays via short wave transmitters in Ireland, USA and England, and Internet webcasting. A summary follows; this includes all events of which I am aware, but may not be exhaustive:

26 March – 12 April 1991  Astra satellite
27 November 1991   Intelsat satellite
22 January 1992 via Radiofax, Ireland on 6205 & 12255 kHz short wave
7 April – 4 May 1992 RSL in Dover on 101.8 FM
19 April 1992 relayed over Astra satellite by QEFM between 1 & 5am
weekends 1992+ via Irish short wave transmitters on 6305 / 6295 kHz
25 August – 7 Sept. 1992 RSL in Chatham, Kent on 101.4 FM
16 May – 12 June 1994 RSL, Burnham-on-Crouch on 87.7 FM
10 Dec 1994 – 6 Jan 1995 RSL on River Blackwater near Bradwell, Essex
7 August – 4 Sept 1995 RSL from North Sea, 1 miles off Clacton, 1503 MW
6 October – 2 Nov 1995 RSL from London Docklands on 87.7 FM
30 May – 26 June 1996 RSL in Chatham on 107.4 FM
17 Nov – 14 Dec 1996 RSL in Bristol on 106.6 FM
9 – 31 August 1997 RSL from Ross Revenge off Isle of Sheppey, on 1278 MW
regular Wednesdays 1998 programmes via Merlin (ex-BBC) SW transmitters
14 June – 11 July 1998 RSL in Queenborough on 1503 MW
14 August 1998 Ronan O’Rahilly & Johnny Walker on 3955 short wave (Merlin)
November (& earlier?) 1998 Sunday programming via EKR over Astra 1C satellite
from 20 February 1999 9am-9pm Saturdays/Sundays via Astra 1C satellite
25 July – 21 August 1999 RSL from Ross Revenge, Southend Pier on 1503 MW
weekends 2000 via Astra satellite (to 31/3/01), 6305 SW (unofficial) & webcast
1 – 28 October 2000 RSL from LV18, Harwich Harbour on 1503 MW
from 1 May 2001 via Sky Digital, programmes from Maidstone studio
mid-late 2001 via WBCQ (USA) on shortwave, and Ireland (unofficial) on MW
2 - 3 February 2002 via Latvia on 945kHz
23 - 24 February 2002 via Latvia on 576kHz
from August 2002 to present via Worldspace, also Eurobird satellite & online
29 Feb - 27 March 2004 RSL from boat in Bristol City Docks, 87.7MHz FM.
7 Aug - 3 Sept 2004 RSL from Ross Revenge, Tilbury Docks, 1278kHz AM
from August 2005 via Apple FM, Sky channel 913, weekdays 1200-1400.
12 June 2006 to present via Sky Digital channel 0199
Current Live streaming via
Current via NTL Ireland, Dublin area, channel 927
Current Weekends, via The Rock of Riveria, San Remo, Italy, on 88.4MHz

Radio Caroline    Radio Caroline

    Radio Caroline   

(Nightime on the River  Blackwater)

Offshore 1990+