Pirate Radio Goes To The Dogs on National Radio Day: August 20th

The Dog Jocks (DJs) at Near Shore Radio

The movie of 2009 “Pirate Radio” aka “The Boat That Rocks” had a grand soundtrack which inspires our show celebrating National Radio Day. We invite you to tine in the live on air broadcast KRNN JUNEAU @ 10:00 hours Alaska time on Friday August 20th. Link – https://www.ktoo.org/listen/krnn/

The BBC favored a bland if nourishing diet of news, information, light entertainments and children’s programs. In other words, the rock ‘n’ roll revolution that was spreading like wildfire in the United States had been all but banished from the British airwaves.

But for a group of rebellious, rock-loving disc jockeys, such restrictions were merely a hurdle. Many of them took to the seas, hunkering down on old fishing ships anchored off the Eastern coast of England; from there, they broadcast programs built around the illicit tunes of bands like The Hollies and The Rolling Stones.

The pirates’ off-coast locations strategically put them in international waters — and thus out of British authorities’ legal reach. When they began broadcasting in the mid-’60s, their signals reached as many as 20 million Brits — nearly half of a population that had been permitted a diet of only six hours of “pop music” a week. And the pirates’ playlists were largely lifted from American Top 40 stations, which during the ’60s were dominated by the era’s British bands. Radio Caroline, which broadcast from the ship Mi Amigo, became one of the most popular stations.

The DJs were treated like pop stars themselves — and since most were young and single, they took every advantage of their newfound fame.

At sea it was another matter. The acoustics on the steel ships were subpar, the onboard regimen was monastic — no women allowed — and the weather could wreak havoc. During winter storms, the DJs might be stranded onboard for a month or more.

In fact, the prime motivating force behind the pirates wasn’t some kind of rock ‘n’ roll evangelism; it was good old-fashioned profit: American and Irish entrepreneurs ran the two biggest stations, trying to sidestep Britain’s refusal to grant radio licenses to commercial broadcasters.

In 1967 the British government made it a crime to supply music, commentary, fuel, food and water — and, most significantly, advertising — to any unlicensed offshore broadcaster. The law sounded the official death knell for most of the pirate stations.

Yet the music had made its mark. One month after the law took effect, the BBC launched its first pop station. And in a strange turn of events, many of the shipwrecked DJs went to work for their former nemeses at the BBC. After all, it would be six more years before Britain allowed any commercial radio stations in the country.

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