Offshore radio ships

...is somefink wot I wrote some while back. Here it is again for your comments and come-backs.....

Nearly half a century ago people used ships to broadcast pop music from. It was called 'offshore radio' or 'pirate radio' or 'free radio'. There was never anything that special about it, it was just the way to do it before stations were licensed in the UK. However, for some strange reason it did seem to attract fanatical devotion and obsession from folk who later became known as 'anoraks'. I've written about them before, and suffer the affliction myself.

Where in the 60s and 70s these were lonely young men, probably slightly nerdy like trainspotters, they have grown up now and become the granddads of this decade, but are still obsessed that the 'second coming' that will be the saviour of radio will be somebody putting a ship out to sea to start broadcasting from. (You can guess they think all radio available to them is crap.)

I maintain nobody would really notice or care, whilst others think it would lead to a radio revolution (whatever that is), and others assume the authorities would set torpedoes skimming towards the new ship, such would be its importance and the fear it would instil into them.

Like I said, I still maintain that nobody apart from a few hundred 'anoraks' would even notice a ship broadcasting from the North Sea these days, so its threat level would be nothing compared to the threat level of Laser 558, which was one of the last offshore radio stations from over 20 years ago.

Laser worried people, because it was in the right place at the right time, when everybody was still AM-centric (not that many were listening via FM) and needletime restricted.

'Needletime' was an invention of the Musicians Union that only allowed radio stations to play a certain number of hours a day of actual records (a record playing via a 'needle' (stylus) of course). The rest of the day had to be speech or music specially recorded to not count as 'needletime'. Laser didn't last all that long, but whilst it was on it was able to play non-stop music. The legal stations couldn't compete. Loads of people listened to Laser.

'Needletime' was abolished some months after Laser had gone, and these days radio stations play as many records (or these days, CDs) as they want to, as long as they pay for the copyright to so do).

A ship can only really broadcast effectively on AM, not FM. It can broadcast on FM but it doesn't get very far. So, a new ship would have to be AM. However, the music stations on AM today are losing listeners year on year and all the formats are already out there, so what new thing is a ship going to bring other than maybe politics or religion? Where once it could play non-stop music, now anybody can.

New music genres are covered by FM pirates, which have the people who are making the music actually playing it live on the air, so you ain't going to get them out to a ship to broadcast on AM – a band which the yoof generally are unaware of (they tried 'dance' on an AM station called Atlantic 252 but nobody listened and it crashed and burned) when they can hype their stuff in via urban FM pirates with their tens of thousands of listeners.

With Kerrang and various other rock services available in FM and DAB, around the country how do you compete with a rock service? Most music stations on AM are gold, yet they can't pay their way, so have to be part of larger networks to cut costs. So, how would a gold format suddenly manage to make the income needed to support and crew a ship? It wouldn't.

The more you try and look at it, unless you get some lottery-winning old anoraks who just want to do it for the hell of it (and then, in real terms a few million is not going to buy and fit a ship and keep you on the air for long either), there is no way a ship can be maintained at sea these days. In fact, the whole reason Radio Caroline collapsed 15 years ago was nothing to do with the law, but wholly to do with the lack of income.

15 Years is a very long time for even more nails to be put into the coffin of unlicensed European based offshore radio as more and more legal stations come on and the needs and desires of the listening public move on. It's well dead. Ceased. Expired. Is no more.

Yet like with any cult, the anorak believers sit and wait for the second coming not thinking logically that there's nothing going to happen. Ever. These fanatics scare me.


* Christopher England just said that *