Marine Broadcasting Offences Act

Marine Broadcasting Offences Act

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The Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 c.41, shortened to Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, became law in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 at midnight on Monday, August 14, 1967 and was repealed by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006. Its purpose was to extend the powers of the British Wireless Telegraphy Act
Wireless Telegraphy Act
Wireless Telegraphy Act is a stock short title used for legislation in the Republic of Ireland, South Africa and the United Kingdom relating to wireless telegraphy....

 of 1949 (which it incorporated by reference), beyond the territorial land mass and territorial waters
Territorial waters
Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most from the baseline of a coastal state...

 of the UK to cover airspace and bodies of water.

At the time that the Bill was introduced in Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 in 1966, there were radio stations and proposals for television stations outside British licensing jurisdiction with signals aimed at Britain. These stations were at sea but there were press reports of stations planned from aircraft.

The Act included the Channel Islands
Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are an archipelago of British Crown Dependencies in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey...

 and extended to the Isle of Man
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man , otherwise known simply as Mann , is a self-governing British Crown Dependency, located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann. The Lord of Mann is...

. As a result, offshore stations called pirate radio
Pirate radio
Pirate radio is illegal or unregulated radio transmission. The term is most commonly used to describe illegal broadcasting for entertainment or political purposes, but is also sometimes used for illegal two-way radio operation...

 became criminal if operated or assisted by persons subject to UK law. Station operators thought they could continue if they were staffed, supplied and funded by non-British citizens, but this proved impractical.

Origins of the Act


In 1966, broadcasting in the UK was controlled by the British General Post Office
General Post Office
General Post Office is the name of the British postal system from 1660 until 1969.General Post Office may also refer to:* General Post Office, Perth* General Post Office, Sydney* General Post Office, Melbourne* General Post Office, Brisbane...

, which had granted exclusive radio broadcasting licences to the British Broadcasting Corporation
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 and television licences to the BBC and 16 Independent Television
ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 companies.

The power of the GPO covered letters delivered by the Post Office, newspapers, books and their printing presses, the encoding of messages on lines used to supply electricity; the electric telegraph, the electric telephone (which was originally deemed an electronic post office); the electric wireless telegraph and the electric wireless telephone which became known as "telephony" and later wireless broadcasting. In the 1920s the GPO had been circumvented by broadcasting from transmitters in countries close to British listeners. World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 terminated these broadcasts except for Radio Luxembourg
Radio Luxembourg
Radio Luxembourg may refer to:*Radio Luxembourg , a Long Wave commercial radio station that began broadcasting from the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in 1933...

.

Broadcasting pressure groups


In the 1950s a pressure group campaigned with the help of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 to pass the Television Act 1954
Television Act 1954
The Television Act 1954 was a British law which permitted the creation of the first commercial television network in the United Kingdom, ITV....

 that broke the BBC television monopoly by creating ITV. Some members wanted commercial competition to radio but were thwarted by a succession of governments.

By the 1960s several companies formed in the hope that radio licences would be issued. Radio monopolies in adjoining nations had been broken by transmitters on ships in international waters. The first attempt to broadcast offshore to Britain was by CNBC
Commercial Neutral Broadcasting Company
The Commercial Neutral Broadcasting Company was an English language pirate radio station which hired airtime for a few hours each day from the Dutch pirate Radio Veronica in 1960–1961. Programmes were pre-recorded at Veronica's Amsterdam studio together with the Dutch programmes, and broadcast...

, an English-language station from the same ship as Radio Veronica
Radio Veronica
Radio Veronica was an offshore radio station that began broadcasting in 1960, and broadcast from offshore for over fourteen years. It was set up by independent radio, TV and household electrical retailers in the Netherlands to stimulate the sales of radio receivers by providing an alternative to...

 broadcasting in Dutch to the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. CNBC ended transmissions but press reports followed that GBLN, The Voice of Slough, would transmit from a ship with sponsored programming already booked and advertised by Herbert W. Armstrong
Herbert W. Armstrong
Herbert W. Armstrong founded the Worldwide Church of God in the late 1930s, as well as Ambassador College in 1946, and was an early pioneer of radio and tele-evangelism, originally taking to the airwaves in the 1930s from Eugene, Oregon...

. GBLN was followed by reports that GBOK was attempting to get on air from another ship, both ships to be anchored off south-east England. Many in these early ventures were known to each other.

Some of the commercial television group members had registered broadcasting companies and were working to create offshore radio. The first venture was Project Atlanta in 1963, which had ties to British political leaders, bankers, the music industry and to Gordon McLendon
Gordon McLendon
Gordon Barton McLendon was a radio pioneer and pirate radio broadcaster. He has been coined the Maverick of Radio. McLendon is widely credited for perfecting, with great commercial success, the Top 40 radio format during the 1950s and 1960s which was first invented by Todd Storz and for developing...

, who had helped Radio Nord
Radio Nord
Radio Nord was a Swedish offshore commercial station that operated briefly from 8 March 1961 to 30 June 1962 from a ship anchored in international waters of the Baltic Sea off Stockholm, Sweden. While the station was dubbed as a pirate radio station, its actual operation took place within the laws...

 broadcast from a ship off Sweden. When that was put off the air by Swedish law it became available to British entrepreneurs. Before Radio Atlanta
Radio Atlanta
Radio Atlanta named after Atlanta, Texas, was an offshore commercial station that operated briefly from 12 May 1964 to 2 July 1964 from a ship anchored in the North Sea, three and a half miles off Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, England...

 got on the air, Radio Caroline
Radio Caroline
Radio Caroline is an English radio station founded in 1964 by Ronan O'Rahilly to circumvent the record companies' control of popular music broadcasting in the United Kingdom and the BBC's radio broadcasting monopoly...

 began broadcasting in March 1964.

Texas connections to British stations led Don Pierson
Don Pierson
Donald Grey Pierson was a businessman and civic leader in Eastland, Texas. He founded the British pirate stations Wonderful Radio London, Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio during the 1960s...

 of Eastland, Texas
Eastland, Texas
Eastland is a city in Eastland County, Texas, United States. The population was 3,769 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Eastland County.During the 1920s, Eastland, like nearby Cisco, Ranger, and Desdemona, were petroleum boomtowns....

 to promote three American-radio format stations off Britain: Wonderful Radio London
Wonderful Radio London
Radio London, also known as Big L and Wonderful Radio London, was a top 40 offshore commercial station that operated from 16 December 1964 to 14 August 1967, from a ship anchored in the North Sea, three and a half miles off Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, England...

 or Big L, Swinging Radio England
Swinging Radio England
Swinging Radio England was a top 40 offshore commercial station billed as the "World's Most Powerful" that operated from 3 May 1966 to 13 November 1966 from a ship in the North Sea, three and a half miles off Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, England...

 and Britain Radio. By 1966 other stations had come on the air transmitting to Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, northern and southern England, or were in the process of doing so. Press reports included rumours of offshore television stations and the brief success of the Dutch REM Island
REM Island
REM Island was a platform built in the Republic of Ireland and towed off the Dutch coast in 1964 as the pirate broadcasting home of Radio and TV Noordzee. Both stations were dismantled by armed forces of the Netherlands. It was six miles off Noordwijk....

 operation called Radio and TV Noordzee heightened the fear of the authorities that defacto unregulated broadcasting was becoming so entrenched due to its popularity that it would not be possible to stop it.

Existing laws governing the offshore stations


Although these stations maintained sales and management offices in Britain, the transmitters were not under British law. In many instances the ships were registered in other countries.

Claims of piracy


Parliamentary debates listed several reasons why unlicensed broadcasting should be stopped. Opponents referred to "pirate radio stations". Allegations of piracy included misappropriation of World War II military installations; wavelengths allocated to others and the unauthorised playing of recorded music. Other charges said the vessels were a danger to shipping and that signals could interfere with aircraft and police, fire and ambulance services.

Timing of legislation


In 1966 events took place which led to the hijacking of Radio City
Radio City (pirate radio station)
Radio City was a British pirate radio station that broadcast from Shivering Sands Army Fort, one of the abandoned Second World War Maunsell Sea Forts in the Thames Estuary.- Origins :...

, on a disused offshore defence fort. It led to the killing of a radio operator. That strengthened the position of the Labour government of Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 enough to see the passage of the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act on 15 August 1967.

Results of the legislation


The offshore stations were composed of four groups:
  1. Local operators of small stations such as Radio Essex and Radio City and Radio 390 who conducted their businesses with limited budgets primarily from disused forts on offshore sandbars. The UK silenced these stations by bringing the sandbars within UK waters.
  2. Regional operators such as Radio 270 and Radio Scotland who lacked the resources to relocate to other countries and staff their operations with non-British personnel.
  3. The ship stations of Wonderful Radio London
    Wonderful Radio London
    Radio London, also known as Big L and Wonderful Radio London, was a top 40 offshore commercial station that operated from 16 December 1964 to 14 August 1967, from a ship anchored in the North Sea, three and a half miles off Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, England...

     and Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio
    Swinging Radio England
    Swinging Radio England was a top 40 offshore commercial station billed as the "World's Most Powerful" that operated from 3 May 1966 to 13 November 1966 from a ship in the North Sea, three and a half miles off Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, England...

    . While Wonderful Radio London made money, the others had lost so they closed ahead of the law to save further expense. Radio London continued broadcasting until its last transmission on the eve of the new law, when the station closed.
  4. The Radio Caroline ships announced they would move to Holland, with an advertising office in New York City
    New York City
    New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

    . The reality was felt in early 1968 when two tugs representing the supply company towed the vessels away to satisfy debts.

Continuing challenges to legislation


Although challenges began with Radio North Sea International
Radio North Sea International
Radio North Sea International also known as Radio Nordsee International in German and Radio Noordzee Internationaal in Dutch, was a European offshore radio station, run by the Swiss firm Mebo Telecommunications, jointly owned by Swiss engineer, Edwin Bollier, and his business partner, Erwin Meister...

 in 1970, governments jammed
Radio jamming
Radio jamming is the transmission of radio signals that disrupt communications by decreasing the signal to noise ratio. Unintentional jamming occurs when an operator transmits on a busy frequency without first checking whether it is in use, or without being able to hear stations using the frequency...

 it until it moved away. In 1983 Radio Caroline returned with a new ship and antenna. It was joined by Laser 558
Laser 558
Laser 558 was an offshore pirate radio station launched in May 1984 by a consortium of British and American business and broadcasting executives, some of whom have never been named. Laser 558 used disc jockeys recruited from the USA. The station was aboard the ship the MV Communicator in...

 another vessel, and while the latter gained a huge audience, the legislation plus a sea embargo monitoring supplies out to Laser drove its operators into insolvency.

Radio Caroline returned through the 1970s using a vessel that sank in 1980, then returned with a new ship in 1983, primarily conducted with volunteer help. The Great Storm of 1987
Great Storm of 1987
The Great Storm of 1987 occurred on the night of 15/16 October 1987, when an unusually strong weather system caused winds to hit much of southern England and northern France...

 destroyed its tower and the embargo against Laser 558 created more difficulties for Radio Caroline which had limped back on the air with a new antenna. Dutch and British governments then raided the Radio Caroline ship and removed much of its equipment, but again it limped back on the air.

The apparent conclusion of unlicensed British offshore radio


The end of the offshore Radio Caroline
Radio Caroline
Radio Caroline is an English radio station founded in 1964 by Ronan O'Rahilly to circumvent the record companies' control of popular music broadcasting in the United Kingdom and the BBC's radio broadcasting monopoly...

 came when the Broadcasting Act 1990
Broadcasting Act 1990
The Broadcasting Act 1990 is a law of the British parliament, often regarded by both its supporters and its critics as a quintessential example of Thatcherism. The aim of the Act was to reform the entire structure of British broadcasting; British television, in particular, had earlier been...

, which built on all similar and related legislation, together with a storm that caused its staff temporarily to abandon the ship, caused the station to come ashore in 1991, where enthusiasts continue to build a broadcasting business using the new licensing system available to British broadcasters.