The Haunted Studio - History of Radio Part 2

By 1922 the U.S. Government had licenced 500 radio stations, which were received on crystal sets. On the 14th February Marconi's company 2MT commenced the first regular broadcasting service in London. On the 11th May 1922 an independent company sought permission from the Post Office to broadcast to London for one hour a day. The radio transmitter, housed in a teak cabinet in a cinema theatre on the top floor of Marconi House in the Strand London, commenced broadcasting as radio station 2LO. Marconi's company, 2ZY commenced broadcasting in Manchester five days later. The broadcasts were only permitted to be speech, it was two years later that broadcasting restrictions were relaxed and "live music" could be broadcast.

On the 28th August the very first radio commercial was broadcast from station WEAF in New York, USA. It was for the Property Development Company Queensboro Corporation. Marconi's company, 2WP commenced broadcasting in London in October.

Such was the popularity of 2LO that the British Government formed the British Broadcasting Company on the 18th October, which took over the running of 2LO at the end of 1922. At the same time 51T in Birmingham and 2ZY in Manchester were taken over by the British Broadcasting Company. The stations were under Parliamentary control and finance was obtained from the recently introduced wireless receiving licence that the Post Office sold, the funds of course went to the Exchequer. In the early days of the BBC, firms such as Harrods of Knightsbridge and many of the daily newspapers sponsored programmes.

On the 17th January.1923 Marconi's company, 2MT closed down. It had offered the only British alternative to the BBC owned stations. In 1925 the British department store "Selfridge's" placed the first advertisement designed for a British audience when it sponsored a fashion talk show on the Eiffel Tower Radio station.

In 1926 the UK Government set up the Crawford committee on broadcasting. They recommended that only a public monopoly of broadcasting would be satisfactory. As a result the British Broadcasting Company Limited was liquidated on the 31st December. The British Broadcasting Corporation was constituted by Royal Charter on the 1st January 1927 and became solely responsible for British Broadcasting.

In May 1933 the first ‘pirate’ offshore radio station was RKXR off the coast of California, on board the steam ship "City of Panama". It was licenced to transmit non-commercial programmes on 815 Khz with a power of 500 - 1,000 Watts, but when the ship started broadcasting it had an output power of 5,000 watts and pumped out popular music and commercials. The station was a hit with listeners and advertisers due to its high power. This reaction to the station upset the authorities and action was taken to close the station. By August the ship was towed into Los Angeles harbour and no more was heard of the station.

On the 4th June 1933 Radio Luxembourg commenced broadcasting an English service on long wave every Sunday. The Station proved popular with British listeners until it was closed down at the beginning of the Second World War. In 1948 Radio Luxembourg resumed broadcasting on medium wave, 208 Metres, with the catch phrase "Station of the Stars".

In 1951 in the UK the Beveridge Committee on Broadcasting recommended that commercial radio and television were still not required, however there was a minority of committee members that did not agree with the recommendations.

In 1958 the Isle of Man Government passed a law authorising the installation of a medium wave radio station. Permission was sought from the British Post Office to operate it, but was turned down. The Island could have it's own station as long as it could not be received on the mainland of the UK. In 1960, in the UK, the Pilkington committee recommended that a local radio service was not required because there was "no evidence of public demand".

On the 27th March 1964 Radio Caroline made her first test broadcast at sea and commenced regular transmissions the following day. The broadcasts proved extremely popular and were soon followed by other stations. The most successful Offshore Station Radio London started regular broadcasts on the 23rd December 1964.

In May 1965 the British Post Office issued an experimental broadcasting licence to Mr L. Meyer and Pye Limited, to operate Manx Radio on the VHF FM band in stereo. On the 5th June Manx Radio commenced broadcasting. The first broadcast was a commentary about the Isle of Man TT race. The potential audience was only 2500 people. In October Manx Radio were issued another experimental licence to broadcast on medium wave by the British Post Office and given permission by Tynwald, the Manx Parliament, to begin regular broadcasts.

On the 20th June 1966 Radio City, a Pirate Station operating from an old naval fort in the Thames Estuary, was boarded by a party of men who forced them to close down. The raid was organised by Major Oliver Smedley who claimed to be owed money by the organisation. Radio City owner Reg Calvert went to Smedley’s house and was shot dead during an altercation. Smedley was later acquitted but it was this incident that galvanised the British Government into action. Parliament began preparing the Marine Offences Act.

On the 14th August 1967 all the remaining pirates closed down apart from Radio Caroline. At midnight both the Radio Caroline stations became Radio Caroline International. On the 31st August the British Marine Broadcasting Offences Act was extended to include the Isle of Man.

On the 30th September BBC Radio 1, the station chosen to replace the British offshore pirate stations began transmissions. Existing BBC radio services were renamed, The Light programme became Radio 2, the Third programme became Radio 3 and the Home service became Radio 4. On the 8th November BBC local radio commenced with the opening of BBC Radio Leicester.

On the 2nd March 1968 the Dutch firm of Wijsmuller was owed money for supplying the Radio Caroline ships. Both Caroline ships were silenced and towed back to Holland in the hope that the Wijsmuller firm would be paid.

On the 28th February 1970 Radio Nordsee International commenced broadcasts from off Noordwijk. When Radio Nordsee International changed anchorage, to off the coast of Clacton on Sea, on the 23rd March the British Governments retaliated swiftly. They commenced jamming Radio Nordsee International from the naval radio station transmitter, housed at Rochester, Kent, on the 15th April. This was the first time a Government had jammed a radio station during peacetime.

Radio Nordsee International changed its name on the 13th June to Radio Caroline for the period of the British elections and started to campaign against the Labour Government. This was the first election that 18 year olds were allowed to vote in. Whether this had anything to do with the final result is arguable but Labour lost. However the stations hopes of being treated any better by the Conservatives were soon dashed. The jamming continued and their ship, the Mebo II, sailed back to Holland. Over the next few years Radio Nordsee would encounter many problems including a siege and a fire bomb attack.

In 1972 Radio Caroline returned and began to broadcast programmes in both English and Dutch off the coast of Holland. Radio Atlantis joined them in December 1973. The Dutch Government introduced their version of the Marine Offences Act on the 30th August 1974. This forced all the stations transmitting from Holland to close down with the exception of Radio Caroline.

On the 8th October 1973 London Broadcasting Company (LBC) commenced broadcasting. The first licenced commercial radio station since May 1922 to legally broadcast to the UK. Since then the network of local Commercial Radio Stations has grown considerably with over 200 stations broadcasting across Britain.

On the19th March 1980 during force 10 Storms the MV Mi Amigo's anchor chain broke causing the ship to drift. Caroline’s ship was grounded on Long Sand Bank causing serious damage to the hull. The ship began taking in water and sank. Undaunted the Caroline organisation purchased the MV Ross Revenge to be converted into a radio ship and were granted legal ownership in May 1983. The Station re-opened on the 20th August and heralded a new era of offshore broadcasting. In 1984 Laser 558 moored alongside the Caroline ship and began transmitting to Europe. The station was so successful it forced the British Government to launch Eurosiege 85. The Department of Trade and Information constantly monitored the ships. Laser 558 was forced to close down because of a lack of fuel and once again Caroline was alone.

On the19th August 1989 the MV Ross Revenge was raided by British and Dutch Authorities, The transmitters were destroyed, and studio equipment and records removed from the ship. The station returned to the air a month later. On the 20th November 1991 the MV Ross Revenge lost its anchor and drifted onto Goodwin Sands. The ship was rescued and taken back to Dover harbour. The station’s long distinguished career in Offshore Broadcasting had ended. Another long running station also said farewell that year. On the 30th December Radio Luxembourg made its final broadcast to UK audiences on 208 Metres.

The 1990’s saw the advent of three National Commercial stations Virgin Radio, Classic FM and Talk Radio. As the new millennium dawned, the UK radio scene embraced new technology and started to develop Digital Radio offering crystal clear reception and high quality sound. The fledgling technology still has to establish itself but the Radio Industry is keen for it to succeed. The World Wide Web offers exciting opportunities and greater choice for the listener too. Thousands of Radio Stations all over the world are streaming their audio output over the Internet.

Technology is advancing in leaps and bounds and there are exciting times ahead in the development of radio. 

An example of a 30's style Radio

An example of a 50's style radio

MV Fredercia

Radio Caroline's Original Ship 

The MV Fredericia


dA RNI QSL card

A Radio North Sea International QSL Card

Digital - The future of Radio?

Digital Radio - The Future?

Visit the Vintage Wireless & Television Museum


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