The politics of offshore radio 

9 April 2007

Offshore Radio Day colour

The politics of offshore radio shaped our lives in many ways – of which most people are still unaware.

For all that the New Labour government may recently (I am writing in late summer 2006) have lurched towards the most hypocritical kind of moralistic authoritarianism (hypocritical because it utterly refuses to even attempt to regulate the mass media which cause most of that to which it pretends to object), it has been guided for much of its existence by what has been most accurately termed the ‘Whig Interpretation of History’; the belief that the world is, steadily, getting better in every way; that “progress” and “technology” and the like are unquestionable gods; and that those who question such changes are pathetic reactionaries – a position that is firmly opposed to High Toryism while – crucially – not being Socialist either.

For it is only the first-past-the-post system keeping the main parties together (this, of course, is precisely why their leaders won’t let go of it). British politics is, in practice, now a battle between ‘Whigs’ in the 19th Century sense (i.e. believers in expansion, growth, the breaking down of national boundaries and suchlike) and ‘Tories’ in the sense of that time (i.e. believers in tradition, order and structure, retreat into closed boundaries, national heritage and so on), with the party system reflecting the divisions of the day about as much as the Tory-Whig system would have done had it still been around in 1945.

How and why did this happen? I put it down to the ‘New Whigs’, the generation born in the aftermath of the Second World War who were essentially rootless in every sense, both politically and culturally – born into a society fundamentally uprooted, not least by the presence of American troops during the Second World War, and the desire the war had created to fundamentally overcome the class system, with key elements of the backdrop to British life such as the appearance of town centres and the very existence of many railway lines up for debate.


While they were repulsed by the air of fading imperial grandeur and outmoded privilege conveyed by the Tory party, and the 1960s found them initially fascinated and excited by Harold Wilson’s promise of a technocratic future, they were essentially capitalist individualists, and thus were profoundly alienated when the hard Left reasserted itself in the 1970s. Far greater in number than those who truly believed in hippie idealism, they are Ian MacDonald’s “radicalised, post-consensus Conservative voters … the true heirs of the Sixties; they changed the world, not the hippies (and certainly not the New Left)”. And their rallying cry, their defining issue, the key factor around which their eventual realignment of the entire ethos of British life would be built, was, surprisingly enough, offshore radio.

It is important at this point to realise another profound fact: that historically the Tory and Labour parties have, in the area of broadcasting policy, represented each other’s supporters rather than their own. Even before Thatcherism, the Tory party was always more open to the idea of the free-market system in broadcasting, while its supporters (until the 1980s, as we shall see) were overwhelmingly wary of the products of that system, considering them “vulgar” and “commercial”. The Labour Party was equally out of touch with its core supporters, being consistently (even at the time of the 1990 Broadcasting Act, although its puritan socialist streak had been diluted, mainly by the effects of trendy-leftism, and was of course set to face the mortification of the Blair era) critical of commercial broadcasting which was enjoyed by many Labour voters who considered the BBC to be “stuffy” and “establishment” (often going so far as to call it “Tory”).

Newspapers stood in varying positions in this disconnection; the Daily Mirror was firmly aligned with its Old Labour readership (notably publishing books based on various American series transmitted on ITV around 1960, such as Circus Boy and Wagon Train, the latter book having a very modern look for the period) against the intellectual Left elite, while The Times (essentially a Tory paper, for all its claims to impartiality) blew hot and cold. It still paid lip service to old-elite Americoscepticism, but in 1961 it criticised the leadership of a trade union which had objected to what it saw as overt Americanisation brought about by ITV, an issue where the union leadership were out of tune with the mass of union members and actually much more in tune with the core readership of The Times and the Daily Telegraph, for all that the latter were not themselves in trade unions. Despite the fact that it was reporting views which most of its readers would probably have agreed with, The Times, through taking the same slant as the Mirror, chose to align itself with a tendency which was out of tune with the mass of its readership (the complete opposite of the Mirror‘s situation).

Its stance on the matter was pretty much a proto-Thatcherite one in line with the pressure group within the Tory party which had brought ITV into being in the first place, claiming that it was overtly “interventionist” “interference” to challenge people’s right to relaxing entertainment in this way. The paper’s natural desire to criticise trade union leaders led it to ignore the fact that its own readership was actually more likely to agree with the union leaders than most union members were: very soon afterwards, it printed the results of a poll of Tory party members, most of whom thought that there should not be a second commercial TV channel; much preferred the BBC to ITV and felt there were too many American programmes on ITV. The irony seemingly passed unnoticed.

Meanwhile, the 1962 Pilkington Report, which criticised ITV’s populist approach, was condemned not only by the Daily Mirror but also by the Daily Telegraph, which proclaimed, “this amazing document is motivated by a haughty conviction that anything which is popular must be bad”, despite the fact that it probably had a higher percentage of readers who would have agreed with the report than any other newspaper (with the possible exception of The Times). Even the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain, denounced the report.

At the same time, the Daily Express – read by the mass of working-class Tory voters, who made up some of ITV’s most loyal audiences (devoid of the anti-populism of both the old Tory elite and the idealists of the Left) – was the only national daily paper to unequivocally praise the report (though this was probably more because of its wariness of commercial television undermining its own advertising interests than any sort of high-mindedness).

Flash forward a couple of years to the early months of 1964, and the Tory party was overwhelmingly associated with the “old world” which the impulse of the era was to condemn while calling for “standardisation” and “streamlining” and, above all else, “modernisation”. “Tory interests” – from the landed classes to the general all-round traditionalists who were criticising the party’s own legislation banning resale price maintenance for its effects on small shops and empowerment of supermarkets – were now the new dirty word. The new target was “classlessness”, and the Tory party’s choice of Alec Douglas-Home – an Old Etonian and 14th Earl – as its new leader suddenly rendered it a laughing stock, while Harold Wilson’s “White Heat of Technological Revolution” speech had caught the mood of the moment.

So when Radio Caroline began broadcasting on Easter Sunday, 29th March 1964, it would have been subliminally associated – if, at that stage, it was politicised at all – with a proto-Blairite reinvention of the Left, rather than anything to do with the Right. Within a few weeks of each other, we had not only this but the final edition of the radio Children’s Hour, Raymond Glendenning’s last radio sports commentary, Associated-Rediffusion becoming Rediffusion London, and the inception of BBC2 – a series of significant events which confirm 1964’s importance in British cultural history.

But, most intriguingly of all, it was at this moment that we saw the emergence of a set of people from impeccably middle-class backgrounds who, while not embracing socialism and generally still holding right-wing views, nevertheless reacted against their parents’ values in a different way, through embracing commercialism and populism. You could, if you wanted, call it “the ATV route” out of the impasse of the old culture (whereas the socialist way out could be called “the Granada route”, Granada in that context obviously referring strictly to the company’s earlier incarnation). It is this tendency which has done most to recast British culture in our own time, quite apart from having been the foundation stone for what eventually became Thatcherism (as opposed to the restoration of the old certainties believed in by her original supporters on the Right of the Conservative Party, many of whom were in the Monday Club, for many years the most prominent pressure group of the Right).

Simon Dee, the first DJ on Radio Caroline, had been (like John Peel, Michael Palin, the writer Mark Sinker and several members of the Private Eye gang) educated at Shrewsbury public school. His real name was Carl Henty-Dodd. Peter and Gordon, who entered the BBC’s Top 20 on the same day that Radio Caroline began, had met at Westminster public school. The funding of offshore stations came from a curious mixture of American capitalists and affluent British people, often with strong links to what might be called “the Home Service culture”, putting aside their differences in a manner which can be seen as paving the way for what would happen to Britain in the 1980s. Notably, Jocelyn Stevens donated substantial funds to Radio Caroline while editing a magazine called Queen, whose contents could fairly be described as “the public school set at play”, while the future Tory minister Geoffrey Howe (who ironically would align himself with the pro-European wing of the party and play a major role in Margaret Thatcher’s downfall in 1990) had plans, never fulfilled, to enter the offshore radio business.

In July 1964, Caroline welcomed Tony Blackburn, though not until he had changed his voice somewhat from his original Received Pronunciation, which was considered too close to the BBC standard. While his belief that striking miners in the 1970s should “go and live in Russia” (for which he was suspended from Radio 1 in 1974) would have been echoed by many of his parents’ generation and social class, his enthusiastic embrace of black pop over the next two decades would have been anathema to most such people.

We are all of us today living in a world where the mass have become the standard-setters for the elite, and the idea of the mass aspiring to elite standards has come to be seen as a terribly archaic idea (it is incredible to think now of the extent to which young girls from working-class backgrounds once aspired to be ballet dancers, for example), but crucially the triumph of the mass has been achieved through capitalist rather than socialist means (the difference between meritocracy and egalitarianism). Reading material on the early days of the offshore radio movement is to witness this shift at its birth.

The political and cultural importance of the offshore stations was fully understood by wiser people at the time. The headmaster of Marlborough College was John Dancy, a man definitely at odds with public school traditionalism. He pre-empted Martin Wiener’s attacks on the public schools’ wariness of “getting your hands dirty” by introducing business studies, accepted girls into the college’s sixth form when that was seen as almost blasphemous in some circles, and spoke of his unease at the social and educational divisiveness which the public schools incarnated. He commented in The Times on 3rd November 1965 that his students were no longer speaking to each other in the traditional Received Pronunciation, but in what he described as “a classless, Radio Caroline accent” (this was seemingly not intended as a criticism, which it certainly would have been from most public school headmasters of the time). Again, most of us now take it for granted that people in private schools will, for the most part, no longer speak in a stereotypically “posh” way.

But for all that the offshore stations symbolised a cultural shift that was mainly associated with Labour, most of their support still came from Tories. In February 1965 Sir Harmar Nicholls, the Tory MP for Peterborough (who would hold his seat by three votes in the 1966 Labour landslide), who had become a director of Radio Luxembourg in 1963, chaired the National Broadcasting Development Committee, which pressed the Labour government to licence commercial radio on land (one can reasonably assume that Luxembourg, most of whose programmes were recorded in London, would have bid for a British commercial radio licence had they been offered at the time). There were at least two peers on the committee Nicholls had chaired, and viewed today it all seems like a classic early example of the Establishment putting aside its old fear of Americanisation (and, perhaps, symbolically acknowledging Britain’s post-imperial powerlessness) in favour of the pure profit motive and the desire to break down a “statist” monopoly.

In March 1965, Ian Gilmour, the Tory MP for Central Norfolk, spoke out in favour of commercial radio in the House of Commons to “Tory cheers”, while Eldon Griffiths, Tory MP for Bury St Edmunds, pointed out that “the large majority of those under 30” listened to the pirates. Apart from the fact that MPs for East Anglian constituencies, nearest to where most of the ships were based, seemed disproportionately likely to support the commercial radio cause, Gilmour’s name stands out because he is a strong sympathiser with the Arab position rather than the Israeli one on Middle East issues (in 1990-91 he opposed the first Gulf War, which received far more support on practically all fronts than the 2003 invasion of Iraq), and only sixteen years after his speech in support of commercial radio, he would become the first Tory MP to be sacked from the Thatcher cabinet for being too ‘wet’. It is a sign of how rapidly the party changed that he had once seemed quite Americophile (if only by implication) compared to some of his contemporaries.

As The Times (and almost certainly other newspapers) commented, such was the proto-Blairite element of the image the Labour party had tried to portray under Wilson that the hardline slant against offshore radio taken by Tony Benn as Postmaster-General in December 1965 – staunchly stating “the future does not exist for them” (he would later, not inaccurately, describe Radio Caroline as a form of early Thatcherism) was bound to cause controversy and consternation which would not have happened had a Tory government acted against the stations. Offshore radio was so important a part of the “swinging Britain” mood of optimism which Labour co-opted to achieve their 1966 landslide that the party was on a serious collision course, a hiding to nothing, which was bound to have serious long-term implications – and it is significant in this context that Radio England, where Johnnie Walker began his career, broadcast from a ship called the MV Laissez Faire.

Some of the remarks made in Parliament concerning the worth, or otherwise, of popular music during the debate on what was to become the Marine &c. Broadcasting Offences Act of 1967 would now be not only unsayable in public debate outside extremist circles; they would actually be considered worse than MPs using “c**t” to describe each other in Parliament, and just as bad as Diane Abbott or David Lammy being referred to with the “n word”. It would now be completely unthinkable for something so popular with the mass audience to be proscribed without an adequate alternative being provided. Priorities have shifted to such an extent that the Act and everything that surrounded it seems to my generation (I was born in 1980) like something from another universe. It is also instructive that most of the Tory opposition to the Act was centred in the Commons, with Tory Lords (most of whom were still hereditary peers at the time) seemingly considering it relatively “sound” as Labour legislation went. Clearly, this was an area in which Tory traditionalists were willing to embrace Socialists as allies of convenience (although of course most of them would never have admitted it in the Cold War climate) so as to maintain the culture and society they wanted.

Aware as it was that the mass of the electorate did not want puritan socialism – the “consumer boom” Macmillan landslide of 1959 had proved that for all time – the Labour Party, trying to hide their true motivation for suppressing offshore radio and refusing to licence commercial radio, displayed levels of spin that would have been worthy of Alastair Campbell 30 years later. Many radio experts made clear their view that the government’s official line – that there were not enough frequencies available for commercial radio which would not interfere with emergency services – was a classic early example of political spin, basically a means of hiding the party’s ideological anti-Americanism and anti-commercialism.

The ‘Marine Offences Act’, as it was known, pulverised a generation, set Harold Wilson on a collision course with the people who had hitherto been his most natural supporters of all, and left vast numbers of people feeling friendless and without representation, the Tory party seeming stuck in its high-cultural cocoon. In addition, a quick glance at any early Radio 1 schedule, with the vast amounts of shared airtime with Radio 2 and programmes such as The Joe Loss Show being transmitted on the ‘pop’ station, should make it eminently clear why it seemed a wholly inadequate ‘replacement’ for most pirate listeners – the fact is that the BBC was simply not ready. Tellingly, The Move’s Flowers in the Rain – famously the first record played on Radio 1 – was promoted by a postcard featuring a nude caricature of Wilson, epitomising the extent to which he had suddenly become a hate figure for a significant number of people.

But there was some association between the Tory party and offshore radio, particularly Radio 270 which operated off the Yorkshire coast. The station’s managing director, Wilf Proudfoot, was Tory MP for Cleveland, and on 11th May 1967 it gave Tory candidates in the Scarborough local elections airtime which the candidates had paid for themselves, in an echo of the US culture of advertisements for political parties which remains sufficiently alien to Britain that, after 40 years of constant Americanisation, it has yet to occur legally here. On 14th May that year it broadcast a programme made by the York University branch of the Monday Club, in which the right-wing Tory MP Patrick Wall spoke on Rhodesia (presumably, judging from his other statements on the matter, supporting Ian Smith and white minority rule).

Shortly before the Marine Offences Act became law on 14th August that year, Radio 270 carried a broadcast, also sponsored by the University of York Monday Club, attacking the government for passing such a law, and including contributions by Patrick Wall, Ronald Bell and John Biggs-Davison, all prominent Monday Club members. Patrick Wall said, “I think it is monstrous that private enterprise radio stations are being closed, and even more monstrous that the Government are not setting up an adequate alternative to cater for the amusement that many people want to hear. Indeed, I have had more letters on this subject than on any other in the 13 years I have been MP for Haltemprice.”

While the use of the word “amusement” sounds rather condescending today, the rest of Wall’s statement effectively reads like a manifesto for the New Consensus of recent decades. The most incisive comment, however, was from John Biggs-Davison, who stated that many Labour supporters would also regret the Act (probably sensing, no doubt correctly, that he was not necessarily speaking for his own core ideological constituency on this matter) and that “concern for freedom is not confined to one party and a voice of freedom will have been silenced when Radio 270 goes off the air”.

As time has gone by, many of the traditionalists of the Monday Club have expressed regret for the cultural after-effects spawned by their demand to break down the post-war belief in nationalisation and ‘the strong state’ when it was taken up as a new ideology in government in the 1980s. It is irresistible to draw a comparison between the way they were only cultural Americophiles in theory, and recoiled in horror when it became reality (to realign themselves with the ‘wets’ they had once denounced), and the way the Monday Club axis of the Right has made a similar transition vis-a-vis American foreign policy and Britain’s association with it. Members of the Club defended the US Embassy in London from an (unsuccessful) attempt to invade it by anti-Vietnam War demonstrators on 17th March 1968, and were interviewed in that capacity as part of a famous World in Action programme now available on DVD, but the Club’s ideological descendants, many of them now in the Conservative Democratic Alliance, have often been strongly hostile to Britain’s involvement in Iraq since 2003, opposing both the New Labour government and the mainstream of the latter-day Tory party and, again, aligning themselves with the old ‘wets’.

It is instructive that traditionalist conservatives who have opposed the Iraq war, such as Stuart Reid of the Spectator and Mike Smith of the Conservative Democratic Alliance, often point out that, as teenagers in the late 1960s, they were unpopular with their contemporaries because they supported the Vietnam War; for all that Smith, at least, claims that he “never had rock music in the house” even then, and has always listened almost exclusively to classical music, the connection with the offshore radio battles holds up. The offshore radio factor is, indeed, the single biggest reason why Thatcherism eventually grew into something quite different from what her original supporters had envisaged; something that can, even now, make some of those original supporters line up alongside those who they had considered to be espousing ‘semi-Socialism’.

Not only was the Wilson government now permanently discredited on broadcasting policy for the proto-Blairite generation who it knew would be able to vote in the next election; it was also failing to keep up with their demands – its own original demands – to erode ‘restrictive practices’ among the often socially-conservative hardcore of trade unionists. The failure of the In Place of Strife white paper in 1969 pushed the party firmly back into a corner where it could only revert to the class-based tribalism it had previously promised to erode.

When Edward Heath’s Tories won the 1970 election, the high Tory share of the vote among first-time voters (this was the first election in which anyone born after the end of the Second World War could vote, and the reduction of the age of majority to 18 created a situation where people born over a period of more than seven years were voting for the first time) surprised many people in the media who, distanced as they were from pop and rock music, had no idea of how important the radio issue was to many of the young.

Groups such as the Free Radio Association and the more openly right-wing Broadside Free Radio Movement enjoyed vast support bases, and illicit radio operations continued. Labour’s fatal decision during the 1970 election campaign to jam the Dutch-based pirate ship Radio Northsea International, a unique British usage of tactics frequently employed by Eastern European Communist regimes to interfere with the BBC World Service and Voice of America, was widely reckoned to have been a factor in the strong youthful Tory vote. But, just as Heath’s proto-Thatcherite agenda of Selsdonomics fell victim to a U-turn back to consensus politics in 1972, so the Tories’ policy of legalising commercial radio on land in the UK, though it was implemented, did not initially result in as many stations as had seemed likely – not least because only four stations had been opened before Labour were back in power.

“What if …” scenarios and the question of precisely why what became Thatcherism happened how and when it did, could occupy essays many times the length of this one. There has been a long series of articles written putting forward an alternative history “if Gordon Banks had played”, based around the idea that the England goalkeeper’s inability to play in England’s World Cup quarter-final match against West Germany four days before the 1970 election caused England’s defeat and thus shattered the mood of complacency upon which Harold Wilson was depending for victory. And there is a convincing parallel universe in which Edward Heath won the first 1974 election – definitely if the Ulster Unionists had not broken away when the old Parliament of Northern Ireland was abolished two years previously, and quite possibly if Enoch Powell had not left the Tory party and urged his supporters to vote Labour shortly before the 1974 election, because Labour offered the promise (subsequently kept) of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EEC, therefore influencing enough voters in enough marginals to swing the election against the Tories – and the Labour Party realised that union power would be its downfall in the long run, and reformed to render itself electable in the Britain of the 1980s, while Margaret Thatcher remained a relatively marginal figure, and consensus politics were preserved.

But in reality, of course, Harold Wilson’s Labour Party returned to power in a hung parliament in February 1974 (despite receiving fewer votes than the Tories) and then with a narrow majority in October, now utterly reduced to dependency on the very “restrictive practices” which Wilson had condemned so powerfully ten years earlier. The nature of the Right’s response has of course been much-discussed in subsequent years, with rumours of planned military coups and similar attempts to undermine the Wilson administration, but still there lurked a politically potent generation – the offshore radio generation – who felt represented by neither side in this safe tribal war.

It is arguable that a key factor in that generation’s realisation that the Right could be politically acceptable for them – that it would not necessarily simply be the territory of cultural protectionists for whom an Elgar or a Betjeman had a status of “true British art” which they would always find highly suspect and offputting – was the gradual revelation, over time, that Mick Jagger was essentially a man of the Right, albeit of the libertarian wing (which should have been obvious when William Rees-Mogg saw him as no threat in 1967, and became clearer with Jagger’s decision to become a tax exile and his remark in 1977 that “in this Silver Jubilee year, I feel it is only fitting we sign with a British company”) and the sudden, very public revelation in 1976 that Eric Clapton sympathised with Enoch Powell’s views on immigration. The embrace of Right-wing ideas by these iconic figures somehow legitimised the wider expression of such views, and made the generation who had been politically homeless since 1967 feel that they now had a home after all.

Kenny Everett’s controversial appearance at a Conservative Party rally in 1983 must be seen in this context; for all that he had been quoted in the Daily Mail during the summer of 1974 stating that he would rather see Britain run by the “beautiful people” of the Tory party than by Labour, such remarks probably betray the broadcaster’s relative political shallowness rather than any deeply-held right-wing agenda. His support for the Tory party should, in my opinion, be seen as part of a long-term loyalty based almost entirely around resentment over Labour’s radio broadcasting policy in the 1960s rather than anything deeply or profoundly political or ideological.

It was his sacking from Radio 1 in 1970 which had crystallised the demand for commercial radio, with Johnny Beerling (then a producer on the station, and eventually its controller) writing to Ian Trethowan, Managing Director of Network Radio and a particularly staunch Tory, and asserting that “a decision [has been] made which I believe is damaging everything we have been working to build up in Radio 1” and “in dismissing him from our employment in which we have the monopoly, we do more to support the case for setting up an alternative system of broadcasting in opposition to the BBC than any Free Radio campaign. By this dismissal we have received universal press coverage, and in the eyes of our young audience we have been relegated ten years back into the ‘Auntie BBC’ era. In fact, we all lose. Everett his job, listeners are deprived of one of their favourite DJs and BBC radio some of its hard-won prestige in the eyes of its listeners.”

Trethowan’s response was harsh and unbending. “His position was, as I believe you now know, that he had given a specific undertaking in writing, and that he had been warned categorically that if he broke that undertaking he would be out,” wrote Trethowan. “He then did break the undertaking, so we felt we had no alternative but to end his contract. One consideration in our minds was that if we had not done this, if a ‘final warning’ appeared to mean nothing, then producers would have found it very hard to deal not only with Everett but with other D.J.s”.

Here we have a classic example of just how vast the gap between the two groups of Tory supporters was. Can you seriously imagine Everett getting on particularly well with Trethowan on a personal level? Similarly, had Everett encountered any of those who allegedly plotted to undermine the Labour government of the mid-1970s, while he might have mischievously and superficially admired the idea of a fake bank account being set up in the name of Edward Short (who of course had been Postmaster-General at the time of the Marine Offences Act, and thus a generation’s bete noire) designed specifically to create the impression that Short was corrupt, it seems almost certain that Everett would have recoiled in horror at the “who is that dirty little freak?” expressions with which the anti-Wilson plotters would probably have greeted him.

Of course, such has been the offshore radio generation’s victory – redefining the Tory party on their own terms, and subsequently setting the criteria by which the Labour Party would now, definitively and seemingly for ever, have to redefine itself to be re-elected – that their triumph can now be seen in almost every aspect of our national life. Johnnie Walker lives in a village in the heart of foxhunting Dorset, an epicentre of that tendency within the old Monday Club whose remnants now often have no qualms in declaring themselves quasi-Socialist when it suits them. And of course the return of an Old Etonian to the top of the Tory party has not seen the return of patrician values, but instead has given them a leader who is couched in pop-cultural terms more than any of his predecessors would have dreamt of. Populism, the cultural mass over the cultural elite, unashamed dependency on the United States, and the market economy are now absolutely unquestioned gods.

On the whole, no little impact for a movement once dismissed as a passing fad and a generation whose pop-culture-orientated members would, according to Paul Johnson in 1964, never attain power (only those who were growing up with high-cultural artforms would get to the top, he asserted). It is actually a significant example of how the offshore radio generation and its battles have utterly transcended Left and Right, in the process redrawing the British political map, that when he wrote that Johnson was a puritan socialist, not the staunch right-winger he became in later years. For if the politics of offshore radio have taught us nothing else, they have most emphatically told us that puritans of Left and Right aren’t that different in the end, and that those who oppose cultural puritanism, wherever it comes from, are very hard to defeat once they have set their mind on victory, even if it takes them decades.

The politics of offshore radio have shaped all our lives in ways most people are still unaware of. So if you listen today to the obscure station that calls itself Big L, with its star DJs Mike Read and David Hamilton (both figures symbolic of the subjugation of Radio 1 to older BBC values rather than offshore radio ideals), don’t think of it as offshore radio legacy. Look at Blair, Cameron and all other exponents of the New Orthodoxy. They are offshore radio’s true children.

You Say

2 responses to this article

Paul Rusling 19 November 2016 at 11:53 am

A very comprehensive analysis Robin, well thought out and expressed. Even more of the murkiest past dealing with the very early says of Radio caroline is now coming to light, which seems to tie most of the biog stations in together with some shady deals involving even shadier people. Much easier to think of Balir etc being the children of that murkiness.

Christopher J Sullivan 15 August 2017 at 3:37 pm

As someone who comes from a Labour background but has never voted Labour because of the MOA I agree with Paul. Some of went into radio both here and in the USA but it was never the same. The thrill wasn’t there anymore

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