Launched on March 28, 1964
By March 1964, the Beatles had landed in the USA and mesmerized its youth. Of course "their" music was often a reinterpretation of "our" music. We enthusiastically did even realize that many of their (and other British Invasion hits) were covers of earlier American hits.
In stark contrast, British youth had a difficult time hearing any rock music on their radios because of the British government's control of the airwaves. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) limited their commercial-free stations to six hours of pop music a week!
Enter Radio Caroline
Sensing young Brits unmet hunger for their own and American pop music, Radio Caroline, the first pirate radio station, began to broadcast on March 28, 1964.
The ironic characteristic about such radio is that it copied the style of commercial AM radio in the US. That is, top 40 format with frequent commercials and rapid DJ patter. The approach was so successful that by 1967 ten pirate radio stations were broadcasting to an estimated daily audience of 10 to 15 million. Interestingly, the number of people listening to BBC stations did not decline indicating that the audience was a new one, one that the BBC had not had to begin with. The British government attempted to rid the airwaves of pirate radio by passing the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act in 1967. The British government also adjusted its BBC program by increasing the number of programs playing pop music. Radio Caroline continued to broadcast though with limited hours until 1990, but had periods of years when it was off the air completely. The way that it and other pirate radio stations were able to continue was by using new technology to broadcast, moving to different locations, or using secret land-based locations. According to Wikipedia, There are currently an estimated 150 pirate radio stations in the UK. A large proportion of these pirate radio stations operate in London.
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