Pioneering pirate station Radio Caroline returns to the airwaves of Suffolk and Essex on Friday – with the blessing of authorities that once sought to close it down.
The station, which began broadcasting from a vessel off the coast of Felixstowe in 1964, faced opposition from the Government, which tried to close private stations through the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act in 1967.
Fifty years on, however, and Radio Caroline is to broadcast on medium/AM band with a licence from the regulator Ofcom.
Its opening broadcast, from noon on Friday, will be delivered by wireless connection from the Ross Revenge – the home of the station’s final broadcast from sea – which is now anchored in the Blackwater Estuary.
And in what the station team call “an ironic twist” it has been allocated the frequency 648kHz – formerly used by its once enemy, the BBC, to broadcast its World Service to Cold War Europe.
Its signal will transmit from a mast at Orford Ness in Suffolk, which was once home to the top-secret Cobra Mist radar site.
Station manager Peter Moore said: “The unlikely return of Caroline to regular radio opens the latest chapter in its extraordinary 53-year history.
“However, one thing will be the same. When Radio Caroline bursts back onto the medium wave this Friday at noon, its broadcasts will be relayed live from studios on the ship from which it once broadcast in exile far out in the North Sea.”
When Radio Caroline set sail in the ‘60s, its aim was to give a voice to the new musical culture to which the BBC offered very little airplay, allowing it to capitalise on an eager audience that wanted to listen to the emerging bands.
By anchoring in international waters, DJs such as Tony Blackburn, Johnnie Walker and Tommy Vance could broadcast the popular hits of the day without the authorities’ interference.
After the new regulations in 1967, however, it became illegal to work on, supply or advertise on offshore station.
All closed apart from Radio Caroline, which continued despite its ship, Mi Amigo, foundering on a sandbank and government raids.
Its final broadcast from sea was in 1990. Since then it reinvented itself as an internet and DAB station. Ofcom, which granted its licence earlier this year, was told Radio Caroline will broadcast a wide range of album music from the 1960s to present day aimed at over-45s in Suffolk and Essex.