Radio Caroline is to broadcast the Queen’s Christmas message for the first time, 56 years after its request was refused for being an unauthorised broadcaster.
The famous formerly ship-based pirate radio station was founded in 1964 to play pop music all day at a time when broadcasting was dominated by the BBC and pop was played for an hour a week.
It was awarded an AM waveband licence from Ofcom in 2017 – half a century after the 1967 Marine Broadcasting Offences Act that was intended to scupper the pirate broadcasters.
Radio Caroline to broadcast Queen’s Christmas Message on Christmas Day – 56 years after BBC turned us down for being a pirate station. Caroline has had an Ofcom licence since Dec 2017 and this year our request has been approved
Photo John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty Images pic.twitter.com/UcF8tYPtu1
— Real Radio Caroline (@TheRadCaroline) December 21, 2020
David Block, Radio Caroline’s former publicity officer, said that on December 1 1964 he contacted the BBC to request a copy of the Queen’s Christmas message.
He said he was told that, despite the station having more than 12 million listeners, his request could not be taken seriously because it was a pirate radio station.
He was told to come back “if and when” he could provide “evidence of credentials as representative of an authorised broadcaster”, he said.
The station applied for permission again this year, after becoming an authorised broadcaster in 2017, and this time approval was granted.
Station manager Peter Moore said: “Fifty-six years is a long wait, but we are very pleased to now be able to transmit the Queen’s Christmas message.
“This will be heard on 648 AM in the South East, on DAB in various towns and cities, and globally via the internet, where we have time-shifted the message for East and West Coast US.”
News that Radio Caroline will broadcast the Queen’s Christmas message this year drew a mixed reaction on the station’s Facebook page, with one writing: “Another bit of the rebel in me just died.”
After the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act was passed in 1967, Radio Caroline continued to broadcast from sea until its ship, the Ross Revenge, was shipwrecked off the Kent coast in 1991.
The vessel has since been repaired and was used to broadcast from the River Blackwater in Essex.
The station has since taken over the abandoned BBC World Service transmission facilities at Orfordness on the Suffolk coast.