Pirates of the Radio!

The sixties and seventies of the twentieth century in Europe has witnessed a tremendous eruptions calling for change, such as in France when the student movement unified with the working class asking for social change although it was later silenced, Britain on the other hand had similar experience where there was a time where calls for cultural change was high in demand, never the less, there was a caliber of people who went on to challenge the authorities and the state, they wanted to reach their voice and ideas or even music to the world, and their means were Pirate Radios.

Pirate Radios were a form of alternative media in which they were unlicensed and some of them operated from ships in the sea at that period of time, especially in England, among the famous of these were the Swinging Radio England (SRE) and the Irish pirate radio stations.

Swinging Radio England (SRE) was an American Top 40 station founded by Don Pierson who was an American car dealer and a former Texas mayor, the idea was to air American music in the UK. The station operated from May to November 1966 from a World War II vessel built in the USA as a supply ship. One thing that distinguished (SRE) is that it did not exclude advertising as a source of funding. The station aired music that was not heard before in England. Some of the ironies and problems that faced the station when it was finally aired that its frequency clashed with an Italian state owned radio station and was too close to the BBC network in Scotland. Although this was sorted out, but still the station had a problem in getting advertising revenue to fund itself in which eventually it had to close down.

Looking from a political point of view, there was ‘Radio Free Derry’ which was a pirate radio station that operated in Dublin, Ireland by the Irish republican movement with an aim to spread propaganda. This station was looked at closely by the authorities in Ireland, another Irish pirate radio was ‘Radio Milinda’ although it was a music radio station nevertheless it was one of the first raided and prosecuted pirate radio stations by authorities in 1972, finally, there was ‘Radio Pirate Woman’ that aired in 1990 which it broadcast information on abortion services and discussed other issues that affected women.

These pirate radios represented the people who were averse to authorities in their countries and whom went to extreme measures to get themselves heard. Whether they were political like the Irish Pirate Radios or just trying to air music, they both came with new concepts and ideologies and both were challenging authorities.