Suffering from regulatory pressure, uncooperative management and looking at the success of a previous pirate radio ship, the Radio Caroline, a team of radio executives planned to create a new offshore venture by installing two pirate radio stations on an anchored ship. The original plan called for the use of a high-flying balloon system in order to keep a high antenna aloft which would transmit radio programs to nearby residents of the UK. The team soon realized this plan was overly ambitious, but settled on a more reasonable plan to transmit their signal. Soon after, the M/V Communicator was fitted with powerful gear and a towering antenna to launch their station, “Laser 558”. Wikipedia tells us:
Laser 558 was a popular European offshore pirate radio station (others include Radio Caroline, Radio Noordzee and Swinging Radio England) launched in 1984. Laser 558 used mainly American disc jockeys who had been recruited and flown over from the USA. The station was based aboard the ship the MV Communicator, which was based in international waters in the North Sea, and thus took advantage of a legal loophole which allowed them to circumvent the requirements for an official license and legally broadcast to the UK. Within a matter of months the station had gained an audience of millions – probably because of its programming format of one oldie followed by one current song. Eventually poor management and lack of advertising income starved the station off the air. In 1986 an attempt was made to return the station to the airwaves as Laser Hot Hits, but the same problems arose once more. Read More…
The following is a brief look at how they built the piracy antenna. Click here to see the full photo details.
For those who think “times have changed”, think again. While the M/V Communicator is no longer pirating the airwaves, the attitude of the times lives on aboard the Principality of SeaLand. Further, Vice TV, brings us the following episode detailing the current state of pirate radio. They tell us:
We went to London to tell the story of pirate radio – secret urban studios that transmit music from concrete tower blocks to the city, and met with DJs, and station managers, rappers and MCs. We met with DJ Scratcha from RINSE FM, MC Flirt from old school KOOL FM, J2k, Jammer, and Logan Sama. We uncovered how they stay underground and away from the authorities, while still setting the new music standard across London. We sailed to the source, where it all started – massive concrete and steel forts that sit at the mouth of the Thames River. We met the people who pioneered the spirit of pirate, and played the music that London wanted to hear. They set the standard, and when the authorities shut them down, pirate sounds went into the urban underground.
Here is the full episode: