Pirates, popularity and the rise of the DJ

Authored by: Richard Rudin

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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Significant moments or ‘tipping points’ in the development of any media are rare. Changes often occur after many years of development and can only be identified in retrospect. In the case, though, of the pirate radio phenomenon and the effect this had on the development of radio broadcasting in the UK and other European countries, not least on public service broadcasting systems, changes were identifiable at the time, most notably through government responses to them. The pirate radio stations led directly to the introduction of an all-day national pop music service on the BBC in 1967; the impetus and political pressure for legalized commercial radio, which was resolved by land-based, licensed local stations from 1973; and, to some extent, BBC local radio, which also began in 1967. It can of course never be proven that all or any of these developments would have otherwise taken place, but it can surely be no coincidence that all did so after the UK-targeted pirate services were effectively outlawed in August 1967. For the purposes of this chapter, references to pirate radio will generally mean unlicensed, commercially funded broadcasts to the UK and mainland Europe from ships and former anti-aircraft forts outside the territorial limits of countries’ jurisdictions between 1958 and 1990, especially the key period 1964 to 1968.

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