Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967

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Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967
Act of Parliament
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Long title An Act to suppress broadcasting from ships, aircraft and certain marine structures.
Citation 1967 c. 41
Territorial extent
Commencement 14 August 1967
Other legislation
Transposes European Agreement for the Prevention of Broadcasts Transmitted from Stations outside National Territories
Amended by
Relates to Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949
Status: Amended
Text of the Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from
Revised text of statute as amended

The Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 c.41, shortened to Marine Broadcasting Offences Act or "Marine offences Act", became law in the United Kingdom at midnight on Monday 14 August 1967. [1] It was subsequently amended by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 and the Broadcasting Act 1990. [2] Its purpose was to extend the powers of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949 (which was incorporated by this Act), beyond the territorial land area and territorial waters of the UK to cover airspace and external bodies of water.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 United Kingdom legislation

The Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. This Act repealed the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949.

The Broadcasting Act 1990 is a law of the British parliament, initiated in part due to a 1989 European Council Directive (89/552), also known as the Television Without Frontiers directive. The aim of the Act was to liberalise and deregulate the British broadcasting industry by promoting competition; ITV, in particular, had earlier been described by Margaret Thatcher as "the last bastion of restrictive practices". The act came about after the finding from the Peacock Committee.


The Act represented the UK's ratification of the 1965 "European Agreement for the Prevention of Broadcasts Transmitted from Stations outside National Territories" (sometimes referred to as the "Council of Europe Strasbourg Convention" or "Strasbourg Treaty"). [3]

Council of Europe international organization for defending human rights

The Council of Europe is an international organisation whose stated aim is to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Founded in 1949, it has 47 member states, covers approximately 820 million people and operates with an annual budget of approximately 500 million euros.

At the time that the Bill was introduced in Parliament in 1966, there were radio stations and proposals for television stations outside British licensing jurisdiction with signals aimed at Britain. These stations were anchored at sea but there were press reports of stations broadcasting from aircraft – Caroline TV, [4] and from a ship – Radex TV. [5]

Parliament of the United Kingdom Supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom

The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, and domestically simply as Parliament or Westminster, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.

The Act extended to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (despite the protests of the Governments there). The Act meant that the operation of offshore, pirate radio stations became illegal if they were operated or assisted by persons subject to UK law. It prohibited "carrying by water or air goods or persons to or from it" which made tendering illegal. Station operators thought they could continue if they were staffed, supplied and funded by non-British citizens, but this largely proved impractical.

Channel Islands Archipelago in the English Channel

The Channel Islands are an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two Crown dependencies: the Bailiwick of Jersey, which is the largest of the islands; and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, consisting of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and some smaller islands. They are considered the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy and, although they are not part of the United Kingdom, the UK is responsible for the defence and international relations of the islands. The Crown dependencies are not members of the Commonwealth of Nations nor of the European Union. They have a total population of about 164,541, and the bailiwicks' capitals, Saint Helier and Saint Peter Port, have populations of 33,500 and 18,207, respectively.

Isle of Man British Crown dependency

The Isle of Man, often referred to simply as Mann, is a self-governing British Crown dependency in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Mann and is represented by a lieutenant governor. Defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom.

Pirate radio illegal or unregulated radio transmission

Pirate radio or a pirate radio station is a radio station that broadcasts without a valid license.


In 1966, broadcasting in the UK was controlled by the British General Post Office, which had granted exclusive radio broadcasting licences to the British Broadcasting Corporation and television licences to the BBC and 16 regional Independent Television companies.

General Post Office postal system in the United Kingdom

The General Post Office (GPO) was officially established in England in 1660 by Charles II and it eventually grew to combine the functions of state postal system and telecommunications carrier. Similar General Post Offices were established across the British Empire. In 1969 the GPO was abolished and the assets transferred to The Post Office, changing it from a Department of State to a statutory corporation. In 1980, the telecommunications and postal sides were split prior to British Telecommunications' conversion into a totally separate publicly owned corporation the following year as a result of the British Telecommunications Act 1981. For the more recent history of the postal system in the United Kingdom, see the articles Royal Mail and Post Office Ltd.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

The power of the GPO covered letters delivered by the Royal Mail, newspapers, books and their printing presses, the encoding of messages on lines used to supply electricity; the electric telegraph, the electric telephone (which was originally deemed an electronic post office); the electric wireless telegraph and the electric wireless telephone which became known as "telephony" and later wireless broadcasting. In the 1920s the GPO had been circumvented by broadcasting from transmitters in countries close to British listeners. World War II terminated these broadcasts except for Radio Luxembourg.

Royal Mail Postal service company in the United Kingdom

The Royal Mail is a postal service and courier company in the United Kingdom, originally established in 1516. The company's subsidiary, Royal Mail Group Limited, operates the brands Royal Mail (letters) and Parcelforce Worldwide (parcels). General Logistics Systems, an international logistics company, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Royal Mail Group. For a brief period in the early 2000s, the group used the name Consignia before reverting to its original name.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Broadcasting pressure groups

In the 1950s a pressure group campaigned with the help of Winston Churchill to pass the Television Act 1954 that broke the BBC television monopoly by creating ITV. Some members wanted commercial competition to radio but were thwarted by a succession of governments.

By the 1960s several companies formed in the hope that radio licences would be issued. Radio monopolies in adjoining nations had been broken by transmitters on ships in international waters. The first attempt to broadcast offshore to Britain was by CNBC, an English-language station from the same ship as Radio Veronica broadcasting in Dutch to the Netherlands. CNBC ended transmissions but press reports followed that GBLN, The Voice of Slough, would transmit from a ship with sponsored programming already booked and advertised by Herbert W. Armstrong. GBLN was followed by reports that GBOK was attempting to get on the air from another ship, both ships to be anchored off south-east England. Many in these early ventures were known to each other.

Some of the commercial television group members had registered broadcasting companies and were working to create offshore radio. The first venture was "Project Atlanta" in 1963, which had ties to British political leaders, bankers, the music industry and to Gordon McLendon, who had helped Radio Nord broadcast from a ship off Sweden. When that was put off the air by Swedish law it became available to British entrepreneurs. Before Radio Atlanta got on the air, Radio Caroline began broadcasting in March 1964.

Texas connections to British stations led Don Pierson of Eastland, Texas to promote three American-radio format stations off Britain: Wonderful Radio London or Big L, Swinging Radio England and Britain Radio. By 1966 other stations had come on the air transmitting to Scotland, northern and southern England, or were in the process of doing so. Press reports included rumours of offshore television stations and the brief success of the Dutch REM Island operation called Radio and TV Noordzee heightened the fear of the authorities that de facto unregulated broadcasting was becoming so entrenched due to its popularity that it would not be possible to stop it.

Existing laws

Although these stations maintained sales and management offices in Britain, the transmitters were not under British law. In many instances, the ships were registered in other countries.

Claims of piracy

Parliamentary debates listed several reasons why unlicensed broadcasting should be stopped. Opponents referred to "pirate radio stations". Allegations of piracy included misappropriation of World War II military installations; wavelengths allocated to others and the unauthorised playing of recorded music. Other claims said the vessels were a danger to shipping and that signals could interfere with aircraft and police, fire and ambulance services.


In 1966, a dispute among offshore radio operators brought the issue of unlicensed radio stations to the fore. Reginald Calvert, operator of Radio City, had refused to pay Radio Caroline's operator Oliver Smedley for a substandard transmitter. Smedley hired some riggers to occupy the Radio City facility (on Shivering Sands, a disused offshore defence fort), and in an altercation at Smedley's house, Smedley killed Calvert. This incident strengthened the position of the Labour government of Harold Wilson, who wanted to bring the pirate stations under control, enough to see the passage of the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act on 15 August 1967.


The offshore stations fell into four groups:

Continuing challenges

Although challenges began with Radio North Sea International in 1970, the British governments (Both Labour, then Conservative) jammed it until it moved to a position off the Netherlands. There was no Dutch equivalent of the Act until 1974; upon its introduction, RNI closed.

Radio Caroline returned through the 1970s using the Mi Amigo, a vessel that later sank in 1980, then returned with a new ship, the Ross Revenge, in 1983, primarily conducted with volunteer help. For much of this period Caroline's ships also hosted Dutch-language stations whose revenue, along with that of American evangelical broadcasts, kept the station on the air.

In 1984 Caroline was joined by Laser 558 another vessel with American backing, and while the latter gained a huge audience, the legislation plus a sea embargo monitoring supplies out to Laser drove its operators into insolvency as well as putting additional pressure on Caroline. An attempt to revive Laser under new management only lasted a few months from 1986-7. The arrival of Laser had increased knowledge of Caroline's presence, and its closure plus a change in Caroline's music policy resulted in an increase in their younger audience.

Further amendments to the act had resulted in Radio Caroline having to move its operations into wilder water, and the Great Storm of 1987 damaged their antenna tower, which collapsed a few weeks later. A smaller antenna system was built but was less efficient. The Dutch and British governments then raided the Radio Caroline ship and removed much of its equipment, but again it limped back onto the air until late 1990 when, with its funding running low, the final amendment to the act, instigating a 200-mile limit, came into effect. Attempts to secure more funding proved futile, and thereafter it pursued legal means of broadcasting.

Apparent conclusion of unlicensed British offshore radio

The end of the offshore Radio Caroline came when the Broadcasting Act 1990, which built on all similar and related legislation, together with a storm that caused its staff temporarily to abandon the ship, caused the station to come ashore in 1991, where enthusiasts continue to build a broadcasting business using the new licensing system available to British broadcasters.

Similar legislation in other countries

Denmark 1962, Belgium 1962, Ireland 1968, [7] France 1969, Netherlands 1974

See also

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  2. "Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006". 18 September 2003. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. "Caroline TV - the press cuttings". Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  4. "Radex TV". Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  5. The pirate radio hall of fame "Radio Caroline in the sixties". Retrieved on 21 March 2018.