Pirate Radio On Merseyside
You can now view the original newspaper articles featured on this page. There will also be pictures of pirate radio studios and memorabilia from the 1980's as part of a series which is being compiled. Check out our Real Audio Page also
Check out The Pirate Files. New !
If you have any ideas or
additional material or information please
STAYING ONE JUMP AHEAD ..... North Coast Radio 1990
RADIO MERSEYWAVES .... A Liverpool Echo feature from 1986.
PIRATES OF THE MERSEY AIRWAVES Radio Jackie North and MAR
MERSEYSIDE STATIONS OF THE 80's Merseyside Free Radio Scene 1984.
LIVERPOOL DAILY POST Monday August 20th 1990.
RADAR ROY and kenny-G are not exactly on the run, but it would be imprudent of them not to make frequent backward glances. Hot on their trails are men who think nothing of doors being kicked down to get what they want. It's a cat and mouse game in which the two must stay at least one step ahead of their pursuers. Otherwise they would suffer humiliations and damage followed by an appearance in court. What they do is illegal under laws for which they have e a sanguine contempt, since they govern what Roy and Kenny see as an unjust monopoly of a natural element.
They perform a popular public service financed from their own pockets and which makes not a penny piece for them. It also gives invaluable aid to charities and deserving individual cases.\par From somewhere in Birkenhead they operate North Coast Radio (NCR), the most influential pirate radio outfit in the North West whose broadcasts reach Manchester, Blackpool and take in one direction and North Wales in the other.
"Really, it's just a hobby which is financed by us and our 12 disk jockeys," said Roy. "We provide entertainment and help for thousands of listeners and don't see why we shouldn't. We do not agree with the concept of one body ruling the airways." The government's argument against us is that we interfere with the emergency and essential services. We certainly do not... we are exercising what we see as our freedom and we pay experts to ensure that we are not guilty of interference. We did try operating seven days a week but that excited lots of activity against us. Now we broadcast only at weekends.
That activity came from the Department of Trade and Industry's Radio Investigation Service which once had two doors kicked down on a raid on NCR. They have also been known to kick down 12 doors in a ham-fisted effort to pinpoint another operation, Roy said. " They confiscated equipment and our records and tapes. After the court case, at which I was fined 25 Pounds, they promised to return the equipment after 14 days . They didn't do so , and we had to take them to court, which shows you how careless they are at spending public money. They did not return our records for 18 months and they came back scarred and damaged and some appeared to have been spat upon. They had also had messages written on them"
Now NCR operates a look-out and security system watching for the six DTI cars and Police who accompany them once quite inexplicably turning up in horseback. " The policemen are OK in these cases, but the DTI blokes seem to be a law unto themselves. The government must spend millions chasing people like us who do good rather than harm," Kenny said, "There is some hypocrisy involved in this business because record companies send us new discs play but will never acknowledge that they do because of the rules they are breaching."
Their station also receives scores of tapes from Merseyside hopefuls who want their music played and lots of letters from listeners they have helped in a variety of ways. Kenny, a cab driver often arranges transport for sick people . Conscious of Merseyside's drug problem, they frequently broadcast the telephone number of help services. They also give out other useful information, much of which aids charities. All the voluntary staff give 2 Pounds a week to help pay for electricity and replacement styluses. They also found 1500 Pounds for their equipment.
" It seems ridiculous for the might of the DTI to be used against such a little outfit", Roy said. "Half the time they don't know what they're doing, which is why they kicked in 12 doors without finding anything. Mind you, they are a bit reluctant to raid Toxteth Community Radio and never try it, except with the backing of an army of officers" But they never encountered the violence that has marked the raids on the London stations."There they do go over the top and use FM frequencies which cause interference.
We use rather old fashioned Medium Wave to avoid problems. Our attitude is responsible."The Government has plans for community radio stations under licence from the IBA, but Roy and Kenny are sceptical. "Renting the IBA equipment will make them too expensive to run, and in any case, many would go to ethnic groups and create 'foreign stations.' We intend to carry on as we are in the belief that the airways should be accessible to everyone". Roy said, "No matter what they do, they will never stop pirate radio.
"The DTI thinks differently and emphasise that always go in with Police officers as a law enforcement measure. "We have no power to arrest anyone, merely to make inquiries and to confiscate equipment", a spokesman said."Not only can the pirate stations cause interference which could endanger life, they can also hamper business operations and domestic appliances such as television sets. The bottom line is that they are not authorised to broadcast. "Poor quality equipment can seriously affect other systems and it is our job to see that services can operate efficiently.
(Liverpool Echo. August 20 1980) Original text reproduced
using LocoScript Professional
From the Liverpool Echo. 27th March 1986
Original Article By Gill McMinn
RADIO MERSEYWAVES is radio at grass roots level, or multi storey level or whatever the the radio station happens to be broadcasting from at the time.
Because Radio Merseywaves is a "pirate" radio station, it is kept under surveillance by the Department of Trade and Industry and so is subject to frequent raids. So to avoid detection, it's base varies from one block of high rise flats to another, in the middle of one of Wirral's sprawling housing estates.
Nevertheless, it is a highly popular station on the Wirral and has aroused much local interest broadcasting on 1233 Khz (244 Metres) from Friday to Monday. it's format of more music and less chat encompasses a wide range of musical tastes from Country and Western to rock and pop from local bands.
But while records are on the turntable, the DJ's keep an ever watchful eye open for suspicious cars or anyone that might be watching them.
Station manager Mark Newman justifies the cloak and dagger existence by the number of letters the station receives from listeners. Upto 30 letters a day would seem to back up his claim that local and regional stations on the legal airwaves are not giving the punters what they want.
The station could make the whole operation legal by obtaining a licence to broadcast from the Department of Trade and Industry, but that would cost money that the station does not have. And, says Mark, it would impose limitations on the content of the shows and programme format. But there is a price to pay. Mark has forked a total of 150 Pounds on fines and costs, and two raids have resulted in 600 pounds worth of equipment being confiscated.
The equipment itself is not complicated. Basically, it relies on two transmitters, one of which is portable, the other being more complex, expensive and the mainstay of the whole operation.
For the future, Radio Merseywaves hopes to expand into daily broadcasts in the summer. That's bad news for the Department of Trade and Industry, the body in charge of monitoring and controlling the airwaves.
As far as the Department is concerned, pirate stations are illegal and dangerous because, says a spokesman, they often use frequencies allotted to the emergency services.
"For anyone to use the Airwaves, they have to have a licence and the reason for that is because the radio spectrum is quite small and we have got a lot of people wanting to use it."
The maximum penalty for broadcasting without a licence is a 2000 pound fine, and /or three months imprisonment. The department says it is committed to stamping out pirate stations and to this end carried out 230 raids on 86 stations nation-wide last year.
(Original article by Gill McMinn. Liverpool Echo
27th March 1986. Unedited.)
Storeton Community Radio
Lawbreakers who 'serve community'
You have to be careful when you mention the word "Pirate" to DJ's at Storeton Community Radio. Any reminders that they are breaking the law brings a sharp reply, writes Tony Bethel. "We would rather not call ourselves pirate radio " said "Martin 'C'", aged 19 who set up the unauthorised station two years ago.
"We are free radio. We provide a service to the public without charging them". It is doubtful whether that explanation would impress the Home Office. Equipment being used for the radio, including record decks, a new microphone and a transmitter was confiscated in a raid. "Martin 'C'", as the person responsible for running the station faces a court hearing on a charge of transmitting without a licence. The maximum penalty is a 1000 Pound fine, or six months in prison.
SCR was off the air for a couple of weeks following the raid. It is now transmitting from again from a flat in the centre of Birkenhead. The new 'studio' has double locks fitted to all doors and has the windows boarded up. Although it is impossible to say exactly how many listeners the station has, it's organisers reckon the figure runs into several thousands.When the station was going strong last year, they were receiving anything upto 150 letters a week from the public. "We tell the listeners that their letters are our wages." said "Paul Woods",aged 25.
One of its DJ's, 21 year old "Keith The Chief" said a major function of the station as promoting local bands and advertising charity events.
Illegally operating on 1026 Khz. 292 Metres Medium Wave, the station says it caters for all all tastes and ages. Music of the 1950's and 1960's is provided by "Brian 'C'", and "John Sniff" focuses on local bands. Pablo Brad features Reggae, and "Uncle Ern"concentrates on chart hits. Other DJ's include "Mad Mike", "Dave Collins" and "Sandy Babe" and "Little Di". Many of the DJ's are on the dole and they say many of their listeners are unemployed.
One of the main problems is finance. "Martin 'C'" reckons he puts most of his weekly wages as an audio engineer into the station and "Keith The Chief" spends about 30 Pounds a week on it. All in all, the total expenditure each week amounts to about 110. Pounds. This mainly goes on buying equipment and records. "We have turned down requests to do advertising", said "Martin 'C'". "We feel that if we start to do advertising, we may get caught transmitting more easily. Also, we don't want to become another commercial station". (Birkenhead News 24/02/84)
"Martin 'C'", the station's owner and engineer was
subsequently taken to court and fined 145 Pounds, plus costs. (Tim
By Peter Trollope
From the Liverpool Echo. 1st April 1980
They Seek Them Here, They Seek Them There. (Spot the clich'e !)
The secret is to be one step ahead
A cold wind whipped along the furrows of a ploughed field. Through the gathering gloom, it was hard to see the tower blocks on the Cantril Farm Estate. Rick crouched over a car battery, flicked on a switch and Radio Jackie North was on the air again. Over on the Wirral behind closed curtains, in a flat in a multi storey block, among a pile of records and debris and coiled wire, plugs and valves, MAR, Merseyland Alternative Radio swung into action.
These are the voices of free Radio on Merseyside as their home produced jingles will tell you. There are two pirate Radio stations operating on our own doorstep. It sounds romantic but it really isn't. " It's a hard life, and you've got to be really dedicated to keep on going", says Rick, who's long curly hair cascades down his shoulders. He's in his 30's and he isn't really called Rick and neither is John from MAR really called John.
They seek the cloak and dagger of anonymity because if the cloak and dagger world they live in Both face heavy fines and imprisonment for operating their respective Radio stations. Both know the penalties involved, but they see themselves as martyrs to the cause. Radio Jackie North has been operating for some years now and during that time Rick has had to "work with my head over my shoulder all the time, looking for the Gestapo", he says. It's his friendly endearment for the men from the Post Office Radio Interference section who go out regularly trying to pinpoint the transmitters and that's why today Rick was in a field.
"Tomorrow I'll move on somewhere else", he says. The secret is to always be one step ahead all the time. John agrees "It's the only way. We came on the air last October, and since then we have had detector vans around, but they've never been able to trace us". He's in his 20'sand has a daytime job and spends all devoted to MAR. " Some people may think we're crazy. We aren't. We believe in what we are doing, and believe it to be right. Why should there be a monopoly on Radio stations. People think that the commercial stations are free, but that's not the case.
Both Jackie North and MAR are well organised. They have back-up teams, some keeping watch while others keep on the technical side. They profess a pioneering spirit. Mar plays mostly pop, while Jackie North always plays rock. The quality is nowhere near perfect. The scouse accents stand out loud and clear, as you move along the Radio dial. At times the records come over scratched and they sound very crackly. We try our best but obviously we don't have the facilities of the local legal Radio stations, still it's half the fun some of the time says Rick who has often had to run across fields and down back alley ways to avoid getting caught.
When you talk to them, you can't help noticing their eyes. Their tired eyes sink back into their sockets. " I suppose it's because we don't get much sleep", says John. Every night of the week he is busy preparing tapes, letters, jingles and everything for the station which broadcasts from Saturday morning to Sunday night. Rick interrupts, "I used to broadcast every day, but it became impossible after a while and I was becoming a complete wreck. Now I operate at weekends only and it makes it harder for them to detect us. People ask me why do I bother, and I tell them it is because if I didn't then perhaps no one else would. There is no other station in the land like mine. No one plays continuous rock music. It's crazy really. If you go to America nearly every city has twenty or more Radio stations, and yet here, you're luck if you find two, so I'm providing an alternative.
" Rick first got involved with pirate Radio after being inspired by Radio Caroline in the 1960's. "After Caroline went, I thought I'd like to have a go, and so I managed to learn how to build transmitters and things went from there. Rick based Radio Jackie North around the Cantril Farm area and has safe houses he operates from and where the mailing address is .
MAR can be found in the Wirral. "We' re still looking for a better location site than we have at present. It makes detection more difficult if we keep moving. At times we both feel a bit like the resistance fighters of the war with a Gestapo prowling around in a van trying to track us down. That's how it is, you know, and all because you are doing something alot of other people like. I mean, if we were all political then I could understand it, but we would never dream of being that.
Our one dream is that one day the government will relent and we can run our own stations properly." In the past, Rick has been fined for operating his Radio station and had his equipment confiscated. He knows that if he's caught again he could go straight to prison for four months.
"It makes me mad. I could probably go out and mug a few old ladies and they would pat me on the back and send me home, but because it's on the airwaves, I am threatened with prison. and john nods in agreement and says, " you see, in theory we could apply for a licence and run a Radio station, but we would never get the chance. The BBC and the commercial stations have the franchise and that's it. Why shouldn't people be allowed to have more choice? It' supposed to be a free country isn't it?
The Post office take a different viewpoint . Anyone who operates a Radio station in the way they do is breaking the law under the 1949 Wireless and Telegraphy act. As with people who use Citizens Band, we are requested by the Home Office to find and locate the Radio stations so they can be prosecuted. I can't go into details of our methods of tracking them, but we do use detector vans and I cannot go into the pro's and cons of tracking Radio stations. If it's the law, then it's the law" says a Post Office spokeswoman.
" Actually I think they quite like us. We sometime do dedications to them", says John smiling for the first time before they both left to go back on the air again.
(Liverpool Echo 1st April 1980)
Back in 1984, there was a lot more free radio activity on Merseyside. For instance, on May Bank Holiday Weekend in May 1984, there was Radio Atlantis on 1242 Khz, with Steve Bishop & Co., who were having a few transmitter problems. A station calling itself Channel 5 was also on 1242 with Pete Williams, Frank Xerox, Dave Graham and Steve West. Radio Eleanor made an appearance on the band with Mark Wright, John Freeman, and Paul Rogers. Central Radio was on 1350 Khz., but announcing 1359 Khz. with Jim Brown, Ian Phillips, Jeff Stone and Ken Woolfe. The station suffered interference from Radio Ulster. Storeton Community Radio (SCR) was a regular on 1026 Khz. with Alan Ross, Uncle Ern, Paul Woods, John Sniff,Stevie Sounds, Dave Collins and Martin 'C', who had been working on the transmitter whilst on the air. SCR was also putting out a strong harmonic on 2052 Khz., it's second harmonic. Station 'M' was on 1413 Khz. with a good signal and good modulation, with Roger Dee playing extracts of Radio Caroline and other Offshore stations. They were also announcing a parallel frequency of 92. 1 FM. ABC Radio was on 96.25 FM Stereo, with Kevin Palmer, (who did some jingles for Concept and at one time was the station manager of Atlantic 252), Eric Monaghan and Benny James, with promised appearances from Mike and Keith from Wirral FM .
(Extracts from Merseyside Free Radio Scene by Tim Jackson . 1984)