Rebel Radio ships documentary features two iconic pirates

By Steve Hart

I watched a very interesting documentary on Aljazeera TV last week about pirate broadcasters Radio Caroline and The Voice of Peace.

While Caroline – launched in the 1960s – promotes LA (loving awareness), The Voice of Peace, launched in the early 70s, tried to bring harmony to the volatile Middle East through music and positive dialogue.

The documentary goes to the roots of why each station started; one to challenge the government, the other to try and bring harmony to a very troubled region of the planet.

Following some fascinating interviews and rare footage of the ships and broadcasters at work, the documentary ends on a low note with the demise of The Voice of Peace, rather than the good news story of Caroline’s ongoing success as a broadcaster (albeit online).

And while The Voice of Peace is off air at the moment, the station is appealing for funds to restart broadcasting again online.

The filmmaker also ignores UK pirate Laser 558 which shook UK commercial radio to its roots in the early to mid 1980s. Up until Laser 558 came along the commercial stations were very comfortable indeed with their tired old playlists and relaxed presenters.

Laser, with its American presenters, non-stop hit music format, with a few classic oldies tossed in, and the breaking of new music, really did wake up established broadcasters in the South of England. Laser 558 was a huge success with listeners, but less so as a commercial operation, and I don’t know enough about that to comment further.

But the story of two broadcasters launching with an agenda of bringing change is a very interesting story, and one which opens the debate: are we here to just play music, or should we be doing something more ambitious?