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Radio City - History (4)

In Parliament MPs pressed the Government to take action against offshore broadcasters in the light of the boarding of Shivering Sands Fort and the subsequent shooting of Reg Calvert. Postmaster General Anthony Wedgewood Benn told the House that the Government's Bill to outlaw offshore stations was ready to be introduced, but this would not happen immediately.

However, the Radio City Affair, with its graphic demonstration of anarchic and violent behaviour spelt the beginning of the end for all British offshore broadcasters - the Government could no longer be seen to delay taking action to deal with a situation which was rapidly and very probably becoming out of control.Anthony Wedgewood Benn

On 1st July 1966 the Postmaster General announced that legislation to outlaw offshore radio stations would now be introduced before the summer recess. In the light of events at Radio City the Government had rearranged its parliamentary timetable to accommodate such legislation, which only weeks before it had been saying could not be dealt with in that session. Two days after this announcement Postmaster General Anthony Wedgewood Benn was replaced in  a Cabinet reshuffle by a new Minister, Edward Short. He was to adopt a far more positive and aggressive attitude towards outlawing the offshore broadcasters.

The Bill toEdward Short outlaw offshore broadcasting stations - the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Bill was introduced into the House of Commons on 27th July 1966 and received its formal First Reading. The initial reactions from the offshore stations to the Bill were defiant, containing general expressions of determination to fight its introduction and continue broadcasting. Radio City’s owner Dorothy Calvert said she hoped enough MPs in Parliament would realise that the offshore stations were giving the public a service they wanted and would throw the Bill out.

Meanwhile, prosecutions were instituted under existing legislation against two other fort-based stations (Radio 390 and Radio Essex)  - relying on the fact that the forts were located within British territorial waters. Radio City,however, continued with its broadcasts not yet having been summonsed or  prosecuted. The authorities had delayed taking action allegedly because of the outstanding criminal charges involving Major Oliver Smedley, but these had actually been disposed of in October 1966. The more likely reason for the delay was the public statements made by police and other official agencies of 'uncertainty' over the territorial position of Shivering Sands - an excuse they had used  for not taking any decisive action at the time of the boarding of Radio City  in June 1966.  

Eventually, however,  the authorities did act and on 31st January 1967 a summons was issued against Mrs. Calvert alleging the illegal use of a radio transmitter on Shivering Sands in contravention of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949. At Rochford Magistrates Court on 8th February 1967 Mrs. Calvert defended her station's right to broadcast by arguing that all personnel travelling to and from  the Fort were subject to clearance by HM Customs and, when Radio City had been forcibly  boarded the previous June police had taken  no action because Shivering Sands  was held to be outside their jurisdiction.  Dorothy Calvert outside court

The magistrates were not persuaded by Mrs. Calvert's arguments and ruled that the Fort was within British territorial waters. Mrs. Calvert was fined £100, but no order was made for costs or for the confiscation of Radio City's transmitting equipment.

After the court's decision Mrs. Calvert reluctantly decided that the station should close without any undue delay and at 12 midnight on 8th February 1967 Radio City left the air for the last time. The final hour was filled with a nostalgic discussion amongst the Radio City DJs about life on the station and the prospects for the future of radio broadcasting in Britain.

Radio City announcing its impending closure, February 1967

R City announcing its closure.mp3

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Anthony Wedgewood Benn, replaced as Postmaster General

Edward Short, the new Postmaster General

Radio City closing down for the final time, 8th February 1967

Radio City closedown.mp3

Camera User Magazine

Radio City commercial Camera User Magazine.mp3

BBC News - interview with Radio City staff about the boarding and a legal opinion from Col Gerald Draper, Lecturer in English Law at Kings College London

Radio City BBC News item and legal opinion.mp3

The Times 9th February 1967

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Dorothy Calvert outside Rochford Magistrates Court, February 1967

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