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Radio Caroline 1980s - History (14)

These stormy conditions lasted for a few days preventing any  further boarding attempts either by the authorities or by  Radio Caroline staff themselves and  the Ross Revenge had to be left to the mercy of the elements. Sea conditions had improved marginally by 14th December 1990 and at about 11.00am station engineer Peter Chicago, and DJ Richard Marks (Rico) successfully reclaimed the Ross Revenge for Radio Caroline, just hours ahead of two foreign tugs which were on their way to take the abandoned ship for salvage.  

A condition of Radio Caroline staff being allowed to re-board the Ross Revenge and for the ship to be openly supplied from Ramsgate was an extraordinary undertaking to the authorities that no attempt would be made to recommence broadcasts from the vessel. This unprecedented agreement was entered into against a background of firm information that the British authorities intended to use their new powers under the Broadcasting Act (which was due to come into effect on 1st January 1991) to forcibly board the ship using military personnel and prevent it transmitting radio programmes. A Radio Caroline spokesman claimed that they even had  knowledge of a date for the proposed raid - 5th January 1991 and therefore the truce with the DTI had been agreed to forestall such  hostile action.

Having reclaimed the ship and entered into this agreement with the authorities, Peter Chicago and other crew members set about clearing up the Ross Revenge, repairing the main generator and providing lighting once again both inside and on various positions outside for navigational purposes.


The results of the internal Panamanian investigation into the registration of the Ross Revenge became known at the beginning of January 1991, confirming everything that had previously been gleaned by various means during the preceding months. The Ross Revenge had been deleted from the Panamanian Shipping Register by Resolution 603-04-04-ALCN dated 12th January 1987. This was in compliance with Article 30, No. 2665 of the Radio Communication Regulations which had been introduced prohibiting unauthorised broadcasting from the high seas by Panamanian registered vessels.

Confirmation that the Ross Revenge was not correctly registered in Panama now meant that with the provisions of the Broadcasting Act having come into force on 1st January 1991, Radio Caroline had no choice but to stay off the air.

The near devastating loss of the Ross Revenge at the end of 1990 and the truce with the authorities to keep the transmitter silent meant that there was no money coming in to the Radio Caroline organisation from either advertising or sponsorship.

In February 1991 a new group was established to provide support for the skeleton crew on board the radio ship and to raise finance for essential maintenance works, including the purchase of a new, reliable generator. The group, known as the Ross Revenge Support Group(RRSG), managed to raise sufficient funding from donations and the sale of memorabilia to purchase a generator, which was delivered to the radio ship at the end of April 1991.

The aims of the RRSG on its formation in February 1991 were:

Meanwhile, Radio Caroline management was exploring an apparent loophole in the 1990 Broadcasting Act, which seemed to provide the only means by which an offshore radio station could now exist without fear of the Act's draconian powers of boarding and seizure being implemented. This loophole theoretically allowed for a foreign country to licence both the ship and a radio station broadcasting from it, then both could be considered as part of that nation's broadcasting system and therefore a legal operation. Radio Caroline set about approaching many Third World countries offering its ship and her radio transmitting facilities as the base from which they could establish an external broadcasting service.

Exploratory talks were held between consultants acting for Radio Caroline and the Government of Liberia, which was prepared to grant the Ross Revenge registration and a broadcasting licence, enabling it to operate quite legally under the provisions of the Broadcasting Act. The Liberian Government was reported to be asking £100,000 per annum, for the licence, but wanted firm evidence that any radio station on board the Ross Revenge would be able to broadcast to a consistent technical standard and be a commercially viable operation. This would have involved the installation of a new transmitter and aerial mast on the ship, renewing the navigational and marine equipment such as the anchor and fuel supply tanks, and establishing a London based office with a full marketing staff to sell airtime on the station.

Although legal advice was taken by the Caroline management and the proposal appeared to be within the new law, the asking price for the licence and the cost of meeting the technical and marketing conditions attaching to it were thought to be too high and the proposal was not pursued.

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