The first true offshore commercial broadcaster
It took some years before technical developments were sufficiently advanced for any further attempt to be made to launch a radio station from on board a ship. When it did happen the development came about in an unlikely location.
Offshore radio is usually thought of in the context of providing an alternative to the established state monopoly broadcasting systems, but the world's first true commercial offshore station was, surprisingly, located off the west coast of the USA during the early 1930s. The station -
Other offshore broadcasting ventures
Although a number of other ship-
An early example of this type of floating station was Radio Morue (Radio Cod) which accompanied French fishing fleets to the waters around Newfoundland in the late 1930s. The station, based on one of the trawlers, was operated by Rev. Yvon and broadcast religious messages and news items from home to fishermen on board other vessels in the fleet.
A propaganda offshore radio station operated between January and April 1938 from a small ship sailing along the European coast between France and Holland. The station -
In 1941 Spanish Communists, who had been exiled by the right-
Another Spanish political group, this time separatists who claimed to be the Basque Government in exile, also used a trawler (anchored in the French port of Bayonne) to broadcast anti-
The United States Government propaganda station Voice of America used a number of ships as offshore broadcasting bases, particularly during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1942 the USS Texas was anchored in the Mediterranean and equipped to broadcast Voice of America programmes as a counter to the many Nazi propaganda stations then on the air. These programmes, targeted at North Africa, were transmitted on 601kHz (498m) and commenced on 7th November 1942, coinciding with an Allied military advance in that area. However, some rapid Allied successes against the Nazi forces in North Africa meant that the station's mission became obsolete and transmissions were terminated after only a few weeks.
Three years later, in 1945, the Voice of America again used a ship, this time the Phoenix, anchored in the China Sea to broadcast propaganda programmes to the Far East on both shortwave and medium wave frequencies.
The most significant use of an offshore based transmitter by the Voice of America came in the early 1950s and was to serve as a role model for early European offshore commercial broadcasters. A merchant ship, Doddridge was converted, at a cost of $3.5million, into a floating radio station and renamed firstly Coastal Messenger and later Courier. The station was fitted out by US Coastguards who installed three on-
Test broadcasts from this ship-
In August 1952, having successfully completed her test transmissions the Courier sailed to the Mediterranean and anchored off the Greek Island of Rhodes, commencing broadcasts as the Voice of America -
It was the successful operation of this ship-
While the practice of using ship-
It is extremely doubtful that the people behind Radio Mercur knew anything about RKXR at the time they decided to set up their station. They had simply identified a legal loophole enabling them to operate from international waters and challenge an established state broadcasting system. Despite numerous practical difficulties they succeeded and Radio Mercur itself went on to inspire the establishment of many similar stations throughout Europe and other parts of the world.