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Letter from British Government 1967

Any supporters of the offshore stations who took the time and trouble to write to their MP, the Postmaster General or even the Prime Minister during the passage of Britain's Marine etc Broadcasting (Offences) Bill  through the Parliamentary process in 1967 received the following standard, somewhat patronising reply:-

Many people have been very disappointed to hear that pirate broadcasting is to be stopped. It seems so harmless and is enjoyed by so many people.

In fact, despite the repeated claims of the pirates, their broadcasts are far from harmless. The pirates are using wavelengths which we have undertaken to leave clear for the broadcasting services in other countries. By so doing they prevent people in those countries from hearing their own domestic programmes. They also represent a danger - slight but ever present- to the radio services on which safety of life at sea depends. Moreover, broadcasting from the high seas is forbidden all over the world by international law. And the pirates make almost unlimited use of recorded material, threatening the livelihoods of the musicians and other performers whose work they use without permission or payment.

To date twelve European countries have complained to the Postmaster General about the pirates' interference with their broadcasting services. And communications between ships and the shore have often been seriously interfered with. If the pirate stations were allowed to continue unchecked there would soon be so much interference that broadcasting as we know it would become impossible.

This threat to the future of broadcasting has caused the maritime countries of the Council of Europe to agree to legislate on common lines to deal with it. The current legislation in this country carries out our obligations under the European Agreement.

Many people feel that an easy solution would be to 'bring the pirates ashore', that is to licence them to operate on land. This is just not possible. There are no unused wavelengths on which powerful stations like the pirate stations could operate without causing interference. In any case, if they operated within the control of the copyright laws they could not transmit the sort of programmes they have been transmitting.

The Government's plans for the future of sound broadcasting which have recently been announced, are designed to match our broadcasting services more closely to our needs without interfering with other people's rights.

But the most pressing need is to silence the pirate stations, which are flouting international regulations, earning us a bad name abroad, endangering shipping and threatening to make broadcasting end in chaos, not only in Britain but over most of Europe.

The  Hold

HOLD Noun - cavity in a ship below deck where cargo is stowed. Also the area used to house transmitters on many radio ships.

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