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The offshore stations were incredibly popular and although it was widely expected that eventually the Government would legislate  to prevent them operating, continued procrastination over the introduction of such legislation  meant that there were no listener support organisations established who could  oppose any attempts to outlaw the stations.

This only happened about the time that the Marine etc Broadcasting (Offences) Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Commons in February 1967 - much too late to influence the drafting of legislation or the plans being prepared to provide a ‘replacement’ service (BBC Radio 1) for the offshore stations.

First of these groups to be established was the Commercial Radio Listeners Association (CRLA) which was launched on January 29th, 1967 by Catherine Baker to fight to prevent the passing of the Marine Offences Bill.

Three weeks later, on February 19th, 1967, at a meeting in London attended by representatives of many offshore stations, the Free Radio Supporters Association (FRSA) was formed. The radio stations’ representatives agreed that they would help the Association in any way they could, short of providing finance or being represented on its governing committee. In practice this meant broadcasting 'commercials' and announcements on behalf of the Association urging listeners to 'join the fight for free radio'.

The CRLA and the FRSA soon merged and, following notification from Ronan O'Rahilly that Radio Caroline would only carry announcements if the word 'supporters' was dropped from its title, the organisation became known as the Free Radio Association (FRA). Announcements for the FRA were broadcast on most of the remaining offshore stations advertising a range of publicity material - car stickers, badges, leaflets etc. and urging listeners to write to their Member of Parliament expressing support for the continuation of the service provided by offshore radio stations.

The FRA needed a strong voice, which it found in Glasgow property developer Sir Ian MacTaggart, who became the organisations’ President. Multi-millionaire MacTaggart was Managing Director of the Western Haritalbe Investment Company in Glasgow and chairman of the National Council of the Society for Individual Freedom. He had previously been a Conservative member of the London County Council.

Chairman of the FRA was Geoffrey Pearl (left).

The Free Radio Association collected thousands of signatures from supporters for a petition which stated:-

"The Free Radio Association is fighting for free speech, free enterprise and free choice. The Government is trying to crush all competition over the air by silencing the commercial stations - thereby preserving the monopoly of the BBC and depriving us of the freedom to listen to the stations of our choice. This is a step towards dictatorship.   If the Marine etc Broadcasting (Offences) Bill becomes law in its present form, free speech will be suppressed, and the Free Radio Association will be partially silenced. No doubt this would please the Government. But the Government will never silence us completely. We have pledged that we will fight and we will win.”

Another supporters' organisation which received publicity on the offshore stations was the Broadside Free Radio Movement, formed by  Cambridge University student Peter Philipson in April 1967, recruiting initially from the two universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In June the headquarters of the organisation was moved to London and national recruitment began following publicity on Radio Caroline.

The Broadside Free Radio Movement issued a statement outlining its policy and objectives:-

"Broadside Free Radio Movement" is an independent movement, run by Peter Phillipson, objecting to the "Marine &c, Broadcasting, (Offences) Bill, which prohibits British firms placing advertising copy with offshore radio stations, and British subjects from working on them, with the intention of forcing them to close down. In order to do this, the Act incorporates the use of methods which are completely alien to the age-old, traditional ideals of British Justice, including a reversal of the adage "a man is considered innocent until proven guilty." Apart from that, this restriction on radio broadcasting which nearly half the population of the UK like to listen to, bears no resemblance to the concept of a democracy."

""We intend to establish a network of "Action Centres," each responsible for voicing agitation is their area. This will be run by unpaid volunteers, who will hold meetings, canvass, distribute literature, and attempt to persuade people to withhold their support from Parliamentary candidates and MP's who back the "Marine etc. Bill". In this way we intend to stir up public feeling to such an extent that the "Act" will fall in its objective."

The organisation’s objectives were:-

  1. To give a coherent and visible organisation to the many millions of people in this country who are directly opposed to the Government's Marine Broadcasting Offence Bill.
  2. To give to these people a framework within which their protest can take on a more unitary, and united form, and thus, it is hoped, a more effective one.
  3. To expose what the movement considers to be the completely inadequate arguments that the Government has put forward to account for the action that hey have taken, and are still in the process of taking against the pioneers of independent broadcasting in this country.
  4. To support the whole concept of a free and completely independent system of sound broadcasting here, both on a national and a local scale, and thus by implication, to oppose any attempt to return to the air networks of this country to a monopoly control.

By July the Movement claimed a membership of 80,000 but by October it had collapsed totally with financial debts of £500. The Free Radio Association took over the outstanding debts and combined Broadside's membership with its own creating an organisation with a claimed membership of  more than 100,000.

Two of the offshore stations, Radio London and Radio 270, also mounted their own campaigns against the proposed legislation - Radio London DJs constantly requested listeners to 'fight for free radio' by writing to their MPs, while Radio 270 followed a similar pattern and also published, in conjunction with the Institute of Economic Affairs, a booklet entitled Competition in Radio, by Denis Thomas. This traced the development of commercial radio abroad as well as in Britain and concluded by supporting the introduction of a legal commercial radio system.

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FRA Welcome letter sent to new members.

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Broadside’s Manifesto

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Passage Through Parliament

Arguments Against Offshore Radio

Campaign Groups

On Air Promos

Station Closures

Isle of Man Constitutional Crisis


Legislative Amendments


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