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Interview with Peter Moore

who has taken Radio Caroline from the 80's to today

What happened to Radio Caroline in the early 90ies where you couldn't hear the station regularly - what was going on?

There were certain things going on. The ship was damaged by a bad storm in 1987 but we continued. And then the ship was raided by the English and Dutch in 1989 but again we continued. They really had no right to do what they did because we were outside of their territory. But then in 1990 we were shipwrecked and ended up in a port in England. So we really had no choice but to either give up all together or think of a new way of operating. We didn't really have any money at that time. But we found that you could hire a short licence to broadcast legally for one month. But you could only do this for instance two times a year and the power of the broadcast was very low. So there really was no way of getting good audience. But because it was unusual for Caroline to do such a thing and for the ship to be actually accessible for people to visit we carried out quite a lot of these one-month broadcasts between about 1991 through to 1998.

You know Veronica is a big name in Holland again. Did you ever think about using the name to make a real commercial station out of Caroline. Or did you not because you wanted to work into one direction?

Well, that's correct. We wanted to be completely independent. And while of course we could have then raised I'm sure a lot of finance by offering the name Caroline for use by other people or taking on business partners then we wouldn't be independent. Although we could only make progress very slowly we remained in a 100 % independent, we still are. And then people told us about the possibility of broadcasting on a satellite. Fortunately with the introduction of digital satellite the price for a broadcast channel became quite small and we could afford to hire the airs hours. At first we only hired a few hours a week and then we got up to 24 hours a day 7 days a week. And then as we expanded from there we got a second satellite and then a third satellite. So we have one channel for the UK, one channel for Europe and then a third channel on a system which is called World Space which covers one third of the world. So the range of Caroline is now far greater than it ever was even when we were broadcasting from the seas with very high power.

Would you say that Caroline is a very idealistic station or is it more a commercial station?

Well, any station that wants to have studios and hire airtime has to have some sort of income. But the income is from my point of view in order to enable us to broadcast. We don't look for an income to make a profit for e.g. shareholders or ourselves. In order to keep the cost down we all work for no wage. I mean I haven't been paid a wage since 1986 (laughs). But it's ok, I don't mind. It does mean that we can run our operation at very low cost. And if we ever get a surplus of money then obviously we would expand on to a different sort of broadcast means. Like we have three internet streams now. Then we have an experimental service on DAB in Italy. And we hope to use some other people's transmitters for coverage of Slovakia and Latvia. So all the time we're extending our range. But the whole point of Caroline is to broadcast. We don't do it for money.

So what is the idealistic bit about it? I mean when Caroline started in the 60ies music radio as itself was revolutionary. But now there are many music stations, also oldie stations. What's the difference that Caroline wants to make?

Oh, you're quite right. The era of the big AM pirate radio stations will never come back because in 1964 there was only AM and the few pirate stations that went to sea had an open market and no competition. Now as you say correctly there are probably 250 different sorts of radio stations in Britain. In addition of course there are so many television channels, there's the internet, there is iPod, there are so many different ways that people can get musical entertainment. So I don't suppose we'll ever get back the audience in the tens of millions that we once had. But then neither will any other station. Also if we would try an play music of 2005 we'd appear very foolish because we're not young men. But it's a matter of keeping going what is the very fine tradition of a little bit of harmless rebellion playing some good music without a thought of whether we make money or not. And of course because digital is really very cheap. There's no reason why we shouldn't start a second brand of Caroline which plays a different style of music for younger people for instance or even a specialised service such as country music or even a discussion channel. So there's plenty of room for expansion. But we always do it with the money that we personally have. We don't take loans or investment or go to banks or anything like that.

What are your future plans? What is going to happen soon?

We're just negotiating for a coverage of UK cable. You see there's no way that Caroline or any other of the old pirates can go and get into mainstream radio because the big commercial companies have all the frequencies allocated to them. The only thing that we can do is to find unusual ways of broadcasting which cost very little money. But each time we open a new channel we get some more listeners. And of course we cover one third of the world with this very clever World Space satellite radio system. But they have another satellite which covers the far east. If we could persuade them to switch Caroline onto that we'll have another third of the world and then we really only have to get coverage in North and South America. And then we really got all the population of the world covered. So expansion of territory is our aim now.

You've probably heard about Big L Radio London also using a name of a former offshore station to start something again what somehow related to the past. What do you think about Big L? Are they a competitor? Are they much more commercial than you are?

Well, I wish them every success. And people have asked me this question before. And I say it doesn't really make too much difference to me because perhaps yesterday there were 250 radio stations broadcasting to parts of Britain. And then Big L comes along and now there's 251. It doesn't really make any difference. They're seriously I think a nostalgious station. The essential difference is of course - though I'm sure they have every right to call themselves Big L and make references to Radio London. But obviously the actual Radio London closed down something like 38 years ago. And there was no continuity whatsoever until this new station started. Caroline of course has continued ever since 1964. It's changed its appearance and had to operate in different ways. But there is a continuity right through to today. So this is rather like a tribute station to Radio London. It isn't Radio London itself. And of course they are commercial and they do need to make a profit. And I've never known satellite radio to be profitable in its own right. It always requires funding by either an investor or supporters who will contribute to it. It's good that there's an AM signal also. But the AM transmitter is in the middle of the Netherlands. And since the target audience is Britain the signal has to travel a very long way until it gets here. And as far as I can see the sort of reception that Big L are getting is only in the coastal regions of Britain: Kent, Essex and Suffolk. If that's sufficient of an audience to gather in enough advertising to pay for the cost then obviously they'll continue. But if it isn't enough then it's going to be a loss making situation and eventually it will cease. But I have no reason to wish that they cease. I wish them every success.

How much does Caroline get as advertising revenues and how much is fund raising?

I will think of the 100 % of our budget. 80 % will be given to us by well-wishers who just want to help us continue. The other 20 % may be advertising. But even those advertisers are the sort of people who may own a company or be in authority in a company and may want to give some advertising to Caroline simply because they love the station whether or not they sell a lot of their products as a result of the advert or whether or not they get lots of response to the advert - the aren't really that concerned. It's a means of helping us. But you know we do have an audience and the sort of items that we can sell are those items which are of interest of radio enthusiasts such as obviously radio sets and remote speakers and offshore radio merchandise. But I've never known an independent satellite delivered radio station ever made a profit so far.

Who of the old crew of the Radio Caroline of the Ross Revenge days is still with you?

Well certainly one of the oldest of the old crew is me. Because I started helping Caroline in about 1978 and then got more seriously involved in 1985. And of course I've been working for Caroline ever since, full time since 1998. But we have a gentleman called Bob Lawrence, "Buzby" is his nickname who makes a lot of our commercials. He was a Caroline staff member in the 70's. We have David Foster who was on board the ship in the 80's. But at the moment we don't have Roger Day who has found some other work for the time being. But Roger Day broadcast for us. Of course, he was famous in the 60's and then on the pirate station Radio North Sea in the 70's. And other people come back as guests. I mean it's a sad thing to say that some of the Caroline old staff who used to come back and broadcast for us in the recent times actually got old and died. We're none of us young men anymore.

About the Ross Revenge. It used to be in Tilbury, it has just moved around the corner, hasn't it?

That's it. That's the other thing. There are only two pirate radio ships left in the world. I've got one, the Ross Revenge. And my friend David Miller has the other one called the MV Communicator which is quite famous as the base for Laser 558. But it's good to have a big ship because it gives us a link with the past. And of course it's something very visible for photo opportunities and the public can walk around and see the studios and all the other facilities on the ship and realize that this is where the music that they used to listen to was generated. So at the moment we're within a dock. And it's very secure and nobody but us can get to the ship. But we very much hope within the latter part of this year we'll take it out of the dock and put it somewhere public again to be open to visitors.

In which state is the ship? Would you still be able to go with it on sea?

Well, (laughs) if I was a younger man I would take a chance. But as you get older you get more cautious. There's no doubt that with certain repairs the ship could be made very sound to go into the ocean again when it had an engine or that it was taken and toad out there. It's still an extremely strong ship and we are improving it all the time. It's not a young ship. It was made in 1960. And also there have been periods of time where it has been very badly neglected. So it isn't presently in a good condition but it is getting in better condition all the time. And of course there are parts of the world where offshore radio is not against the law. And it would be a wonderful dream to perhaps one day take it to one of those places.

Thank you very much, Peter Moore.

You're welcome.

Keep on doing what you do. I really admire it I must say.

Thank you very much. It takes a lot of work from a lot of people but at the end of the day we think that it's worthwhile and we very much enjoy it.

I could talk to Peter Moore in early June 2005.

Questions? Corrections? Ideas? Comments?


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