Offshore radio stations were either planned or existed in other parts of the world, often for political or humanitarian reasons rather than for commercial gain.
The main stations to broadcast from an offshore base were Voice of America (off Greece); Radio Brod (off Yugoslavia) and transmissions from the former Radio North Sea International vessel, Mebo II off Libya. Others were planned, but for various reasons never actually came on the air, including stations directed at China, Cuba, Italy, Romania and Poland . Details of these can be found in the Planned and Shortlived Stations panel on the right.
Follow these links for detailed information about those stations which did make it on the air:-
In addition to the stations which did broadcast there were often plans for stations which never materialised or only lasted a very short time - days or even just a few hours.
Click on the blue arrows to read more.
On 13th December 1965, British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, answering questions in the House of Commons during a debate on the then major problem of Rhodesia's self declared independence from the British Commonwealth acknowledged positively for the first time the existence of Radio Caroline.
Opposition Members were asking how, in view of Rhodesia's censorship laws, reliable news and information could reach those inside the country who were still loyal to Britain. In reply the Prime Minister said, "We are doing what we can to improve the audibility of the broadcasting service from outside. If we have to take expert advice from the experience of an organisation known as Radio Caroline we shall not hesitate."
Some reports appeared during mid-1971 indicating that up to ten radio ships were secretly being fitted out in the Polish port of Gdansk The radio ships, which were allegedly to be used off the coast of Europe and in the Middle East to broadcast Communist propaganda, were supposedly being fitted out under the technical supervision of engineers from Russia and East Germany.
Although the existence of these radio ships was the subject of rumour and speculation for some time during the early 1970s, they were never used to broadcast propaganda as had been feared by the Western security services.
The ex-Radio North Sea International (RNI) ship, Mebo II, remained at her anchorage until 9th September 1974 when she sailed to the De Groot van Vliet shipyard in Slikkerveer. Together with the Mebo I (Angela) she was dry docked and both vessels were scraped, painted and overhauled. On board the Mebo II the transmitter equipment was stripped and overhauled, while a new record library and three new studios were constructed to replace the existing two studio facility. The aerial mast was heightened by 15', a second medium wave aerial was installed and all equipment tested and tuned using a dummy load.
Altogether nearly half a million pounds was spent on this refurbishment work and it was announced publicly at that time that the ship would sail to an anchorage off Genoa in Italy and commence broadcasts under the call sign Radio Nova International.
The two ships left the shipyard on 9th October 1974, but were immediately detained by the authorities acting under the provisions of the Dutch Marine Offences Act. Prior to this raid an item had been broadcast by London's ILR news station, LBC, stating that the Mebo II was not really destined for Italy as had been announced, but in fact was to anchor off the British coast to broadcast Radio Nova programmes.
A preliminary hearing into the right of the owners to move the vessels, one of which carried radio transmitting equipment, contrary to the new Dutch law, was held on 11th November 1974 with a full hearing taking place on 4th December. At that hearing lawyers for the owners of the vessel argued that because the ship was registered in Panama the laws of that country, which stated that the radio transmitters aboard Mebo II counted as cargo, should apply.
The Court was not swayed by this argument, however, and when judgement was given on 10th December 1974 the owners were given permission to take the Mebo II out of port only after the transmitters had been removed from the vessel. An appeal was lodged by the ship's owners but this hearing did not take place for another three months.
The effect of all this legal argument about whether or not the Mebo II could leave port meant that the proposed Radio Nova project off the coast of Italy never came to fruition.
However, a land-based station of the same name, run by some former RNI DJs did establish itself in northern Italy, taking advantage of the confused state of that country's broadcasting laws at the time which allowed unlimited numbers of private radio and television stations to be established.
There have been unconfirmed reports of a number of radio stations operating from offshore bases serving China, mainly for political purposes, including:-
Voice of the People's Liberation Army
The October Storm
Popular of Peking
However two definite plans for offshore broadcasting stations based in the South China sea did exist, but neither came to fruition:-
Voice of Hope
Details of a planned offshore radio and television station to broadcast Christian messages and programmes to China were published in mid 1985. High Adventure Ministries, which already broadcast in the Middle East from land-based transmitters under the call sign the Voice of Hope, announced the plans to anchor a ship in the South China Sea.
George Otis, spokesman for High Adventure Ministries said, “Out of the South China Seas shall soon arise Christ's message of love, salvation, healing and hope. I have just returned from Singapore where we finalised plans to anchor a 340' freighter out in international waters, just four miles off the coast of Singapore at Jahor Shoal. From the deck of this ship will rise an antenna field allowing us to broadcast at 50,000 watts power on the AM dial, 1,500,000 watts on the shortwave bands and a brand new Christian TV station. This mighty gospel ship will reach the sorely neglected two and a half billion people in Asia with Jesus' love”.
Nothing more was heard of the Voice of Hope station, although High Adventure Ministries were rumoured to be involved in later religious based offshore broadcasting projects.
Goddess of Democracy
An offshore project of a different kind materialised in March 1990 when a French based group - Federation for Democracy in China - fitted out a ship as an offshore radio station with the intention that it would sail to a position off the Chinese coast. From here they planned to broadcast twelve hours a day of uncensored news, information and music to the population of mainland China in response to the repression of opposition groups after the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. …. Read more
During early August 1988 reports appeared about the establishment of an offshore radio and television station off the Cuban coast. The station, to be known as La Voz del Cuba Independiente (the Voice of Cuban Independence) was to be established by a group which had operated a landbased pirate station for over six years campaigning for democratic government in Cuba.
The offshore project was expected to be based on a 120' fishing boat anchored in international waters off Key West, Florida some 75 miles from the coast of Cuba. However, the project never came to fruition partly because the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC) threatened to stop the station broadcasting on the grounds that such an operation was against international treaties. The FCC also threatened to seize any US registered ship used to house the planned radio and television stations.
In mid June 1989 the former Laser 558 and Laser Hot Hits ship, Communicator, (which had been anchored for over a month near the Sandettie sandbank off northern France) set sail for Lisbon where she was to be refitted for use as a propaganda station broadcasting evangelical programmes to the people of Romania as well as Dutch and English language music programmes.
This project had been put together with an organisation, De Ondergandse Kerk (The Underground Church), which had offices in Holland, Germany and Switzerland. Former Radio Caroline,Radio Mi Amigo and Radio 819 backer, Fred Bolland became responsible for supervising the refitting of the Communicator for her new role.
By coincidence this project was being put together at the time the Dutch authorities were investigating the whole question of offshore radio and contemplating some drastic action against those involved with such operations. In the knowledge that some of their nationals were involved in the new project for the Communicator and that it was to be used as a propaganda station the Dutch requested the Portuguese authorities to mount a raid on the vessel, fearing that it may be used as part of a conspiracy against the Dutch Government.
The Portuguese police subsequently raided the ship and confiscated studio equipment and transmitter parts. After this raid some questions arose as to the financial security of the project and various accusations were made about misappropriation of funds. Nevertheless some equipment from the former Radio Paradijs ship Magda Maria were purchased and shipped to Lisbon to replace that confiscated by the Portuguese authorities.
The whole Romanian broadcasting project came to an end with the revolution at Christmas 1989, which removed the dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and led to the abandonment of many of his repressive laws and institutions.