(Radio) Caroline TV – was I duped or was it genuine?


My two pirate radio posts from months ago have spurred me into action!IMG_0229

Having met Ronan O’Rahilly, the charismatic Irishman behind the formation of Britain’s first pirate station (and everything that followed) at least once when still the cub reporter on the Gravesend Kent Messenger, my devotion to the ships and forts proved to give me a small USP when in May 1967 I joined Disc & Music Echo – then the No.3 in quite a long list of pop weeklies, after New Musical Express and Melody Maker. Apart from the joys of working with Penny Valentine, in Fleet Street, rubbing shoulders with tabloid legends like Don Short, Mike Housego and Bob (the guy on the Sun, whose surname has momentarily vanished!), editor Ray Coleman recognised that none of the rivals was paying much attention to the pirates, whereas I had visited Caroline a couple of times, circled the forts and still have a bunch of letters from many of the disc jockeys.

So when, in June 1967, the folk from Chesterfield Gardens (Caroline’s Mayfair HQ) told me about the great man’s latest plan, Caroline TV, we gave it a major page 3 splash (Exclusive by…!!). If the photos from my bound copies of the paper are illegible and if anyone is sufficiently interested, I can transcribe them, but the “facts” column says it all really. Broadcasting from two airplanes using technology already tested on US troops in Vietnam, three crews, colour UHF transmissions to be available to 75% of the nation, each aircraft housing a studios for live interviews (did I think that through carefully enough??!!), no adjustments needed to your TV set, and the planes will fly “elliptically at 25,000 feet at least three miles off the coast”

There’s Ronan with the liveried plane; I was a believer; it was June not April.

Was it a hoax? Did I ever mention it again?

It would have been fun though – pop TV all day!


About dhvinyl

Lifelong obsession with music, 33 years in the music business, 40 years immersed in selling old records, 18 years retired!
This entry was posted in A Life in Music - random memories, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to (Radio) Caroline TV – was I duped or was it genuine?

  1. hans knot says:

    i think they didn’t told you in June 67 about this plan, maybe in 1969


  2. Mike Barraclough says:

    There’s some footage on YouTube of the German TV programme Beat Club reporting on Caroline TV and interviewing Ronan. Link should at the item, 27 mins 40 in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwRE5NiM4A0&feature=youtu.be&t=27m40s


  3. Paul Rusling says:

    I believe the Caroline TV project was very serious, and that here was a deposit put on ONE plane, and ONE transmitter was on order. It was technically feasible, and had already been in use for 4 years in North Vietnam / Hanoi. There were two presentations to advertisers and one for the press in 1969 and it was due to start at Christmas 1969, although I think that was the latest in a series of announced dates.
    If you check a few stars of the time, many were invited to invest, though it seems few actually put their hands in their pockets.


  4. Rob says:

    Thanks for some very interesting postings. The photographs of your Caroline TV article are fascinating, but it is little difficult to fully read the text, so if a transcription were to be possible, it would be appreciated.

    Does anyone have any technical info? Power output of the transmitter(s), etc.
    It’s stated that no adjustments to viewers’ receiving aerials would be needed, but would this really be the case, UHF Yagi’s being directional, and – obviously! – the aircraft would be constantly changing position. Any indication of the size of the eliptical flight path they were intending to use, presumably over the southern North Sea?
    The “75 % of the nation” figure; is that geographical area, or population? In 1969 the overwhelming majority of televisions in the UK were still 405 lines VHF, although 625 lines UHF, which Caroline TV was due to use, was of course constantly increasing in take-up. BBC1 and ITV only started broadcasting on UHF in 1969., so maybe it was 75% of those viewers using a UHF (or dual-standard)TV.

    I remember, as a teenager at the time, being very excited by the prospect, having been just old enough to have enjoyed the last two years of the 1960’s incarnation of Radio Caroline – and especially as our family had just acquired a UHF TV.

    As I did with radio – tuning around in the hope that Radio Caroline would return – so I did with our new TV here in Southern England – tuning around using the manual UHF tuner, in the hope that one evening Caroline would appear, despite our roof-top aerial pointing South, and not East North East, towards the North Sea. All, alas, to no avail. ….. but there was always RNI on the radio, with it’s brief transmogrification into Radio Caroline!

    I’ve seen reports in the past that there actually were brief airbourne transmissions. Is there any confirmation of this, or was it PR/wishfull thinking/a genuine mistake?
    When there were only three TV channels in the UK – only two for most – the prospect of a new channel was indeed exciting, and that it was to be Caroline multiplied the excitement a thousand-fold! Happy Days!


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