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Sinking the radio ‘pirates’: exploring British strategies of governance in the North Sea, 1964–1991

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Studies of offshore broadcasting stations such as Radio Caroline have often focused on the media‐communication impacts of the phenomenon, rather than the ramifications these so‐called ‘pirate’ stations had over the governance of sea‐space. This paper examines the strategies by which successive British governments sought to regulate offshore ‘pirate’ broadcasts emanating from outside territorial boundaries, onboard ships in the North Sea. Between 1964 and 1991 it is contended that two different regulatory methods were enacted in order to control radio ‘pirates’; firstly a non‐marine/territorial approach, which sought to govern the sea through controlling activities within Britain's borders; and secondly, through a marine/non‐territorial approach, which was aimed at regulating the ocean through managing the use of extra‐territorial international space; the high seas. It is argued that the latter approach was particularly problematic as it challenged Britain's long‐held ideology of maritime freedom. The paper makes a significant contribution in understanding Britain's legal and political relationship with the ocean and to the wider move towards ‘geographies of the sea’, through examining shifts in the governance of ocean space surrounding this episode in maritime history.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-4762.2011.01027.x

Affiliations: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX.

Publication date: September 1, 2011

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