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Mary Payne clarifies UK pirate radio history

Pirate aerial on top of a tower block.

Reader Mary Payne, webmaster of the Radio London website, took a moment to correct and expand upon my surface gloss of UK pirate radio history in my post about a documentary on 90s pirates told through cassette airchecks. In particular, Ms. Payne notes that the BBC didn’t ban rock music in the 60s. Rather, the BBC featured no all-music stations, and because the Beeb was the monopoly broadcaster in the UK, therefore there were no all-music stations in Britain at the time.

She writes,

It is not true that the BBC played no pop music, but it was restricted to using mainly live musicians. The Musicians’ Union stipulated the number of hours of recorded music that it permitted to be aired, arguing that the act of spinning records took work from its members. Much of the MU’s allocated BBC ‘needle time’ was devoted to the weekly ‘Pick of the Pops’ chart run-down. …

The pirates didn’t save the world, but they made big changes to the music industry and the world of broadcasting and caused the government to have a major rethink about what the public wanted as entertainment. Listeners were, after all, legally obliged to purchase a radio and TV licence. (They still are. Detector vans are used to identify unlicensed homes and big fines are imposed.)

I encourage you to go and read her full comment.

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