For about a decade, ending in 1988, pirate stations dominated the Irish radio bands, exploiting a loophole in the law that made punishments for unlicensed broadcasting on par with a speeding ticket. Now the sounds and artifacts of this cultural movement are being preserved online in the Irish Pirate Radio Archive.
Archive co-founders Brian Greene and John Walsh tell us about this rich history, in which some of the biggest stations broadcast with multi kilowatts of power, with listeners as far away as London and Wales. Stations ran the gamut, from these high-powered “super pirates” which often emulated American commercial radio to hobbyist broadcasters and community radio. Some of the Irish pirate radio stations were extremely political, focusing on the Irish language, or political prisoners. One station was a feminist pirate where only women’s voices were broadcast. While the scene came to an official end when the Irish government passed a new law with more severe penalties, these pirate stations helped to force open the country’s airwaves to non-governmental radio, which had a monopoly for more than fifty years.
Little known outside of Ireland, this hidden history is a must-listen for radio historians, enthusiasts and nerds of all stripes.
We went down several pirate radio wormholes that we couldn’t fit into this episode. Supporters of Radio Survivor can hear that extra material in Bonus Episode #178.5 right now on Patreon.
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