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Death of a Pirate: British Radio and the Making of the Information Age Hardcover – November 8, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 305 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393068609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393068603
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,738,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Johns, an expert in the field of intellectual property and piracy, walks us through the history of pirate radio. Pirate radio stations were most famously a British phenomenon (although many other countries had their own versions of these outlaw broadcasters); they operated from offshore sites, usually a boat, skirting the British regulations regarding license fees, broadcast rights, etc. The BBC saw them as illegal and disreputable, but the pirate broadcasters and their listeners (and even many artists) thought they were exciting and indispensable. The end of British pirate radio came soon after a partnership between two colorful station owners, Oliver Smedley and Reg Calvert, ended in violence, property theft, and death. Highly detailed but unfortunately rather dry, the book is closer in texture to a textbook than it is to a lively history of this fascinating period in British broadcasting history. For readers interested in the subject, however, the wealth of information in the book should outweigh its lack of zest. --David Pitt

Review

“A treasure. . . . [Adrian] Johns portrays the British radio pirates not in the warm glow of sentimental memory that the period usually enjoys but in the historian’s cold bright light.” (Randall Bloomquist - Wall Street Journal)

“A well-written tale about those buccaneers of the high C’s.” (The Economist) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Adrian Johns' book seems to have trouble making up its mind on the main goal of his book..
wogan
It considered the radio to be a learning tool where its listeners would be enriched as much if not more than they were entertained.
Leonard Fleisig
Instead, the book glazes through the history of government monopoly and right wing thought in the UK.
theblackgecko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By CWOS on November 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As the son of Oliver Smedley, I have been steeped in the history of the Radio Pirates because my father helped start Radio Atlanta (later Radio Caroline South), because I listened to them and lastly because, when I was aged 15, my father shot Reg Calvert dead and was arrested for murder. But obviously my history was biased!
Adrian Johns has researched the story of Radio Caroline and the other stations and the killing of Reg Calvert with great diligence. He has written an excellent and exciting book which will bring back the days of pop radio in the early 1960's to those of my generation as well as inform all readers of the dramatic impact the Radio Pirates had on broadcasting and the media. I have learnt a lot from the book; the history of these pirates is fascinating. 'Death of a Pirate' really is the real story of the Radio Pirates, the development of British broadcasting and the shooting of Reg Calvert, not only that, it's a great read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. M. Gladney on December 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A theme of this book is that the history of radio transmission privilege teaches about Internet issues. Another is that media monopolies are pertinent for civil liberties. Both are worth paying attention to.

However, excessive detail about the personalities and wrangles of otherwise-forgotten British entrepreneurs makes it unnecessarily difficult for readers to discern and judge the arguments for and against central control of media and bandwidth. Had the book been 80% as long as it is, it would have been much better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Duffy on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Adrian Johns frames the collapse of one era of Pirate radio in the UK (the sixties era of offshore transmissions) around the death of pirate Reginald Calvert at the hand of rival pirate Oliver Smedley. He boldly suggests that Calvert's death was the result of a misunderstanding between the two adversaries. While Calvert's death may have been the proximate cause of the shutdown of the pirate radio operations, there were greater economic and political forces at work that doomed that era of pirate radio (regardless of Calvert's death) and led to the incorporation of its main innovation -the playing of pop music- into mainline radio broadcasting (i.e., the BBC). Still, a fascinating and well-researched book on the myriad forces at work that led radio pirates to lurk offshore in pursuit of making radio broadcasting a commercial enterprise.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mervyn O. Hagger on January 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I knew Alan Crawford - I went into business with him for a brief period, and I sat in his office in Dean Street which was NOT the same address that the CNBC venture operated out of. The author attempts to link events from CNBC to Atlanta by stating that Crawford found the old CNBC plans, which of course is untrue.

Crawford's plans came from McLendon. The author also tries to explain the "Rosebud" and "Atlanta" names by suggesting that they were the work of Smedley and Crawford. However, the real story begins with Gordon McLendon of Dallas who was both a movie maverick (hence "Rosebud" from 'Citizen Kane') and proud of his Atlanta, Texas roots that began his broadcasting career.

The originator of 'Radio Atlanta' was Gordon McLendon and it was to have been funded (like GBLN before it), by Herbert W. Armstrong. Then Atlanta merged with Jocelyn Stevens' 'Radio Caroline' (named after the 'Caroline' stylesheet for 'Queen' magazine by Editor B. Miller), and it was decided to steer clear of both politics and religion since the original 'Radio Caroline' plan was aimed at trying to overturn the 'Pilkington Report' with its finding against commercial radio. That was not the original plan for 'Radio Atlanta'. Armstrong had to wait for the arrival of Don Pierson's 'Wonderful Radio London' before he was able to expand to 7 days a week beyond the Mondays and Tuesdays schedule over Radio Luxembourg.

This book is really a pick-up from the earlier Chapman work (the author admits this in his previous work on copyrights and piracy that begat the present work - which I also bought and have read. It is also an academic work, unlike the present book.) This book is also a trek with historian Coase who wrote about the BBC and ended up in Chicago.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on February 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
When I first arrived in England in 1971 the `glory days' of Pirate Radio had come and gone. BBC Radio had created Radio 1 to play pop music and hoped that would be sufficient to satisfy our hunger for rock and roll. Nevertheless, my classmates and I still popped our radios out the window at night and pointed them out to the North Sea in hopes of catching a broadcast from the North Sea or Radio Luxembourg or the like and those who lived through pirate radio loved to tell stories about the crazy DJs they used to hear. Since then my only exposure to pirate radio came from the recently released film, Pirate Radio. As a result I tended to think of pirate radio stations as a haven for young rockers run by like minded people of my so-called generation. So, I was more than a bit surprised when I picked up "Death of a Pirate" by Adrian Johns and read (according to the book jacket) that these stations were run by free-market free-traders who were followers of Friedrich von Hayek who wanted to use these stations to attacked the British welfare/nanny site as embodied by the state-run BBC.

Johns tell three stories in "Death of a Pirate": the birth and development of the British Broadcasting Company (later Corporation) and its battle against those who wanted to open the airwaves to commercial stations on the U.S. model; the creation of and competition between the pirate radio stations in the 1960s and the British government's rather insipid and generally ineffective campaign to quash the stations; and the partnership and rivalry between two pirates, Oliver Smedley and Reg Calvert that resulted in the fatal shooting of Calvert by Smedley.

Each story is interesting in its own right.
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