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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: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 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: #1,911,144 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 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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Format: Hardcover
Johns has an abiding interest in "piracy," broadly defined. This book, though opening with a violent death in a dispute between pirate radio entrepreneurs in 1966, is really about how intellectual history (featuring Coase and Hayek, who both spent time analyzing British radio in particular) becomes political history. Here, changes in British radio listening practices, aided by cheap transistor radios, changed the social meaning of listening and therefore of broadcasting, opening a path for commercial radio. Johns argues that the "moral philosophy of digital libertarianism," though often associated primarily with 1960s American counterculture, also derives from the politics and history of British radio. The idea of offshore data havens, after all, comes from offshore radio pirates (and indeed physically overlaps--Seahaven was a pirate radio station before it was part of a grand, failed data haven scheme). Johns chronicles not just lawlessness, though the violence isn't surprising, but also the deep entanglement with the law that these pirates always had--they created corporate structures and called the police because they wanted and even needed to live in a jurisdiction with a functioning government, even as they wanted to escape those constraints as it suited them. This is Johns's least theory-intensive book, and it sits not quite comfortably between narrative and theory, but I enjoyed it.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Boring dull detailed history of British radio starting in the 1920's. I was looking for the book version of the British movie Pirate Radio. It might be in here somewhere if I can get past all the boring stuff in the first half. Still havent got to it yet. Figured I should write this now before I gave up out of bordom.
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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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