Radio Mercur was a Danish offshore broadcasting commercial radio station. It started regular transmission on August 2, 1958 and ceased officially on July 31, 1962, though there still were 3 days of illegal transmissions from August 13–15, 1962. Later broadcasting took place under the name of Radio Mercur in Majorca from 1969–70 and again on the Spanish Costa del Sol from 1982–84 and finally in Copenhagen, Denmark as a local radio station from 1987-94.
The first pirate radio
A Swedish "pirate" station, Skånes Radio Mercur (changed name to Radio Syd in 1961 ), started broadcasting on December 14, 1958, from the same ship. It broadcast to the southern province of Sweden, Skåne and was run by a young man, Nils-Eric Svensson, who had studied radio and TV in USA and had worked at the government run Swedish Radio for a very short time
Radio Mercur was probably the first commercial offshore radio station in the world and gave inspiration to a whole number of offshore radios or pirate radios in Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium and United Kingdom during the 1960s. The Danish press soon began to use the expression "pirate radio" on Radio Mercur, and a number of cartoons in newspapers and magazines pictured the radio station with pirate symbols.
Radio Mercur used the fact that radio transmitting in international water was only regulated by international agreements; these didn't take into account the possibility to transmit regularly from an anchored ship. The inspiration for the radio station came from Radio Luxembourg and the American Voice of America, which broadcast from a military vessel, the USCGC Courier, in the Mediterranean.
The success of Radio Mercur directly inspired other groups of radio enthusiasts to begin their own ship-based stations. These included the Dutch stations Radio Veronica and the artificial island based Radio Northsea along with the Swedish stations Skånes Radio Mercur and Radio Nord close to Stockholm.
Station and ships
The radio station was founded by Peer Jansen and Ib Fogh. It was called a pirate radio, because it was considered a lawless attack on the monopoly of the Danish National Broadcasting Corporation, though the authorities didn't have any weapon in the first place to stop the "radio pirates".
Radio Mercur made all of its recordings in studios in Copenhagen, Denmark and the tapes were then sailed to a transmitting vessel in international water in Øresund between Denmark and Sweden. Transmissions took place on the FM-band, first on 88,00 MHz, later on different frequencies to be able to meet complaints from the Danish authorities and also to transmit in stereo with dual transmissions on two frequencies simultaneously.
The first transmitting vessel was Cheeta Mercur. It was later accompanied by the larger Cheeta II, placed in Storebaelt between Zeeland and Fuenen in order to cover most parts of Denmark.
In September 1961 another pirate radio station began to compete under the name DCR/The Commercial Radio of Denmark (Danmarks Commercielle Radio). This was started by a group of former Mercur employees. The two stations merged in January 1962 and continued under the name Radio Mercur but with the jingle from DCR. DCR used the vessel Lucky Star for its transmissions.
The Danish parliament decided a bill in June 1962, that effectively prohibited all participation in activities supporting transmissions, recordings, etc. after 1 August 1962. At the same time similar bills were pushed through in Sweden and the other Nordic countries.
Transmissions started again some days later, but the Danish authorities took immediate action and sent police out to seize the vessel and end transmissions. In Sweden the station Radio Syd, using two of Mercur's former ships in succession, succeeded transmissions up to 1966 in defiance of the law.
The National Danish Broadcasting Corporation (Danmarks Radio) started a new programme, the so-called Melody Radio (later known as programme 3) on 1 January 1963. The programme was very similar to the programmes on Radio Mercur and several key employees from the pirate radio were working on the programme.
- Henrik Nørgaard: Pirater i æteren, published on Syddansk Universitetsforlag, 2003 (ISBN 87-7838-809-0)
- Mike Leonard: From International Waters. 60 Years of Offshore Broadcasting, Forest Press, 1997 (ISBN 0-9527684-0-2)
- Paul Harris: When Pirates Ruled The Waves, Kennedy and Boyd, 2007
- www.radio-mercur.dk (in Danish)
- www.scandinavianoffshoreradio.com (in Danish and English)
- radiohistoria.jvnf.org/oresund.htm (in Swedish)
- Soundscapes by Hans Knot