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Caroline Television

Ronan O'Rahilly

A Lockheed Super Constellation

A plan for an airborne television station
was announced in 1968 and the station was scheduled to go on the air by the spring of 1969. The proposed station was the 'brainchild' of Irish businessman Ronan O'Rahilly (pictured above) and would be known as
'Caroline Television'. O'Rahilly is the founder of Radio Caroline, which began broadcasting at Easter in 1964 from the M.V. Fredericia. The Fredericia, a ship which had been renamed 'Caroline', was anchored in International waters off the Suffolk/Essex coast of the United Kingdom.

The programmes from
'Caroline Television' were to have been beamed to the ground using Sratovision technology from two four-engined Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft (pictured above) built in the 1940s/1950s. The Stratovision technology had been used successfully by the United States during the Vietnam War to beam programmes down to their forces.

The original  intention was to set the aircraft on auto-pilot and fly them over the International waters of the Irish Sea, althought this plan was later changed and the planes would now fly over the air-space of the east-coast of Great Britain.

'Caroline Television's' shows would have consisted mainly of pre-recorded material bought from foreign television stations.
The shows were to have been broadcast from 6pm to 3am, mostly in colour on 625 lines. The backing for the project was said to have come from foreign companies interested in the advertising potential of the station. 'Caroline Television's' start-up cost was estimated at 1,000.000. Offices in Canada and the United States would sell air-time to advertisers to fund the station.

A statement relating to 'Caroline Television' was made from the House of Commons on February 16 1970 by the minister for Posts and Telecommunications at the time, John Stonehouse. He said that concerted action would be taken by European countries against the operators. This action was to include: withdrawal of aircraft registration, use of airports and legal measures against operators.

Various newspaper reports at the time carried stories regarding the project; one such report announced "Ronan O'Rahilly is unmoved by suggestions that his flying TV station will never get off the ground." The report goes on to say: "He [Ronan O'Rahilly] is even amused by the widely-held doubts that he really does have wings on which to waft his illegal transmitter within broadcasting distance of Britain. He insists he has a plane-but will not say what kind let alone where it is-and that it flew and put out a signal in July..."

It has been suggested that Ronan O'Rahilly used the publicity surrounding the 'Caroline Television' project as a way of deflecting attention away from his plans for the eventual return of Radio Caroline.

The test broadcasts from 'Caroline Television' were eagerly awaited by enthusiasts. There seems to to be no evidence that any transmissions were ever made or received from 'Caroline Television' and the project was seemingly abandoned.

The image of the Lockheed Super Constellation is courtesy of