Laser 558 DJ Holly Michaels in the On Air studio
The Lid Off Laser 558 is a book written in 1984 about the latest offshore radio station, Laser 558. The book explores the organisation behind LASER 558 (Deka Overseas Inc) and the people who funded and worked for the radio station.
It tells how they took a former British survey vessel to Florida and equipped it with powerful radio transmitters and converted it into a floating radio station, capable of being heard over much of Western Europe.
The book has been out of print for some years but is being republished in 2017.
Laser 558 was an offshore pirate radio station launched in May 1984, staffed by American disc jockeys. Within months the station had amassed an audience of almost 5 million in the UK and almost as many in continental Europe. The station 's success was due to its powerful signal and the speech policy of "never more than a minute away from more music"; at that time UK stations had a minimum 50% speech format.
Laser 558 was also incredibly popular because of its format of alternating current hits with one 'Golden Oldie' however, poor management, a lack of direction and marketing incompetence was rife and was the root cause of the station's early and tragic demise.
The UK Government were concerned that ownership was cloaked in secrecy, making them believe there must be unknown reason to hide the true source of the funding. A mischeivous suggestion the station might be owned by the IRA was put forward by UK local radio executives. In fact the station was funded by just one Dublin based entrepreneur who owned a couple of laundrettes, a hotel and some nightclubs. The British Government launched a surveillance operation to thwart the illegal supply runs to the ship, which was anchored off the Thames Estuary.
This resulted in the ship being starved off the air in Autumn 1985. When all five of the ships generators mysteriously broke down in November 1985 the crew simply surrendered and sailed in to the UK. A flurry of writs for unpaid bills followed and the ship was seized by the Admiralty Marshall, on the instructions of Paul Rusling and the company (Gardline Surveys) who had supplied the ship initially.