Maart 2007

op .

Zendschip Cheeta IIIn het International Radio Report dit keer o­nder andere een uitgebreid verhaal van Geoffey Baldwin van Radio Review over het heden en verleden van de Britse Radio, de regelgeving en de zeezenders. Verder reacties op het overlijden van Tom de Munck, de zoektocht naar Caroline DJ Stevie Gee gaat door, historische zeezender cartoons en "anderstalige" programma's op de zeezenders. Lees nu het volledige Report.


Welcome to this edition of the report and thanks a lot for all your interesting emails and comments. Most appreciated.

In this edition of the Knot International Radio Report first a long and interesting story from Geoffry Baldwin:

Since years I write irregularly for the British Magazine Radio Review. The editor is well known in British circles and he decided to write for the Knot International Radio Report too. Here’s what Geoffry Baldwin has to tell the reader: ‘Some time ago, I was supposed to write a chapter for Hans Knot’s book “The Wet And Wild History of Radio Caroline 1964-2004” about how I became involved (at a supporter level) with offshore radio. However, due to my commitments producing Radio Review, I was unable to complete it in time! Instead, I promised Hans that I would, at some stage, make some articles available o­nline to his readers. As 2007 marks 30 years of my providing various different services to anoraks and radio enthusiasts generally, it seemed like this year would be a good time to get the ball rolling and honour that pledge!

First my brief history - since 1977 I’ve gone from the starting point which was selling Caroline 319 car stickers, then I went o­nto form the Caroline Movement, which (amongst other things) got me involved in helping to organise offshore radio conventions, as well as offering first a part-time and then a full-time Free Radio/offshore radio sales merchandise operation. As the offshore radio scene ran out of steam in the early 1990’s, I moved into my current role of publishing and editing Radio Review, which I’ve been doing continuously now since 1994, o­nly this time looking at all aspects of the radio scene and much more besides! Anyway, all in all, it seems like a good year to put samples of my material out to a wider audience.

As for what’s in Radio Review, it is written from a UK perspective but we cover all and sundry: UK radio, the Dutch radio scene, the Irish scene and offshore radio nostalgia and memories. We’ve also recently looked at what future the medium wave might have and the problems with DAB radio reception and choice (DAB is, currently, being promoted heavily to the public here in the UK). Beyond that, we analyse, debate and discuss all the in depth issues behind the immediate radio news and our “piratical” history. Anything can crop up in RR, even if it means making much broader political and economic analysis (sometimes from which conclusions about the situation with radio and broadcasting in general can be drawn). In the past, I’ve also done analogies about the situation in football from a supporter point of view (my other main interest), as compared to the situation with radio, from an enthusiast point of view. I’ve even looked at conspiracy theories o­n occasions!

As most of my readers are mature in years, I also ran a TV nostalgia feature running for three years until about a year ago (hence the name Radio Review & TV Flashback o­n our website) but, because of pressure o­n space, we are now concentrating more o­n the core interest of radio again. o­n the topic of being mature, we also highlight the shortage of programming (whether radio or TV) aimed at the over 50 age group (the baby boomer generation and those older), which, here in the UK, already number about 20 million people or 1 in 3 of the total population (and rising).

To see how I can improve my service (and gain more readers), I have also, in the past year, dug deep into the psyche of my own readers to find out what makes them tick and, perhaps, not that surprisingly, found that, at heart, they are mainly still offshore radio supporters with no real free offshore radio to support! Instead, they look to Big L, the current satellite version of Radio Caroline, the Dutch stations like Arrow Classic Rock and Radio 10 Gold and the (still) hoped for station from the Isle of Man as sort of legally licensed substitutes for the real thing! Some of them (myself included), will even stretch a point and listen to certain UK stations like Capital Gold or o­ne or two of the newer DAB stations or even the BBC!

Anyway, to give you just a small flavour of what to expect in RR, the following is a slightly adapted version of the lead article from a recent issue and I hope to be able to offer you some more articles and views as 2007 progresses. By the way, should you be interested by what you have read here, we are, currently, offering all new readers (living in the UK) a special offer, meaning you can, effectively, obtain 6 issues by sending just £5 (with no obligation to subscribe further thereafter at the full price, although we hope you will!) and the appropriate number of SAE’s. If you live outside the UK, the charge is a little higher to allow for additional postage costs. So, if you live in a European country, please send a remittance of £7.50 (or the equivalent in Euros or your local currency) plus self-addressed envelopes. All cheques should be made payable to: “G.J.BALDWIN”. If you live anywhere outside Europe, please send a remittance of £10 (and envelopes) made out in the same way. ALL COMMUNICATIONS SHOULD BE SENT TO: RADIO REVIEW, P.O. BOX 46, ROMFORD, RM7 8AY, ENGLAND or email Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.

Alternatively, there is a secure o­nline payment facility for any reader that wishes to take out the special offer trial subscription that way. At present this is set up for £7.50 payments o­nly. If in doubt email me. Visit our website at and go to the page NEW READERS for further details.

For the purpose of this special offer, a new reader is deemed to include any previously lapsed RR subscriber that has not been a regular reader for the last three years (i.e. since 2003). We also welcome old friends and associates who used to be members of the Caroline Movement back in the 1980’s.

Thanks for reading this and happy listening.
Geoff Baldwin

As we have reported in the latest issue of Radio Review (no.170 published last month), the new boss of Ofcom, Ed Richards, has admitted that the 2003 Communications Act “ governing the regulation of television, telecoms and radio is already out-of-date”. He says: “in radio, the legislation is not in step with the speed and pace of change in the sector.”

I suspect what may have prompted this is the shock waves that must have reverberated round Riverside House (the Ofcom headquarters) when the UKRD (a group that owns several local radio licences) handed the local radio licence for Stroud back to the regulator. This had never happened before. As we reported in issue 167, the licence holder had concerns about signal strength, too much regulation, lack of flexibility in how the product is delivered to air and lack of flexibility in format regulation. In other words, too much bureaucratic interference in how the radio station was set up and run! UKRD were also, apparently, upset that Ofcom refused them permission to merge the Stroud licence with the neighbouring licence it holds for Cheltenham. At the time, the chief executive of UKRD, William Rogers claimed that “there are scores of radio stations losing money that will never work.”

The way I look at all this takes me back over the last 40 years of radio regulation. When the pirates broke the BBC monopoly in the 1960’s, they weren’t legalised and licensed, they were banned altogether by the then Labour government which enacted the Marine etc. Broadcasting offences Act 1967 to, effectively, restore the BBC’s monopoly (albeit, listeners in the UK could, subsequently, also pick up broadcasts from pirate stations based off the Dutch coast in the early 1970’s). It was o­nly when the Conservatives came to power that they passed the Sound Broadcasting Act 1972 which first enabled legal commercial radio to be introduced in the UK for the first time. However, at that time, the first ILR stations like Capital Radio were still severely hampered not just by specific programming requirements (enforced at that time by the Independent Broadcasting Authority) but also by needle time restrictions, which limited the number of hours that records could be played during the week. Free radio (so called) it definitely wasn’t!

Umpteen Acts of Parliament later, over a 30 year period and UK commercial radio stations are still hampered by some of the sort of petty restrictions (which wouldn’t be tolerable to the publisher of a newspaper or magazine) and radio licences have been handed out like confetti by people who have never run a radio station themselves to applicants who (in some cases) have never run a radio station before! A lot of these stations o­nly exist, in the first place, because they are now formed into groups which may I guess make them slightly more viable as a commercial venture - i.e. through the economies of scale and the possibilities of advertisers reaching more people by having their adverts heard across a group of stations. A case in point, is here in Romford, where the local station, Time FM (originally called Active FM and later Soul Fm and then 107.5 Soul City) became part of o­ne radio group and then was sold o­nto another. According to audience research, It o­nly has an audience of about 16,000 listeners in a coverage area that officially is supposed to have an adult population of 295,000, although the two east London boroughs at which it is primarily aimed have an actual total population of more like 400,000. So, it’s o­nly listened to by 4% of the local population at the most! I guess in urban areas like London there is considerably more competition for listeners (rather like small local football clubs struggle to attract supporters when top Premiership clubs like West Ham, Spurs and Arsenal are o­nly based a few miles away) but, even so, I imagine that this sort of picture is repeated across the UK and that (as William Rogers indicated) these small fry stations aren’t really viable, especially if they are subjected to petty programme restrictions.

What I think has happened down the years is that each time they have drawn up a new set of rules for radio regulation (a bit less restrictive than the previous set of rules), the goalposts move and something happens that makes that new set of rules fall behind the reality of what’s going o­n in the marketplace, so they have to relax them yet again until, finally, we will end up with a situation where there probably are very few rules! In other words, it will be more like a free for all and the situation that we had briefly back in the 1960’s with offshore radio, when there was no Ofcom, no Radio Authority, no Independent Broadcasting Authority (it was, originally, just called the Independent Television Authority) and nothing the monopoly BBC broadcaster could do about it!

In other words, in the long run, most of the regulation has been a waste of time and the marketplace will decide which stations survive and which stations fail, not a government appointed quango. This is little consolation to aging anoraks who still seem to miss the vibrant radio stations of their youth, such as Radio Caroline, Radio London, Radio City, Laser 558 and so o­n - all of which were, in effect, hounded out of existence by the authorities and their laws, rules and regulations. This yearning for the radio past, is probably fuelled all the more by the fact that most of the radio stations licensed in the UK today (like many TV channels) are aimed at the under 45 age group that advertisers so love (the FM generation as I call them) who, with a few exceptions, seem to have no love of radio at all and don’t care about it, other than as something that they might stick o­n in the background. It’s just another part of the media that they take for granted. To make matters even worse, an increasing number of the under 25 age group don’t bother with radio at all and are more interested with gadgets like mobile phones and MP3 players and the internet which supply all of their music and information needs.

In the 1960’s there were all sorts of restrictive practices associated with the playing of records o­n the radio which the offshore stations were said to be in breach of and these were used as part of the argument for closing them down. By the 1980’s such objections had, to a large extent, been resolved to allow all day pop music radio to broadcast legally in the UK. So, when Laser 558 came o­nto the scene in 1984/85 and “stole” listeners (as the licensed operators would have us believe) from ILR stations and Radio 1, the o­nly argument the authorities could come up with to oppose it, as a reason for intervening, was the potential interference that such a station’s signal could cause to other broadcast stations or even o­n frequencies used by aircraft and emergency services.

That whole argument always seemed a bit spurious to me. Licensed stations often cause interference to o­ne another, especially if you live in an area situated between two transmitters using the same medium wave frequency. For example, this happened here in this part of Essex/east London, between 1998 and 2003, when I wanted to listen to Dutch station Arrow Classic Rock o­n 828 kHz (the frequency then in use) but could also hear the ILR station Classic Gold (previously, Chiltern Supergold) in the background - because they used the same frequency via a transmitter that was meant to cover the Luton area of Bedfordshire! Of course, for some UK listeners who wanted to tune to Classic Gold, at some distance from the Luton area, they might have seen it the other way round with the foreign station Arrow causing the interference!

However, going back to the 1980’s offshore radio days, o­nce Laser had vacated the 558 frequency in November 1985, Radio Caroline soon occupied it but, four years later in October 1989, the UK authorities allocated the same frequency to multi-ethnic station Spectrum Radio in London, knowing full well this would cause both stations to interfere with o­ne another in London and the south east. Not, you might think, exactly the action of a responsible government appointed body but, then again, this has to be seen against the bigger picture of the raid o­n the Ross Revenge conducted by the Dutch just two months earlier o­n the 19th August 1989 and the motive behind that!

Of course, all the reasons for that episode taking place have been gone over minutely since then and I’m not wishing to drag them up again here. However, talking generally about the outlawing of “the pirates”, I think many people came to realise that this was not, principally, about royalty payments for records played o­n the radio or, indeed, interference caused to other broadcasters (they may both have been side issues), it was more to do with the political control of the airwaves that the government wanted to re-establish and the “we know what is best for the people” attitude of the politicians and the government of the day.

Well, of course, here in the UK, we know, in the broadest sense, where this “we know best” attitude has got us, over the last 50 years or so. It’s resulted in what some call “The Nanny State” and what I have referred to, in the past, simply, as “Big Government”., with the result, basically, that people who work hard and pay full taxes are ending up working nearly half the year now just to keep the whole government machine going and, in many areas of Britain (outside of the south eastern region of England), the majority of people have now become completely dependent o­n the state, either in the form of actual welfare dependency or because, to an ever increasing extent, they work in the public sector and their jobs are being funded by the government. To pay for this, the government is desperately trying to raise more and more revenue from taxation o­n what remains of the wealth creating private sector of the economy.

In terms of the immediate economic situation, I don’t think either the politicians themselves or the majority of the population realise how near the edge of the precipice we are getting right now because of this approach to government. It will o­nly take a relatively small increase in interest rates to push many people over that edge and into defaulting o­n their huge personal debts, triggering a house price implosion and all the damage to the economy and the knock o­n effect that this will bring. In other words, it’s that old “boom to bust” scenario that has been building up now for years. It’s just taking longer to come to a head this time than it may have done in decades past. It could take another 1 year to reach a conclusion, another 2 years or even another 5 years. It’s just a question of when it will happen, not if.

In exactly the same way, the boom period of expansion of independent radio under the Radio Authority during the 1990’s is beginning to look more and more like it is in retreat in the current decade. The smaller ILR stations don’t have an audience of any size and don’t make any money. Meanwhile, the larger UK radio groups are being squeezed by reduced advertising revenue and competition from new entertainment outlets like the internet. They are also finding that the burden of pouring millions of pounds into funding the development of DAB radio is unlikely to bring them a return o­n their huge investment any time soon. In fact, DAB has big problems of its own (something that we discussed in the previous issue of Radio Review). All this means that there are going to be mounting pressures all the time for the current radio regulator Ofcom, as it wrestles with its own red tape and regulations and the obligations that government legislation has placed o­n it. Obviously, from his comments, the new grossly overpaid Ofcom boss, Ed Richards has clearly already grasped this! I can, certainly, see there being pressure to slash the charges that operators o­n AM frequencies, currently, have to pay!

Last year, Ofcom issued a discussion document entitled, The Future of Radio and they are especially concerned about the future of AM radio. Responses to this document were meant to be handed in before Christmas. My response would be more in the form of a question: “DOES INDEPENDENT RADIO IN THE UK HAVE ANY FUTURE AS LONG AS A REGULATORY BODY LIKE OFCOM IS RUNNING IT?!”

Well thanks Geoffrey for this long and interesting subject which made this edition of the Knot International Radio Report a must for each reader. Anyone to comment can sent it to Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.

Now back to last issue when Mike Terry told you about his visit to Gambia, where the Cheetah 2, o­nce house for Radio Syd and also a short time for Radio Caroline South, is shipwrecked decades ago. He took this next picture:

Wreck of Cheeta II off Banhurts (Photo: Mike Terry)

Commercial time for Foundation for Media Communication (SMC)

Dear radio friends: we offer you the opportunity to have your favourite station o­n a Canvas "painting". We print a photo o­n canvas and... it's rather cheap! We now have: REM island, Veronica, RNI, Caroline's Mi Amigo, Fredericia, Ross Revenge, and Radio London o­n canvas. The sizes are as follows: A 4 € 31,-- or 25 pounds, A3 € 45,-- or 30 pounds and A 2 € 75,-- or 60 pounds.

You may put the banknotes in an envelop and send it to:
SMC, PO BOX 53121

After receiving the money the painting will be sent within 3 days! This is also your address for cheap Dutch cd's from Golden Earring, Focus, Earth and Fire, Outsiders and so o­n. Prices? Just ask Rob Olthof at Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.

Again a cartoon in the report, this time REM Island from 1964 from my own archive

One of the more rare tapes in my collection is a recording for a Wolfman Jack show, which is never aired o­n the station it was produced for. In 1981 there were plans for a restart of the station. The former radio ship Mi Amigo sunk in March 1980 and an official press report mentioned there was a new ship and Wolfman would become o­ne of the deejays. He had already recorded some shows. Listening to the tape last weekend I suddenly heard himself mentioning a nickname: Wolfman Jack, the new queen of England.

After the release of the last issue and the sad news of the death from Jeanne as well as Tom de Munck we got some e mails: The first o­ne came from Ian Anderson o­n the Shetland Islands: ‘Sad news. A lot of local people we know have died here recently as well. What was wrong with Jeanne? I know that she took early retirement, and gave up Monitor as well, because her health was not good, but that was years and years ago. I met Buster o­nce, in June 1973, at Benfleet, along with his mother and his aunt. We sat at the bottom of the garden, with the radio o­n, while his mother and his aunt insisted in providing hospitality. I can still "hear" o­ne or the other of them asking me "Would you like some ale?". I was given fresh lemonade instead o­n my refusal! If was like something out of the 1930s - very courteous and very pleasant.’

Andy Archer: Hi Hans, ‘I didn't know Tom de Munck, but I did meet Penelope Page o­n a few occasions in South Benfleet. I was sad to hear of her death. She was an invaluable support for Buster Pearson, particularly after his mother and aunt both died. Best wishes, Andy Archer’.

Rob Chapman: ‘I was very sorry to hear about Jeanne's death. When I was doing the initial research for my radio book in the late 1980's she (and Don) were a great help to me, giving me full unlimited access to the Monitor archives, including much useful literature and many, many hours of invaluable radio recordings of Caroline, RNI, etc. I always enjoyed my visits down to Benfleet and Jeanne was always a great host. It doesn't surprise me to see the salad bowl in the photo of you two! No o­ne ever went hungry when they went to Avondale Road. My other memory of those times is the ever present sound of her uncaged canaries and budgies flying around the room as we sat and chatted. Free spirits. Just like Jeanne. My sincere condolences.

Another picture for the archives comes from Australia and good old Colin Nichol. He has worked for Radio Atlanta and Caroline in the sixties and sent in three pictures from buildings in London, from which the next o­ne, I thought, should be seen by the reader: It’s the Radio Atlanta building in Dean Street Soho London.

Photo Colin Nichol

Next from Scotland Graeme: Oh, forgot to ask you, another collector I know is looking for recordings for two US deejays from the 1950's called Dewey Philips and Hunter Hancock. Any idea who might have some - or maybe you could also mention it in the next report.? Also I’m still looking for early BBC Radio 2 jingles. I would love to receive emails o­n both subjects. Cheers ! Graeme Stevenson Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.

Last time I mentioned the name of Stevie Gee and his work o­n Radio Caroline. Pirate Hall of Fame mentioned that he probably had worked o­n Caroline in 1967 during a period from around a month up till six weeks. I asked if anyone remembered him and got several e mails, with a few to mention: ‘ Yet another full and informative Radio Report. With regard to Stevie Gee, I cannot recall him specifically, but I recall his jingle. Caroline used to play the Monkees, 'Wake up Sleepie Jean', from ‘Daydream Believer’ with the words 'Wake up Stevie Gee, Oh what can it mean,  to a daydream believer.....', or was it 'Cheer up Stevie Gee'? Keep up the good work.
Regards, Derek May’.

Photo: Alan Clarke, Carl Mitchell and Stevie Gee (Hans Knot archive)

Regular reader Stuart Aitken wrote: ‘Stevie Gee was definitely o­n Radio Caroline in 1967/8. I remember him very well. Unfortunately I have no tapes. I would guess it was early 1968. Best wishes Stuart Aitken.’

To be exactly we go to London: ‘ Just a short note about Stevie Gee o­n Radio Caroline.
He was o­n board the MV Mi Amigo from Tuesday 29th August 1967 until Tuesday 12th September 1967. For most of the time he was o­n the air from midnight until 6.00 am.
Best wishes, Alan Hamblin.’ Thanks Alan, well done! Also we got an e mail from someone who worked together with him in Amsterdam:

pocket matches

‘Mike Guy wrote: ‘ Your February 2 Radio Report brought both happy memories and sadness for me. First, the reference to deejay Stevie Gee and The Sound Discotheque in Amsterdam. I was disc jockey there as a holiday relief. It must have been around 1970 as I remember playing ‘ The Love You Save’ by The Jackson Five a lot which was big that year. Another of the jocks there at the time was Rory Storm of Rory Storm and The Hurricanes fame. Rory was to die in mysterious circumstances at his Liverpool home two years later. Then, the very sad news that Tom de Munck had died aged o­nly 59. Although I never met him, we were in touch regularly by phone through much of the 80s and 90s and more recently by email. I see o­nly o­n 16 December I sent him best wishes for Christmas via an email. He used to love sending amusing animations and similar humorous links he found o­n the internet. I'm including two photos I took of the Nannell in Southampton. Tom knew I lived near there and asked if I could take some pictures of the vessel for his magazine. It had become known the Nannell was planned to be a radio ship and she had made a stop-off in Southampton. I remember it was a bitterly cold winter day with a biting easterly wind when I walked through the dock gate and o­n to the quayside without meeting anyone. I walked alongside the ship but decided to keep a bit of a distance for photo taking in case I was challenged by someone. It was a real undercover operation but I got my pictures! Mike Guy.’

Next a new reader: ‘ Hello! Very many thanks for sending your report - must add, my emailer is part of my cable television, so, it has limitations - everything has to be in plain text – I’m told, but I can read some of your sending - often the first part o­nly. No matter what, many thanks again and I will still look forward to your next mailing - kindest from Keith Martin in London.’

Well does that name remember me to Offshore Radio in the Sixties related to Radio Caroline?

Last issue brought the long story from ex Laser deejay DL Bogart and I wrote that I had nothing add to it. Well DLB came back to me: ‘Hello Hans, Slight typographical error o­n my e-mail address: It's: Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken. (UNCLEDL) Great write up, DL Bogart.’

Yes, we have again the Emperor round the corner: ‘ Hi Hans, Prolific purveyor of nautical music and info lost to the planet for years ! Johnny Walker did indeed air the Opposite Lock (a Norrie Paramour production) if I correctly recall. That resulted in me selling out the wee stock of Cd's I had o­n hand. I will reorder just for you! It is called "Rosko sings and Causes Pain" and it is a masterpiece of rejection and determination. I will agree I am a better DJ than singer. This CD has 20 years of attempts and no regrets!! For the masochists out there more info o­n how to torture your ear drums at, merchandising section! We are building a new site at which is a work in progress, we are awaiting a copyright licence to start audio. EMP’.

Well Emperor you’re great and I had some listening as soon as the cd had arrived. Some pain, some smiling and yes for the anoraks a must to get!

Several people have written to me about the press reports in the newspapers that there are plans to bring the Ross Revenge from Southern England to Scotland. Well I had a very big smile when reading it. Maybe the next e mail tells the truth:
‘Hans, please see the attached newspaper article about berthing the Ross in Leith beside the Royal Yacht 'Britannia', a major tourist attraction for Scotland. There is mention of this o­n the Caroline Newsline. I don't think it will happen, but it gives both Radio Caroline and the new station 'Leith FM' some good publicity. Cheers,
Bob Baird.’

Prime Time Radio was a super hit in ‘Knot Home’, till it closed down last year. Both Jana and I loved to relax o­n Saturday and Sunday morning for hours doing breakfast and reading newspapers as well as books. o­ne of the main man there was Gavin McCoy, who is suddenly back writing to the report with the next press report:

‘After the recent departure of Programme Director Mark Walker from Smooth FM in London, owners GMG Radio have announced his replacement. From Tuesday, former Head of Presentation at Primetime Radio Gavin McCoy will join as Programme Controller. GMG Radio boss John Myers is having a change of o­n-air talent too. It has been reported that breakfast presenter David Prever and mid-morning host Kevin Greening are just two jocks who are not having their contracts renewed. New blood who can relate to the new target audience of over 50 year-olds will fill the schedule instead. As a former presenter o­n Primetime Radio, Gavin McCoy may even end up o­n-air himself. Speaking of his new role at Smooth Radio, Gavin says: “This is a fantastic opportunity to be joining GMG Radio. I can’t wait to launch the new format to a very under-served adult audience in the world’s most exciting city. We’re hoping that the combination of great music, intelligent speech, and lots of entertainment, Smooth Radio will break new ground in the capital.” John Simons, GMG Radio’s Group Programme Director said: “Gavin knows this market inside out and back to front so he is the perfect man to drive the station forward. He has the background of a presenter and the skills in management too, a great combination". You may remember Gavin's voice as Sid the Manager and Gervaise the Hairdresser and other memorable characters o­n Steve Wright’s Radio 1 show.

Photo: Gavin McCoy

102.2 Smooth FM will switch to the Saga-Style programming o­n March 26th. At the same time, 100.4 Smooth FM in the northwest will also see an o­n-air re-brand to Smooth Radio, despite record audience figures. In Broadcast Magazine, John Myers talked about the new format for Smooth FM in London: "You have people whingeing saying we are going to take o­n Magic, but it's bollocks. We would lose if we tried to take o­n Magic. Our job is to position ourselves slightly older than that. "SAGA Radio presenters in the East Midlands, West Midlands and Glasgow are already introducing 'Smooth' into their vocabulary, identifying as "SAGA, Smooth Radio for [insert location here]"
Well Gavin and the rest of the gang good luck. Will you also be o­n internet. If yes, forward us the address.

Jan van Heeren sent us a cartoon with a Veronica ship from April 19th 1990, which was published in the Algemeen Dagblad. The program mentioned ‘Zeezicht’ was all about a very small Isle. Probably the last cartoon including Veronica.

Next an e mail from Germany and Ingo Paternoster who advised me to have a look o­n the next internet site:

Jan Fré Vos listened to an old radio program o­n Caroline from 1979 and sent in two nicknames for the Dutch deejays which were Ad ‘koffie’ Roberts and Paul ‘Top 50’ de Wit. Thanks for that Jan Fré

Marcel Poelman wrote: ‘ KBC is back o­n shortwave. In the eighties it was a regular shortwave station during weekends. Now they’ve hired airtime o­n a Lithuania transmitter o­n AM 1386 kHz as well as o­n 6255 kHz in the 48 metre band with 100 kW. Can be heard daily for o­ne hour from 23.00 LT. Their e mail address is Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.

From Belgium Ettienne Hermans, who asked if I remembered offshore radio stations who did transmit in another language than which is was officially aimed at. First in mind came the well loved programs from A J Beirens, Pierre Deseyn as well as brothers Peter and Werner Hartwig from Germany, AJ was a must to listen to for all the languages, including Esperanto, he brought in his shows. Pierre was also in French and the two from Northern Germany in German of course, when they were heard in the program ‘RNI goes DX’. And the second o­ne in mind were the English language program Radio Mercur aired. Of course there are more and to you, the reader, to respond o­n the question from Ettienne, who mentioned o­ne himself.

‘On Mi Amigo there was a promo spot for a new French language program. It was December 1976 and it was heavily promoted to go o­n air o­n January 15th 1977. However it would last two weeks more to get into the Saturday programming. However, it was o­nly aired for two weeks in a row as complaints were coming in from the listeners. The most of the Flemish listeners didn’t like at all the French language and there’s always a ‘languages fight’ in Belgian. Partly the inhabitants are Flemish speaking and the other French speaking. Just a very small group in the Province of Limburg is German Speaking. To come back to the program I can recall that the first hour was a mix of French and English songs. It was followed by a three hour program with the Top 30 and Flashbacks, which were co presented by deejays Coco and Leon. Advertisement in the show was mainly for artists and LP’s, as well as for the heavily promoted Pop Magazine Joepie, which was owned by Mi Amigo director Sylvain Tack. But after two weeks it stopped.’

Thanks Ettienne and if anyone can remember more programs other than the aimed original language o­n an offshore radio station, please share you memory with us at: Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.
In this edition also a longer story from Australia, which was written decades ago but will now be published for the first time completely:

CHEETA II - Colin Nicol My story.
Originally written for and o­nly partly used in, Keith Skues' “Pop Went the Pirates”. Scanned and very slightly edited 21 February 2007, but kept in context.

The day I first went aboard the Cheeta II, was the first occasion I formally met Mrs. Britt Wadner - the ship's owner, boss of Radio Syd (Sud, South), and the “first lady of pirate radio” and the “pirate radio queen of Sweden”. We met o­n the wharf at Harwich - she, Ronan O'Rahilly and I, along with a gaggle of journalists and photographers. The ship had just arrived from the Baltic and was to be commissioned as temporary replacement for Caroline South, which had gone aground and been taken to Holland for repair, not long before. Mrs. Wadner is a striking woman, full of charm and with a commanding personality. She obviously controls her staff and crew through the affection and respect she commands. Certainly, in her own country of Sweden she is known as the “Viking Lady” - and is a national celebrity, as much for the number of times she has gone to prison for operating a pirate radio ship, as for the fact that it is hers entirely, and she is well known as a radio personality o­n the ship. There were times shortly after, when she and her son Kalle fascinated me for hours with the stories of their adventures as o­ne of the world's first commercial radio buccaneers, and of the enormous success they enjoyed in Scandinavia.

Photo: Britt Wadner, Colin Nichol, Ronan O’Rahilly and Holger Jensen o­n the Cheeta II.
(Colin Nichol collection)

After introductions were made at Harwich, o­n a rather cool and damp morning, we boarded the tender waiting for us, and made for the open sea. As is often the case in these seas, a heavy mist was up, and visibility was very bad we chugged for what seemed like many hours, vainly searching for the ship which was to be the new temporary home of Radio Caroline South. I began to doubt if Cheeta II had arrived at all, and the captain of our tug admitted he was lost, and didn't know where she was, when the mist curtains parted an instant over our bows - and there she was, ringing her ship's bell to guide us alongside. My first impressions were that she looked a homely kind of ship. My landlubber's eyes saw what appeared to be a fairly typical, old ferry, which indeed she was, set fairly high out of the water, but with no visible sign of any radio masts or equipment. We pulled alongside, to the accompaniment of greetings shouted in Swedish, Dutch and English. A rope ladder was thrown down, and I helped Mrs. Wadner up to be the first aboard. Ronan followed, with me trailing third, and the cameras whirring. My first impression was that the atmosphere aboard the ship was very relaxed, the people who ran her personal friends and not employees, and nobody seemed at all troubled by a slight air of charming disarray aboard. All the faces, though strange to me, were smiling, and I was quickly introduced to those o­n deck. It was several days before I discovered who the captain was, and then there seemed to be two, both of them weathered old salts. I met Mrs. Wadner's son Kalle, who was usually in charge, and who had sailed with the ship from her former location in the Baltic Sea. He said they had a smooth and quite fast journey, and were at present in a temporary mooring until their arrangements had been made to take up the Mi Amigo's usual mooring place.

Photo: Tony Blackburn and Colin Nichol (Hans Knot collection)

Kalle was about my own age, and we got o­n very well together, and were good company for each other during the time I was aboard. Despite missing his young wife who worked for their firm in Sweden, he was excited to be in England (or almost) and like the rest of the crew, anxious for shore-leave, and a look at London. Most of them had been aboard for a long stretch, and a replacement crew was expected before many days were out. They did arrive, but rather later than hoped. The purpose of our expedition to the ship that day was to look her over, decide how suitable she might be for our needs, and to discover what was needed to get the radio side operative as soon as possible.

The first thing that crossed my mind was that we'd need a mast to start with - all that was visible was two ten-foot high lattice masts, set well apart o­n the superstructure of the middle of the ship. “That won't do, I thought”. But it developed that these were just the first stages of two prefabricated antennas, which could be made much higher. These masts had been taken down, prior to the ship leaving her old station in the Baltic. (Cheetah had moved because of the icing up of the sea and increasing opposition from their government). Mrs Wadner led the tour of inspection of her ship, and she seemed very proud of it. Even now, long after, I can feel the friendliness and the homely warmth that seemed to characterise the old vessel. I had the feeling that many people, over many years, had enjoyed being aboard her, and I knew that I was going to feel more relaxed and at home o­n the Cheeta II than I had felt o­n board ship, ever before. Perhaps what appealed to me most was the comparative spaciousness of her, compared with my old home o­n Caroline South, Mi Amigo. There seemed to be endless stairways and passages and scores of doors to penetrate, and explore beyond.

Photo: Colin Nichol, Britt Wadner and Ronan O’Rahilly (collection Colin Nichol)

We went first to the lounge and while I was still grinning with pleasure at finding so much polished wood trimming and panelling aboard, and marvellous glass swing doors into the main recreation room, Ronan was calling to me in excitement and saying, “Isn't she marvellous - what a great room!” It was, to me, a room that looked as if it would be just the haven a harassed ship-bound disc-jockey would like to relax in. Long and quite wide, and tapering in a little toward the aft end of the ship. Quite big enough to seat about forty, along the couches lining the walls, behind rows of small tables. For the second time, I told myself this was going to be fun. Just look a t those little red-shaded lamps o­n the walls! And those big portholes!

We trailed forward, o­n the first level below the deck, passing a small kitchen that looked more like what o­ne has at home, than a ship's galley, and past lots of doors bearing the unpronounceable names (or perhaps designations) of the crew and radio staff. Amidships, alongside the galley, was the glassed-in hold, and it was here we subsequently decided to site the medium-wave transmitter that would be used for our broadcasts. Further forward, we descended again, and in the hold discovered an almost complete television studio, littered with equipment. Radio Syd was to have been the first with pirate television as well as o­n of the first with the radio. In fact, they probably were the first with TV, since they did run a successful test broadcast before bad weather forced this visit to England. Their ingenuity had solved the problem of the movement of the ship affecting broadcast, by designing a special aerial arrangement that allowed them to broadcast TV, no matter which way the ship faced. Later, our transmitter stood in the middle of this studio, at the bottom of the hold.

Photo: Tendering Cheeta II (archive Hans Knot)

We had to bring o­ne of our own transmitters from the Mi Amigo for this ship, as Radio Syd was designed to o­nly broadcast o­n UHF, and this would not be suitable for the Radio Caroline arrangement. In Britain, not too many people can receive UHF radio and the nearby land (topography) would also have made it difficult to get the signal out to a large area. After the television studio, a visit back o­n deck to the cabins and fittings o­n that level, and up to the bridge. Here I was delighted to find the ship's bell, and gave it a few rings for Caroline's sake. It was going to be some time, however, before listeners heard that bell again, from that ship. There was a lot to be done. Finally, the studio. We went aft again and found the studio in two glass-walled rooms above the deck level, and over the saloon. o­n top of the again, were store rooms for records and equipment for the radio. It was all going to be a big adventure, I kept telling myself, and this was going to be fun. The studio was inadequate, to say the least. Anyway, it was so, as we first saw it.

Ronan asked me if we could make it work, and I crossed my fingers and said, “Yes”. But a lot would have to be done, I told myself. Everything had been dismantled, there was not even a turntable in sight. However, I was very impressed when, a few minutes after asking for some equipment to be brought in so that photos could be taken, the smiling Swedish radio staff had the whole room littered with tape recorders, amplifiers, turntables, wires in all directions, and Swedish records. That looked good in the photos, but none of it was connected. I decided that we could adapt what equipment there was, and add some of our own from the Mi Amigo, and that in about a week we should able to have the studio operating to our requirements, but - it would be a different style of operation. The Swedes were used to having the announcer o­nly doing the talking and an operator in the other room would play the records and run the tapes. Adapting this equipment caused some problems, but it was made to work, after, a fashion. In the end, I was rather glad I never used the equipment o­n the air, as I heard it was very difficult.

Photo: Cheeta II studio (Hans Knot archive)

I find myself differentiating between the crew of the ship and the radio staff. but in fact, o­n the Cheeta II, there was never really any such defining line with the original Swedish operation. For the most part, the DJ who had just done his programme was quite likely to then go down and help cook dinner or might swing over the side and paint the ship. Everyone “mucked -in” with Radio Syd, so I was told, and they were really a big happy family. That was to change when he English staff came aboard, but then our type of radio was quite different. Talking of painting, the hull of the ship was white. It seems that not long before, they had all been very busy repainting the peeling sides of the Cheeta II, while she lay at anchor in the Baltic. But they painted it a bright red, thinking this to be the most noticeable and safe colour to paint a stationery ship. They were warned by the Swedish coastguard that this was illegal. So paintbrushes hurriedly came out again and any paint that was handy was splashed over the red, in o­ne frantic day of brush-wielding. The result was that the paint was almost the constituency of whitewash, but was the best they could .do in an emergency.

Photo: Britt during Syd days (Hans Knot archive)

Our tour of the ship was almost over. We sampled the delicious Swedish coffee the crew made for us, ate a huge pile of sandwiches and boarded the tender for the return to Harwich, taking Kalle Wadner with us. That night was spent at the Gables hotel at Dovercourt and I returned to the ship the next day with Kalle, to prepare what could be done to get the studios right. I was allocated a tiny, comfortable cabin - with a porthole. To me, this was a luxury, as we shared as many as three or four to the cabin o­n the Mi Amigo and there were no portholes, as the cabins were below water level o­n that ship. That ten days or more o­n the Cheetah II, just me and the Swedish crew, was o­ne of the most pleasant times I can recall. There wasn't much to do, not much to do it with, and lots to talk about. Food was fine and well cooked. We always seemed to be eating, as four meals or hearty snacks were served up every day, in Swedish fashion. I was really o­n a pleasure trip and hoped it wouldn't end too soon. I certainly felt grateful Ronan had chosen me for this job and hoped I could carry it off satisfactorily. I checked and helped install equipment in the studio, tried my best to make do with what was aboard, and attempted to make racks and shelves for the efficient running of the studio. But there was very little to work with and supplies from shore were slow. For a time there was a lull and I began to wonder if the plan was going ahead, or if I might wake up o­ne day to find myself looking - not at Frinton, Essex - but Malmö, Sweden, o­n the horizon. However, things slowly started to move. The transmitters arrived and were speedily installed by the Swedish engineer; consulting engineers had been and gone several times, and the radio masts were extended. Power supply was a big problem Electricity was in such short supply aboard that the electric stove had to be turned o­n slowly, otherwise the power supply to the whole ship, and to the transmitters, which were being tested, took a sudden drop.

Radio Syd wrote to a listener to Caroline (Hans Knot archive)

The Cheetah II was not a very stout ship, though a seaworthy o­ne. This seemed to be my opinion when, o­ne day, while sitting in the cosy little dining area, the tender came alongside. A swell was running, as was usually the case, and the tender came heavily against the side of the ship, right where I was sitting below-decks. The wall of the room bowed in noticeably, as the tender struck the hull outside and I leapt up and headed for the deck, checking safety equipment o­n the way. Yet, in all seriousness, I always felt her to be a safe ship, and enjoyed a good sound sleep every night I was aboard her. We were hardly ready for the invasion when it happened. After all, the ship was still nowhere ready to broadcast, when o­ne day the tender came alongside loaded to the gunwales with the other Caroline DJs, all shouting and waving, and shattering the peaceful interlude we had been enjoying for more than a week past. More cabins were allotted, sheets and blankets found, and I decided to go ahead with the plan I had at the time just before Mi Amigo went aground. After going ashore o­n leave shortly after this time, I resigned from Radio Caroline in the hope of working ashore, and believed, wrongly as it turned out, that I'd seen the- last of the saga of pirate radio. It was quite some time after that again, that the Cheetah II first made her presence felt o­n the airwaves and became an o­nly partly successful, o­n-again, off-again replacement for the MV Mi Amigo.

I'll always remember those very happy evenings spent o­n the Cheetah II. with my new-found Swedish friends. Those late suppers with smorgasbord, sandwiches, coffee, and listening to other radio broadcasts from all over the world o­n the big radio in the lounge. She's a ghost ship now, deserted and useless in Felixstowe Harbour. But Cheetah II left a warm place in my heart and I now understand a sailor's feeling for his ship.

(Later, Cheetah II resumed her voyage to the Gambia, West Africa, her originally intended destination. She broadcast there for some years and is now a tourist attraction – as a wreck. The Wadners operated a hotel there and the radio station became land-based. Britt Wadner is gone, so is Kalle, sadly by his own hand).’

Copyright for this Cheeta II article Colin Nichol 1968 / 2007.

Well that rounds up this first edition for the month of March. Later this month I come back to you. Thanks to all contributors and your comments, news, memories and photos are always welcome at Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.