What's going on outside territorial waters. From August 1987.
MV Ross Revenge
And on... And on... And on... And on... Rather like Status Quo really. Following the sinking of Caroline's last boat, the Mi Amigo, in 1980, various ideas were, erm, floated around about either raising the ship or fitting out a new one. However, it was three years before Caroline was broadcasting again, due mostly to legal wrangles and a large sum of money from the original investors that went missing.
After a slightly shaky start it seems like Caroline is generally assured a safe future, even if Radio Monique do manage to move to another boat. There's a long queue of American religious broadcasters to buy all the available airtime, and seem likely to become even more the major source of income for the station.
With more religious programmes, it is even more unlikely that the rock service Overdrive will now return. Tom Anderson, in charge of Overdrive, has also now departed from the Caroline Organisation for the present, returning only briefly to the boat recently to collect his personal records from the library. The Ross Revenge itself is reckoned to be holding out well in the North Sea – it's now been there for four years. The only possible problem is the loosening of some of the panels on the underside, which may need to be replaced eventually.
The Communicator seems to have had problems ever since it first arrived in the North Sea, equipped for broadcasting. And the bulk of these seem to relate to its aerial system. When the Communicator first anchored off England it was to use a system of helium filled balloons, which would enable the aerial to reach a great height. Unfortunately, it seems that the weather conditions in the North Sea weren't taken into account when designing this system. During one of the tests, the balloon broke free and was eventually spotted wrapped round a traffic island in Essex.
Laser was then off the air whilst a new antenna was designed and built with a little help from some people on a Youth Opportunities Programme... After a few close shaves with the DTI, the system was finally built and Laser 558 was launched. However, the new aerial mast was not strong enough to withstand a life at sea, and it was to collapse several times during the life of Laser 558. This was probably one of the major reasons for the station's failure first time round. With an aerial system that staved up, the other mistakes Laser made probably wouldn't have mattered so much.
The problems facing the station mounted and came to a head during "Eurosiege", when the DTI attempted a blockade of the stations. Eventually, after the generators failed and with the possibility of taking on water without being able to use the pumps in an approaching force nine gale, the Communicator upped anchor and headed for port.
After assorted legal wranglings, it was then sold to East Anglian Productions, well known for their offshore radio merchandise, for £35,000 -a far cry from the estimated $3,500,000 ploughed into the station by its original owners. After a large amount of renovation work on the ship, it then set sail for the North Sea where it changed ownership.
Following the usual round of test transmissions, Laser Hot Hits was then born. However, the problems from the past were to rear their heads again. Problems occurred with the generators and then to top it all off, the aerial system collapsed again. Laser. meanwhile had begun accepting help from Radio Monique in the form of supplies and tenders, etc. Monique were doing this with the intention of getting their foot in the door and eventually moving Monique from the Ross Revenge to the Communicator with a rather better deal than they were getting from Caroline.
Laser's owners, however, were intending selling out to a new group, who it's reported were planning to invest two million dollars into the project. The Communicator was moved from its position near Caroline to anew mooring off Kent, apparently in preparation for work to be carried out by its new owners. Then, at the end of May, a Dutch tug acting on instructions from the boss of Radio Monique, snatched the Communicator and took it under tow to a new position off the French / Belgian coast.
Monique, it seems, were worried that they were not going to get paid back for the services that they provided Laser with. After various negotiations, though, an agreement was reached and the new owners took control of the ship. At the time of writing, work is slowly being carried out to repair the generators and transmitters and put up a new, strong, aerial system in preparation for a re-launch later in the year. Who knows, Laser may eventually get its act together!
MV Magda Maria
The MY Magda Maria was to have held a Dutch station, Radio Paradise. However, after just a few test transmissions the ship was arrested in international Waters by the Dutch. After being taken to the Port of Amsterdam, there then followed an extremely long and slow court case over whether the Netherlands had the right to arrest the ship. Eventually it was decided no, but in the meantime the Magda Maria had been left unguarded and a number of parts of the ship either went missing or were vandalised. The ships engines were also allowed to deteriorate and would require extensive work before they could be used again.
The owners then began a case against the Netherlands Government for damage to the vessel whilst in their hands and also loss or earnings. Whilst willing to compensate for the damage, they were not for the lost advertising. The boat is still currently waiting in Port, and the owners have received various enquiries about purchasing it. However, due to its poor condition they would not be able to obtain a very good price for it. This has also put off many potential purchasers, not wishing to have to spend a large amount of time or money on bringing the ship up to standard. For now, it seems that broadcasting from the boat is a rather remote possibility.
The Nannell is another boat that looks as if it will take a long time before it broadcasts – due mainly, if reports are to be believed, to problems between the ship's owners and the broadcasting organisation planning to run it. The boat first surfaced (if that's the right word) in the media while moored in Southampton where it was equipped with some of the station's non-broadcast equipment, generators, etc. It was then moved to Spain where work was carried out erecting the first stages of an aerial mast and installing the transmitters and studio equipment. The station was to be called "Stereo Hits 576" with the possibility also of a second channel – perhaps Black Music or another Dutch station.
Unfortunately, however, problems began to set in on the money side. Various short cuts were made by the owners, which the group planning to run the station did not agree with, and some wages were left unpaid. As a result, most of the people involved left, while the owners considered selling or leasing the boat to another group. Currently the situation seems to be stalemate, with little chance of the boat broadcasting in the near future – if at all.
Sealand, if you don't know by now, is a small ex-wartime fort off the Essex coast, which, under the control of the Bates family, has declared itself an independent state. It issues its own postage stamps and coins, and has its own passports. The fort was originally used for broadcasting in the pirate boom in the sixties, and has recently made known its intentions for starting again.
Initially reports were of three licenses for Medium Wave stations. Next there would only be one high power station to start off, followed more recently by stories of American oil money paying for a powerful TV station be beaming to London and the South East. This would provide wall-to-wall entertainment programming (ITV on a Saturday night?) with a former Page Three girl hosting the programmes. So far most offshore radio followers have been decidedly sceptical, particularly with the new Territorial Sea Bill bringing Sealand within British waters. Best approach so far, seems to be wait and see.
And the rumours keep on coming... People in America looking for venture capital to start an offshore station that won't make the mistakes those in the past... The whereabouts of some powerful ex-Irish broadcasting equipment... Possible connections with newly founded satellite broadcasting stations... Offshore Radio isn't dead yet, although some people are only giving it three years in the major audience stakes – not long to recoup an investment in radio. By 1990 the offshore stations are likely to find themselves out classed by the newly licensed stations and probably only Caroline will last, funded by American religious broadcasters denied access to the British airwaves and supported by anorak goodwill. In the meantime... who knows?
How to Spot an Anorak – 10 Telltale Signs
1. Bleary eyes from sit tine up through to the small hours of the morning listening to the radio.
2. Damaged hearing (typically unable to hear above 5KHz) caused by intensive listening to weak signals through a sea of static and foreign interference on the medium wave after dark.
3. Bookcase filled with dubious literature with such names as Fab Soundwaves, Free Emissions, The Gear Sound Monitor, etc.
4. Collection of records by such generally unknown artists as Kayak, Caravan, Earth and Fire (who?), Golden Earring, etc.
5. Instant recall of the names of every DJ heard on Radio Caroline in the past 20 years and the dates when they joined, left, returned after some smooth talking from Ronan and left again when they still didn't get any money.
6. Wears faded T-Shirts that share one thing in common: the word "Caroline" and a long vacated frequency, now occupied by another Radio Moscow transmitter.
7. Has a favourite green or blue Parka type anorak, worn throughout the year no matter the weather.
8. Always carries special Anorak Radio covered in radio station stickers for use in the event of an emergency (drifting, arrival of tugs from creditors, etc.).
9. Makes frequent trips to small Essex and Kent ports ("Spain") in the hope of spotting Caroline DJs. Sometimes nearly gets arrested after boarding old boats convinced that they have been previously used as radio ships.
10. Attends meetings in local pubs with other anoraks to discuss events and rumours, examine magazines and dog-eared books that are long out of print.
How can you help these poor people to be rehabilitated to life in the eighties? The first step is to give them a copy of Radio Today. They'll soon be tempted to experiment with the FM dial, and after a withdrawal period will eventually be able to cope with life in the modern world. Send £7.40 with the name and address of an anorak and we'll do our best to help them. Please give generously.
The Mega Anorak Quiz
Win a year's free subscription to Radio Today with our Mega Anorak Quiz. Answer all the questions below correctly and send your answers along with your name and address to Mega Anorak Quiz, Radio Today, BCM Box 225, London, WC1N 3XX. The senders of the first four correct answers received will win a year's subscription to Radio Today each.
1. What is Kenny Everett's real name?
2. What was the deadweight tonnage of the MV Nannell before it underwent modification?
3. Why was Overdrive originally taken off the air?
4. Name the Caroline presenter who had the same name as one of the members of Spandau Ballet.
5. What was the second record played by Radio Caroline when they returned in 1983?
6. What was the eventual fate or the MV Mebo II, home of Radio North Sea International?
7. Name two of the Independent Radio stations Charlie Wolf has appeared on since leaving Laser.
8. What station was Liz West on before she joined Laser?
9. What happened to the broadcasting equipment on the MV Deep Diver, which was to have housed Radio Sunshine, broadcasting to Spain?
10 What is the connection between Major Minor Records and Radio Caroline?
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