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RNI - HistoryGalaxy in Hamburg

Throughout the summer of 1968 the former Radio London ship Galaxy (which was then located in Hamburg)  was refurbished and plans were announced to launch West Germany's first offshore station on 1st November 1968. The new station, Radio Noordsee, although to be anchored off the West German coast was officially directed at audiences in Switzerland. The project was being backed by two Swiss advertising men - Emile Luthle and Norbert Schwerd of the Gloria International Agency. The station was to broadcast an easy-listening format during the day and pop music at night.

In common with so many offshore projects, however, the announced starting date came and went without anything being heard on the air. Meanwhile, on 2nd July 1968, the West German Government hurriedly introduced legislation to outlaw any offshore broadcaster which anchored off its coast and prohibit West German citizens from working for or advertising on such a station. The final blow for Radio Noordsee came in January 1969 when Emile Luthle decided to withdraw his financial support and the whole project collapsed.

Two SwissErwin Meister and Edwin Bollier engineers who had been engaged to install radio equipment on board the Galaxy decided later in 1969 that they would launch an offshore station of their own. Erwin Meister and Edwin Bollier, purchased a ship, the Bjarkoy and re-registered her in Panama under the name Mebo - an acronym derived from the first two letters of each of their surnames.

Not long after work had started on converting this ship it was decided that a much larger vessel would be more suitable so they acquired an ex-Norwegian coaster, Silvretta. She was renamed Mebo II and taken to Slikkerveer, Holland to be converted into a radio ship. The original Mebo was retained for use as a tender to service the larger radio ship once at sea.

Mebo II was transformed into the most luxurious offshore radio station ever - she had the most up-to-date technical and broadcasting equipment, fitted carpets, showers, cooking facilities and everything to make life for the DJ's and crew on board as comfortable as possible. Five transmitters were also installed on the ship, two medium wave, one FM and two short wave. All radio equipment was supplied through Meister and Bollier's Swiss electronics company Mebo Telecommunications of Zurich.

Mebo II left Rotterdam on 22nd January 1970 and sailed to an anchorage off Noordwijk on the Dutch coast. Test transmissions for the new offshore station - Radio North Sea International (RNI) started the following day on the short wave band and on FM, with taped music and announcements in English and German. Tests on the medium wave started on 11th February 1970, again with pre-recorded announcements in English and German. Regular programming from RNI eventually started at 6.00pm on 28th February 1970.

The immediate impact of RNI's arrival off the coast of Holland was enormous and it was to produce a fundamental change in the relationship between the Dutch authorities and offshore broadcasters. In fact the launch of RNI, although welcomed and enjoyed at the time by so many listeners throughout Europe, and particularly in Britain, was to prove a disastrous turning point in the history of European offshore radio.

Some Dutch newspapers started a campaign almost immediately for the Government to outlaw offshore radio stations, the feeling was that the arrival of RNI, even though it did not at that time broadcast any programmes in Dutch, was a threat to the broadcasting system of Holland. Radio Veronica was tolerated by the press and the authorities, but this more powerful new arrival was considered a far more serious potential threat.

The Dutch PTT reported almost as soon as transmissions started from RNI that complaints had been received about the station's broadcasts on 186m causing interference to a station in Italy and the shortwave transmissions interfering with the Norwegian Navy distress frequencies. On 4th March 1970 the Dutch Pilot Service reported that RNI medium wave transmissions were interfering with their communications on 187m .

Just less than a month after starting regular programmes the Mebo II left her anchorage off the Dutch coast on 23rd March 1970 and headed towards England, anchoring off Clacton on Sea, Essex the following morning. With all the allegations of interference and bad publicity in the Dutch press Meister and Bollier thought that by repositioning their station off the British coast it would have a better chance of commercial success. Unfortunately for RNI this was not the case because the British authorities were to prove even more determined than their Dutch counterparts to silence the powerful new offshore station.

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The former Radio London ship, Galaxy, in Hamburg awaiting refurbishment for use by the planned Radio Noordsee, 1968

Erwin Meister and Edwin Bollier


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ITN News at Ten report on the launch of RNI, February 1970

RNI first test transmission

RNI First test transmission.mp3

First English language test transmission on medium wave

RNI First English test on medium wave.mp3