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Radio 558 - History

Radio 819’s test transmissions from Radio Caroline’s serected hip, Ross Revenge, had ended abruptly on 7th June 1988 after the carbon fibre Valcon mast failed and it proved impossible to tune the 819kHz transmitter to the temporary ‘T’ aerial which had been on the radio ship.

A more conventional mast structure had to be constructed so that Radio 819 could return to the air. However, obtaining these mast sections, transporting them clandestinely to the Ross Revenge and actually constructing the masts at sea took longer than expected. This caused much annoyance to the backers of Radio 819 who, having hired the airtime and technical facilities from Radio Caroline, wanted to put their programmes back on the air quickly. Equally from Radio Caroline's point of view the delay was frustrating because it was vital to have the Dutch station broadcasting as the hire of airtime and associated tendering arrangements were financially lucrative to the organisation.

This double pressure led to a dramatic change of schedules on 9th July 1988 when Caroline 558 gave up its frequency during the daytime to allow the Dutch language station to return – as Radio 558.

Radio 558, began its broadcasts at 8.00am on 9th July 1988 with live programmes from the on-board Dutch DJs immediately after Caroline's early morning programme had finished. DJ Erwin van der Bliek opened the new station.

The new station then settled into a twelve hour schedule from 6.00am - 6.00pm, and an International news service, in English, was introduced from 11th July 1988 with two bulletins daily at 8.30am and 3.30pm. After the station had been on the air for about two weeks an hourly Dutch news service was also introduced with headlines on the half hour. From 15th July 1988 a half hour programme from Dutch evangelist Johaan Maasbach was introduced twice daily at 6.30am and 6.30pm.

Some programmes were sponsored - both the American Top 40 and the Drive In Show being backed by Texas cigarettes and other advertisers on the new station included Aqua Sun Travel agency, Sunrise Travel Agency, Ducados cigars, Tokai lighters, Top Ten Pop Magazine, Irex slimming aids, Atari computers, Dino records and the Canadian Lotto 6/49.

The news service in Dutch was discontinued from 22nd September 1988 because interference from the Ross Revenge's shortwave transmitter was affecting the on-board telex facility. The English news service was not affected because this was obtained from the British television teletext services Ceefax and Oracle. Although irregular attempts were made to re-introduce the Dutch news bulletins later in the month a full service was not resumed until mid-October 1988 after a new telex receiver had been installed aboard the Ross Revenge.

During the morning of 22nd October 1988 tuning tones were heard on 819kHz. Radio 558 itself did not come on the air until shortly before 2.00pm that day and when it did the programmes were relayed in parallel on both 558 kHz and 819kHz. An announcement was made that after three months on its temporary frequency Radio 558 had now become Radio 819 once again.

From midday on 5th November 1988 Radio 819 was heard only on 819kHz, while Radio Caroline was able to resume 24 hour programming on 558kHz.

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