An ambitious plan to use a Thames Estuary fort as a broadcasting base was announced in October 1965. Two Essex businessmen, Eric Sullivan (who had previously been involved with Radio Pamela) and George Short formed Vision Productions to launch an offshore radio and television station from the ex-Navy fort at Sunk Head.
After previous unsuccessful attempts to board Knock John and Roughs Forts (both of which were occupied at the time by representatives of Radio Caroline) the Tower Radio team of Sullivan and Short occupied Sunk Head fort on 13th October 1965
Test transmissions for the proposed radio station - Tower Radio - took place from 22nd October 1965. Unfortunately, the low power of the transmitter and constant technical problems meant that the station's broadcasts could hardly be received on land, except along the immediate Essex coastal area.
Claims were made that test transmissions for Tower TV took place during the early hours of 9th November 1965, with a blurred picture of a test card said to have been received on Channel 5 in Essex. The television station from Sunk Head Fort was in fact a hoax.
Test transmissions for Tower Radio continued throughout November 1965, but on 29th November the station's aerial was damaged. The following week a new 5Kw transmitter was claimed to have been taken out to the Fort and Tower Radio (and Tower TV) announced plans to start regular transmissions on 1st January 1966. However, test transmissions for the radio station ceased abruptly on 20th December 1965 and nothing more was heard from the Sunk Head Fort for over three months.
At the beginning of March 1966 test transmissions took place between on a number of frequencies once again from the Sunk Head Fort but this time the station was calling itself Radio Tower.
Announcements were made that regular programmes for Radio Tower would begin on 21st April 1966 with broadcasting hours being from 7.00am to 7.00pm. The new station's format was to be directed at a local audience, with news and current affairs programmes as well as features for 'minority' interests.
However, lack of finance meant that those on Sunk Head were virtually abandoned and supplies ran out. Occasional test transmissions continued until late April 1966, but all crew were eventually taken off Sunk Head on 28th April 1966.
At the beginning of June 1966 Peter Jeeves, Joint Managing Director of Vision Productions, the company behind Radio Tower, issued a statement admitting that the station had experienced repeated technical problems in putting out a good signal. Also, apart from one or two shops in Colchester and Clacton, no advertisers had been attracted to the station and as a consequence without sufficient commercial revenue the project had foundered.
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The Times 18th March 1966
Two test transmission clips from Tower Radio.
October/ November 1965
On-air request for staff - including ‘vision engineers’.
Radio Tower announcing its planned programme line-up