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Laser 558 - History (6)

A sinister turn of events took place at the beginning of August 1985 affecting both radio ships anchored in the North Sea.

During the evening of 8th August 1985 a helicopter circled over the Communicator with its searchlight trained on the radio ship. Although no one knew at the time this was the start of what became known as "Eurosiege 85", a surveillance operation mounted by the British Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Also the ocean going launch Dioptric Surveyor, which had been chartered by the DTI to keep watch on comings and goings in the vicinity of the Ross Revenge and the Communicator dropped anchor near the two radio ships. The purpose of this exercise was to photograph and identify any supply vessels so that they could then be investigated by police when they returned to port. The Dioptric Surveyor was equipped with powerful searchlights which enabled its crew to keep watch at night and monitor supplies arriving under cover of darkness.  

A DTI spokesman was quoted as saying "We will keep the Dioptric Surveyor on station in the Thames Estuary for the foreseeable future. We want Laser and Caroline off the air." The estimated cost of the operation was later was officially confirmed to be £25,000 a month. A spokesman for Laser 558 said: "They are trying to starve us out at enormous expense to the British taxpayer, but we will not give in. We will tender the ship from Spain, which is not against the law." (At that time Spain was not an EC member nor had it ratified the 1965 Strasbourg Convention to outlaw offshore broadcasting stations). Dioptric Surveyor

The surveillance operation was part of a campaign against the popularity of Caroline, Monique and Laser as much as against their so-called illegality. All three stations had built up huge audiences, drawing listeners away from legal music stations in England (ILR and BBC Radio One) and in Holland (Hilversum 3), as well as the pan-European Radio Luxembourg.

The DTI action in hiring the Dioptric Surveyor was generally accepted to have been taken as the result of pressure from the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and ILR commercial radio stations in Kent and Essex. These stations, particularly the ILR ones, felt that they had to compete on unequal terms with the offshore broadcasters who did not pay royalties and did not have to comply with the strict IBA rules and regulations which at that time included a requirement to schedule a specific number of hours of talk-based programmes each week.

The DTI defended the cost of the operation by saying it had received complaints that the offshore stations had interfered with radio distress frequencies at sea and claimed this could put people's lives at risk. The stations were also alleged to have interfered with navigational aids used by helicopters  serving the North Sea oil and gas rigs.

Spokesmen for both Radio Caroline and Laser 558 strongly denied that their respective transmissions were causing such interference and stated that they would continue to receive supplies, quite legally, from countries other than Britain. However, the Director of the DTI's Radio Investigation Service, Dilys Gane, said: " It is our intention that they know we really mean business this time, and we certainly would prefer that they didn't starve, we'd prefer that they came in and gave up."

In an exercise to test the effectiveness of the blockade and establish whether public money was being wasted the Daily Star sent a reporter to deliver supplies, T-shirts, champagne and copies of the newspaper to both the Ross Revenge and the Communicator on 14th August 1985. DJs on both ships were presented with supplies and photographs of them wearing Daily Star T-shirts and drinking champagne were published in the newspaper the following day. The DTI later informed the Daily Star that the newspaper and the journalist involved were being reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions for contravention of the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967.  

During their programmes DJs on Laser 558 reported on the movements of the Dioptric Surveyor, which earned the nickname "Moronic Surveyor". Laser 558 DJ Charlie Wolf made a particular point of reporting regularly on activities taking place on board the surveillance ship and it was he who gave the whole operation the title "Eurosiege 85".

On 18th August 1985 an article in the Sunday Times  stated that the surveillance operation  by the Dioptric Surveyor, then only ten days old, had already resulted in six vessels being reported for allegedly supplying the two radio ships. Four had been reported to British Police for possible offences under the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act, one from Holland had been reported to Dutch Police and the fifth, the Daily Star vessel, had been reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The authorities also started to pursue firms who advertised on both offshore stations to establish whether any offence had been committed under the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act. The Director of Public Prosecutions asked police to interview such companies, many of whom had offices in Britain, to establish how their advertising had been arranged and paid for.

The DTI surveillance ship, Dioptric Surveyor

(Photo: Bob le Roi)

BBC TV news report about ‘Euroseige’.

August 1985

Click on picture to enlarge

The Times

14th August 1985

Daily Star

15th August 1985

Daily Mail

13th August 1985

East Anglian Daily Times

16th August 1985

‘Euroseige’ promo

Euroseige promo.mp3

VHS Video Recorders

commercial VHS video recorders.mp3

‘Euroseige’ reports extracts

Euroseige reports extracts.mp3

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