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Laser 558 - History (7)

To begin with the surveillance operation (the DTI refused to admit it was a blockade) had the effect of generating widespread  publicity for the offshore stations and undoubtedly made many more people aware of their continued  existence. This in turn, according to John Catlett of Laser 558, led to increased interest from potential advertisers and, at that early stage, the situation certainly seemed to be benefiting the stations more than it was hindering their operation.

But, with continuing staff and supply shortages, Laser 558 reduced its programme hours at the beginning of September 1985.

Late in the afternoon of 21st August 1985 the Communicator raised her anchor and sailed to a new position about 10 miles away from the Ross Revenge, which meant that DTI officials could no longer observe both radio ships at the same time. The Dioptric Surveyor followed the Communicator, but could not anchor in the open sea, so was forced to continuously sail around the radio ship near her new position.

The Communicator herself did not remain in this position for long, however, and two days later returned to her Knock Deep anchorage with the Dioptric Surveyor once again following closely behind.This temporary move of position by the Communicator indicated quite clearly that, while the DTI could conveniently watch both ships when they were anchored in the Knock Deep, the one they really wanted to pursue was the Communicator to put Laser 558 off the air. For whatever reason it appeared that Laser 558 was considered more of a nuisance (threat?) than Radio Caroline and hence the Dioptric Surveyor closely followed the Communicator on her journey to and from the new anchorage position.

As part of its ‘Euroseige’ campaign Laser 558 also produced a number of spoof commercials for ‘Anoraks DTI’ lampooning the DTI surveillance activities, and the cost of the exercise to the taxpayer (you can listen to one of the spoof commercials in the Interactive Zone, right.) Also in September 1985 a record entitled ‘I Spy for the DTI’ by the ‘Moronic Surveyors’ was released and heavily promoted on Laser 558. The ‘Moronic Surveyors’ were in fact members of the bands Sad Cafe,and  Boys Don’t Cry, together with John Wilson and Paul Young. The record also featured the voices of Rob Day and Laser DJs Liz West and Erin Kelly and reached number 103 in the UK singles chart.

The DTI campWarning notice to boat ownersaign was intensified in September 1985 when notices were displayed at ports and harbours warning boat owners of the consequences of supplying the radio ships and the penalties for doing so which were contained in the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967.

By mid-September 1985 further reports started appearing in the press about Laser 558's financial difficulties, quoting DJs who had recently left the Communicator who claimed they had not been paid and the ship had not received supplies of fresh water for five weeks. By 19th September 1985 there were only three DJs left on the Communicator, each presenting six hour programmes to fill the station's 18 hour broadcasting schedule. Some extra DJs were recruited during October, but others left so the programme schedules varied between four and six hours for most of the month - when the station was actually on the air. In fact Laser 558 was off the air for more than half of October 1985, due either  to generator problems or aerial damage.

In mid-October 1985 the DTI announced that it had no immediate plans to discontinue the surveillance operation and that the Dioptric Surveyor would remain on station until all those who supplied the radio ships had been identified and traced.

In an effort to counter adverse publicity surrounding the surveillance operation (in particular criticisms of the enormous cost to taxpayers) and to explain why they wanted the offshore stations closed the DTI held a number of 'roadshow' meetings for representatives of the media during October 1985.

In a change of emphasis on 29th October 1985 the Foreign Office announced that, if requested by the DTI, they would approach the Panamanian Government and try to persuade it to withdraw official registration of  the two radio ships. Without the protection of that, or another country's flag and registration documents  the ships would be in breach of international maritime law and liable to boarding by the British authorities. However, the Panamanian Government had already instructed its Bureau of Shipping in London not to discuss any  questions relating to the two radio ships with the British authorities.

An indication that 'Euroseige' was set to continue throughout the rough winter weather in the North Sea came on 1st November 1985 when the Dioptric Surveyor was replaced by a larger surveillance vessel, the 443 ton Gardline Tracker. Ironically this vessel was a sister ship to the Communicator (previously known as Gardline Seeker), home of Laser.

By late autumn 1985 yet more reports that Laser 558  was in serious financial difficulties were appearing in the press. The station's only income in recent months was said to have come from the "Spotlight" (featured plug) records and commercials placed through an organisation known as Overseas Media Incorporated, (OMI) based in London. This company, which was effectively operating as Laser 558's London office, was American owned and managed by John Catlett, President of the station's New York sales organisation, MMI.

Click on picture to enlarge

Notice warning boat owners not to supply the two radio ships

Click to enlarge

East Anglian Daily Times

22nd August 1985

East Anglian Daily Times

27th August 1985

East Anglian Daily Times

2nd November 1985

Back to original anchorage - Charlie Wolf

back to original anchorage - Euroseige, Charlie Wolf 23.8.85.mp3

‘Anoraks DTI’ spoof commercial

Anoraks DTI spoof commercial.mp3

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