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Radio Noordzee - History

Towards the end of 1963 elaborate plans were being made for a new radio and television station based, not on a ship, but on a man-made structure similar to a small scale oil drilling platform. At the time there was considerable public dissatisfaction with the programme output of the Dutch state television system, NTS, and a group of Dutch businessmen decided to establish their own station to provide a more exciting and entertaining service for viewers. REM letterheading

Businessman I. P. Heerema and Rotterdam shipbuilder Cornelis (Cor)  Verolme, together with business colleagues Joseph Brandel and M Minderop formed a company - Reklame Exploitatie Maatschappij - more usually known as REM - which was to own and operate the radio and television stations.

The company's main objective was to provide an offshore commercial television service for a large area of Holland, hence the need for a stable structure from which to operate. Their oil platform style structure, which became known as the REM Island, was unique in offshore broadcasting history, being purpose designed and built in prefabricated sections, using the shipbuilding experience and facilities of a yard in Cork, Ireland owned by Cor Verolme.

The prefabricated sePrefabricated sections of REM Island under towctions were transported from Ireland and construction of the 'Island' was completed during the night of 4/5th June 1964. Broadcasting equipment  was then installed by communications giants RCA.

Test transmissions for the radio station on board REM Island started on 19th July 1964 and, following an opening announcement in English, regular broadcasts under the call sign Radio Noordzee started in Dutch on 23rd July 1964. Tests broadcasts from TV Noordzee started on 12th August 1964, with regular programmes from 1st September.

The Dutch Government, which since 1960 had been remarkably tolerant of Radio Veronica's broadcasts, took an entirely different view about the new, more powerful television and radio station located on the REM Island. They were furious that such a powerful broadcaster could establish what appeared to be a permanent base off the coast and beam programmes to millions of Dutch homes. Although Radio and TV Noordzee programmes were confined to entertainment the Government really feared that the REM Island transmitter, or another similar operation, could be used for political propaganda purposes.

On 16th September 1964 the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament began to discuss the situation and the following day it was decided to introduce legislation which would bring the artificial island within Dutch territorial limits.

In order to achieve this objective the Government proposed to rely on the 1958 United Nations Geneva Convention, which defined the limits of a 'continental shelf' over which coastal states could exercise sovereignty. Under this Convention a country could extend its boundaries out to sea for a distance of  up to 200 miles, relying on the extent to which the submerged landmass ('continental shelf') adjoining the coast projected seawards. Any physical structure supported by part of the sea-bed which formed this 'continental shelf', whether inside or outside the limits of territorial waters, would then come under the jurisdiction of that country.

With the new legislation about to be introduced in late 1964  ownership of REM Island was transferred to Expoitatacion De Construcciones Martitima Excomarsa (registered in Panama) and broadcasting rights for Radio and TV Noordzee were transferred to a British company, High Seas Television Ltd., of London  

At about the same time the assets of REM were transferred to a new organisation - Televisie en Radio Omreop Stichting (TROS) was formed by some of the people behind the REM Project with the objective of applying for a temporary licence to legally transmit from the artificial Island. The hope was that TROS, broadcasting with a temporary licence would be in a position to benefit from the grant of a permanent licence when the promised review of Dutch broadcasting took place.

Meanwhile the Dutch Government vigorously pursued its opposition to the offshore radio and television stations housed on the REM Island and legislation  giving effect to an extension of sovereignty over the continental shelf  (and any structures built on it) was passed in the Dutch Senate on 1st December 1964, becoming law  twelve days later. The new law had been designed specifically to close Radio and TV Noordzee and did not apply to Radio Veronica, which by December 1964 had been on the air for four and a half years, because that was a ship-based station and not permanently attached to the continental shelf.

TV Noordzee ceased transmissions on 14th December 1964 but Radio Noordzee did continue to defy the new law.  After five days the Dutch authorities decided to act - they had delayed action because of bad weather and then information was received that the REM Island now belonged to a Panamanian company and the broadcasting rights were held by a British company who were threatening legal action against the Dutch authorities.

The Dutch NavPolice raid on REM Island, December 1964al vessel, Delftshaven took up position 200 yards from the REM Island at 8.55am on 17th December 1964. Five minutes later three helicopters appeared and hovered overhead, the first dropped a marker flare onto the rooftop helipad and at 9.03am the other two landed a force of armed police on the artificial Island. At 9.07am transmissions of Radio Noordzee were abruptly silenced by the authorities during a programme presented by Sonja van Proosdjijk.

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The prefabricated sections of REM Island being towed from Ireland to The Netherlands

Police raid on REM Island, December 1964

Two views of the Police raid on REM Island, December 1964


Click on picture to enlarge

Daily Express

18th December 1964

The Sun

18th December 1964