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Radio Veronica - 1960’s History (2)

It was another two months, however, before things really started to happen. After receiving technical advice from engineers of the Danish offshore pioneer Radio Mercur, Oswald eventually succeeded in constructing a suitable transmitter. Despite a warning letter from the German Post Office, about the illegality of installing radio transmitting equipment on board a ship in a German port, work continued and fitting out of the Borkum Riff  was completed by mid-April 1960.

After two earlier attempts were thwarted by the authorities the Borkum Riff finally left harbour on 20th April 1960 and the following day she anchored off Katwijk aan Zee on the Dutch coast. The first test transmissions from the new station - Radio Veronica - were made the same day.

Programme tapes made in the station's Amsterdam studio were taken out to the Borkum Riff by a small fishing vessel for the first few days until Dutch customs authorities refused to allow any further such deliveries. With this lifeline cut the station resorted to using a light aircraft (as Radio Mercur had done in Scandinavia) to drop daily supplies and programme tapes to the ship.

Further obstacles were also placed in the way of Radio Veronica by the authorities once broadcasts had started –

Complaints  of  interference to coastal  maritime  radio  stations  began almost  as soon as  the Veronica test transmissions  had started and when regular programmes commenced on 6th May 1960 the PTTEarly Radio Veronica QSL jammed Radio Veronica's signal. Radio Veronica moved frequency, bEarly Radio Veronica posterut this proved unsatisfactory, causing even more interference and being unobtainable on many domestic radio receivers. Consequently after just seven days on the air the station ceased transmissions on 13th May 1960 to adjust its equipment, returning two days later on 1562kHz (192m). This new frequency proved far more satisfactory, with the bonus that a stronger signal was achieved in the primary target area, despite transmitter power remaining at only 1Kw.

The Panamanian Government withdrew registration from the Borkum Riff in June 1960, but the owners were able to re-register the ship in Guatemala.

Programming on Radio Veronica was amateurish at first. Programmes were pre-recorded, initially using a domestic tape recorder on a kitchen table with a microphone suspended from the ceiling, while presenters played records from their own personal collections because music companies were unwilling to supply new releases to the station and money was not available to purchase a regular supply of discs.  

By mid-summer 1960 the quality and professionalism of the station had improved slightly and gradually it became more and more popular with listeners. The offshore station's growing popularity was not due to the professional quality of its programmes but was largely attributable to the fact that it catered for the musical tastes of young people, something the state radio services of the Netherlands and Belgium failed to do at that time.

Unfortunately despite this apparent success many of the early advertisers were companies in which Radio Veronica directors also had interests and they actually brought the offshore station very little revenue.  

An audience of 5 million was claimed by Radio Veronica following a listenership survey in November 1960The Verweij brothers, but despite this popularity advertisers were still largely reluctant to buy airtime on the station. With high operating costs and little commercial income Radio Veronica quickly began to accumulate substantial debts. By the end of November 1960 a rescue package had been mounted by the three textile manufacturers from Hilversum, brothers Dirk, Jaap and 'Bull' Verweij, who took over responsibility for the management of the floundering station and injected much needed financial support.


The Verweij brothers - Jaap, Bull and Dirk

An early QSL (reception verification) card showing the Borkum Riff

Photo: jingleweb.nl


Click on picture to enlarge

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