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Radio Mercur - History (4)

Other changes were also taking place - in March 1962 a new company - Mercur Advertising A/S - to sell airtime on the newly expanded station. Also early in 1962 Nils-Eric Svensson sold his interest in Skanes Radio Mercur to Sales Manager Britt Wadner. Mrs. Wadner intended to keep the Swedish language programmes on the air, but wanted to break away from hiring Radio Mercur’s spare airtime and planned to start her own full time Swedish language offshore radio station directed at Malmo in southern Sweden.

At about the same time Radio Mercur entered into initial discussions with the northern Swedish offshore station, Radio Nord, whose owners were keen on establishing a television service. Radio Nord’s vessel, Magda Maria was anchored in the Stockholm Archipelago, but this was too wide to achieve satisfactory television transmissions into the Stockholm city area. It was decided therefore that any offshore television project would have to be based in the south of the country with programmes beamed to Sweden's next largest city, Malmo, from a vessel anchored in Oresund.

A joint venture was officially entered into by Radio Nord and Radio Mercur - a new company - Mercur Television Anstalt - was formed under the joint ownership of both stations. Nord Establishment was to be responsible for the acquisition and installation of the transmitting equipment on the Radio Mercur vessel and for the purchase of programme material from the USA, while Radio Mercur would provide the ship-borne base and handle local programme production from its landbased studios. The service was planned to operate for 18 hours a day beaming entertainment and news programmes to an audience of over 3 million people in Denmark and southern Sweden.

Unfortunately the introduction of pan-Scandinavian legislation outlawing offshore broadcasting meant that both stations had to close before the proposed television service could be launched.

Following a recommendation by a special committee of the Nordic Council in February 1962 a concerted approach was agreed by four Scandinavian governments to deal with the 'problem' of offshore radio stations. The four governments in question - Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland - started to progress through their respective parliaments domestic legislation making it an offence for their nationals to supply, broadcast from, advertise on or assist an offshore station in any way.

The Danish legislation was introduced into parliament on 3rd April 1962 by the Minister of Communications, Kai Lindberg, and about the same time a listeners support organisation - Denmark’s Fee Listening Association - was formed to campaign for the legalisation of Radio Mercur.

However Danish legislation to outlaw offshore broadcasting  - the Telecommunications Act, but better known as ‘Lex Mercur’ - was finally approved on 14th July 1962. Similar legislation was also enacted in Sweden, Norway and Finland. With each country now having the relevant legislation in place agreement was reached at a meeting of ministers representing the four governments in Stockholm that all anti-offshore broadcasting laws would come into effect at midnight on 31st July 1962.

In the face of the impending ban Radio Mercur closed its 'West' station from the Cheeta 2 on 10th July 1962 and the ship sailed to Elensburg in West Germany amidst rumours of plans that she would become an offshore station anchored off Greece. However, the vessel was subsequently sold to Britt Wadner, owner of Radio Syd, which had decided to stay on the air in defiance of the new legislation. The airtime sales company - Mercur Advertising A/S was put into liquidation on 19th July 1962 effectively severing any formal landbased link between the station and Denmark.

Radio Mercur (East), on board the Lucky Star anchored off Copenhagen, continued to broadcast for a further three weeks, closing only when the new law came into effect at midnight on 31st July 1962. The final hour was a nostalgic look back at the history of the station with programme excerpts and 'good luck' messages from former announcers. Earlier the same day the entire Radio Mercur record library had been sold at an auction in Copenhagen.

That was not the end of the story for Radio Mercur, however. After the station had closed the Lucky Star remained at sea and a report in Ekstra Bladet on 1st August carried a report quoting a Liechtenstein  lawyer acting on behalf of Radio Mercur Establissement Technique International saying that the station’s owner (who was not named) planned to continue broadcasts without breaking the new Danish law. Programmes would be recorded abroad, using Danish speaking announcers, and advertising would also come from foreign based companies, mainly in West Germany.

After a week of silence from the Lucky Star, (during which time the Siemens transmitter had been transferred to Cheeta 2 and the original home built equipment installed on the Lucky Star), transmissions were started once again at 5.00pm on 13th August 1962,  using some of the station's old programme tapes. The original Radio Mercur owners denied any responsibility for these transmissions and stated that during the life of the station they had only ever hired the ship, through an associate company, from the vessel's actual owner, Senor Louis Arturo Delboso of Guatemala.

Two days later, on 15th August 1962, two Danish police ships, Knud and Valdemar approached the Lucky Star and armed police boarded the vessel. Later a customs vessel escorted her into port at Tuborg, the Lucky Star was impounded and a long legal battle followed to establish ownership and responsibility for the illegal broadcasts.

The Danish authorities were accused of acting illegally  by boarding and impounding a foreign registered ship in international waters. However, it was quickly established that the Lucky Star had no official registration papers and the Lebanese flag she was flying from her stern was a fake. At the end of September 1962 the Lucky Star’s owner, Senor Delboso, instructed lawyers to seek repossession of his ship.

A hearing took place in the High Court on 23rd October 1962 when the lawyer acting for Radio Mercur (Etablissement de Technique International in Liechtenstein) conceded that the confiscation of the ship and its broadcasting equipment by the Danish authorities had been a legal act.The company was fined 8,000 Kroner with 4,000 Kroner costs - both were paid by Alex Brask Thomsen.

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Click on picture to enlarge

Berlingske Aftenavis

16th August 1962

The Times

17th August 1962

Swedish newspaper report

?? August 1962

Ingemar Lindqvist

‘Copenhagen Today’ closedown announcement, June 1962

Copenhagen Today closedown announcement June 1962.mp3

Sticker attached to records sold at the auction


Two views of the police raid on the Lucky Star after it had recommenced broadcasts in violation of the new Danish law

Newspaper placard - “Mercur ship seized and towed in to harbour”

Newspaper placard - “Mercur starts broadcasts again”

Police raid on Lucky Star Police raid on Lucky Star

Sound recording of the close of Radio Mercur showing that the station in fact closed 40 seconds earlier than it could have done before ‘Lex Mercur’ came into force, 31st July 1962

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