Do you remember the time when "the people" wanted to hear something other than being fed?
DO YOU SEE SOME COMPARISONS WITH THE PRESENT?
The anonymous group of ether pirates calls itself 'the asbestos trio'. That may sound fun, but that name refers to a practice that can ultimately be deadly. They place their unmanned transmitters in existing telecom masts or trees, deep in nature reserves, at a great height. And to prevent the inspectors from being able to quickly remove the transmitters, they leave behind, for example, carcinogenic asbestos chips around the equipment.
The mast location must first be cleaned by a specialist company. Costs: often more than ten thousand euros. “And that's not even the worst,” says Ties Dammers of the Telecom Agency. “Those chips can also be blown away and end up in the environment or on the lawn near the playground. With this method, the stubborn core of etheric pirates endangers the entire community. ” Illegal radio stations are therefore no longer a 'technical' interference problem, but they form a serious social issue.
Dammers is head of the 'media and networks' department and thinks back with a smile on the times of illegal transmitting ships Veronica and Radio Noordzee, which offered an alternative to the one-sided radio offer off the coast. But those days are over, the internet came and anyone who wants to make their own words or music heard can do what they want online. As a result, the etheric pirates have all but disappeared, but in the east of the country a stubborn core continues to foul the ether.
In places like Tubbergen, Ootmarsum and Vasse, in addition to the beer barns and carbide shooting, the secret transmitters belong to a kind of folklore. There in the west the money is earned and spent, but here in the east we do our own thing, is the thought. The PvdA even wanted to declare this cultural phenomenon a heritage.
But that is a big and dangerous misunderstanding, says Dammers. That would in fact protect crime. His colleague Jack van der Hoek first wants to explain why ether piracy is actually prohibited. “A spot on the FM band is worth a lot of money, and radio stations pay for access to good quality. If they are disturbed by pirates, listeners will run away and with them advertisers. ”
It is even more serious if vital communication services such as emergency number 112, C2000 of the police or the Schiphol control tower fail. “We recently had a report of an aircraft that had started landing. Suddenly André Hazes sounded in the cockpit. These are of course dangerous practices that undermine public safety. ”
These disruptions in vital communication are given 'prio 1' by Van der Hoek as standard, after which inspectors from the Telecom Authority immediately look for the transmitter with sounding wagons. But then they encounter another danger. The latest airborne pirates have become so radical that they pull out all the stops to keep the transmitter in the air. “Since the transmitter no longer needs to be on the roof of the studio, but can be placed unmanned and controlled remotely, it is very difficult to immediately arrest suspects,” says Dammers. Last year, 160 channels were seized, but only 40 people were fined.
Because those transmitters are unmanned, they can be installed in the craziest places. “High objects in the area are often used, such as an existing telecom or electricity pylon, monumental trees or the local water tower,” says Van der Hoek. “But the pirates also work with discarded transport vehicles on which they weld masts up to 80 meters high. They are then driven as deep as possible into the forest, making them more difficult to dismantle. ” That is a pricey operation, but that is why the pirates also cooperate in the purchase and divide the airtime among themselves.
Then the pirates cast their barricades. A trench is dug with a shovel, or the base of the mast is wrapped in bales of hay. But Van der Hoek also shows photos of barrels of contaminated oil tied up in the mast, just below the transmitter. "In the least case, an environmental offense can arise if the oil gets into the soil, but you will only get that grip on the resines." The same applies to the life-threatening game with asbestos.
To obtain electricity, pirates often tap electricity from pumping stations or other installations with a public function. “This can disrupt the entire technology of such an installation, causing a pumping station to fail after a downpour,” says Dammers. He also gives the example of a break-in in a hoisting installation with which bulkheads can be placed in a weir. The pirates then put another lock on the crane. “But what would happen if all of a sudden those bulkheads had to be hoisted into the weir? Dangerous. "
As soon as a station is disabled by inspectors and the listeners hear noise, the intimidation begins. Dammers describes how groups of listening fans subsequently intimidate the inspectors on location. "Accompaniment by five police cars and a dog is no exception." These threats also exist when there are no inspectors on site at all. “People who walk their dogs and come close to a mast get hit. Inspectors are physically threatened at home or find beer bottles, eggs, or bricks against the facade of their home. And online threats are not at all out of the blue. In short, the remaining radio piracy has little to do with romance, and much more often with organized crime.
The problem of illegal channels is actually too great for the individual services that are active in the broad outlying area, certainly in addition to, for example, drug crime that must also be tackled. “Every independent service is too vulnerable locally and has too few tools,” says Dammers. "We can only tackle this together, by bundling reports and observations and then acting." The Telecom Agency is working with the judiciary, municipalities, telecom and energy companies, housing corporations, water boards and nature organizations to fight against illegal channels such as 'Het Asbesttrio' one by one, but as a broad front.
In 2017 there were 569 fault reports from illegal stations in the FM and AM band. Of these, 5 had a so-called 'prio report', with immediate danger due to a disruption of a public service. The nuisance caused by illegal FM use has remained broadly the same, although the social damage is increasing and the behavior of the pirates is hardening. In 2017, there were a total of 57 administrative law cases with fines averaging about 3.000 euros and a maximum of 45.000 euros, 9 criminal cases with a suspect, and 163 criminal cases without a suspect. In addition, the equipment was confiscated.
The Adventure of the Radio Pirates
One raid follows another, equipment is confiscated, heavy fines are handed out. If the law is eventually changed in such a way that illegal sending becomes a crime and you could even end up in jail for it, most pirates will be out. But it is not only the law and the RCD that kill the pirates at the end of the 80s: Hilversum realizes that there is a need for local stations and so local broadcasters with official status are introduced. Unfortunately, as Jeroen van Inkel points out, the adventure and improvisation are over.
On August 31, 1974, the curtain fell for popular sea stations such as Radio Veronica and Radio Noordzee. On September 1 at midnight, the anti-sea broadcasting law came into force, which prohibited radio stations from making radio or TV broadcasts any longer. But their legacy was great; they had managed to turn the boring Dutch radio landscape quite upside down.
Inspired by a Danish radio station, it was decided in 1959 to provide broadcasts in the Netherlands from a boat on the North Sea. This happened under the name Vrije Radio Omroep Nederland (VRON), soon referred to as 'Veronica'. A ship was purchased, followed by the first radio broadcast from sea on 17 May 1960. In the years that followed, the offshore transmitter established a name with listeners by trial and error.
Radio Veronica was especially popular with young people, mainly because it also broadcast pop music and from 1965 onwards managed charts, such as the legendary Veronica Top 40. The offshore channel was also innovative on other fronts: it introduced commercial radio, jingles, the Alarm disc and horizontal programming. Veronica's drive-in shows were also unique: listeners could admire the popular Veronica DJs in person. Well-known examples from that period were Rob Out, Tineke de Nooij, Lex Harding and Chiel Montagne.
From 1964, the English-language Radio Caroline and Radio London also broadcast from the North Sea. Radio Veronica also received follow-up in Dutch in the form of Radio Noordzee, Radio Atlantis and Radio Caroline, which started broadcasting in the 1971s. The growth in the number of sea channels created the necessary competition. In May XNUMX, for example, Radio Veronica tried unsuccessfully to blow Radio North Sea out of the air by carrying out a bomb attack on the competitor's transmission ship.
There was also opposition from politics. Because the sea transmitters posed a threat to the Dutch broadcasting system, Dutch politicians were looking for ways to ban broadcasts from international waters. This eventually succeeded thanks to the ratification of the Strasbourg Convention, which prohibited cooperation in radio and / or TV broadcasts from ships and aircraft in international waters. After the adoption of this 'anti-marine transmitter law', the government was able to take measures against the popular sea transmitters.
In the same period, Radio Veronica started a membership recruitment campaign to obtain legal status as a commercial broadcaster. This was succeeded in 1976 by a motion in the House of Representatives. This allowed the former sea broadcaster as Veronica Omroep Organisatie to join the Dutch broadcasting system that was previously detested by her.
Illegal radio bingo
A popular item in the broadcasts of radio pirates was bingo. Researcher Hasan Evrengün spoke with the infamous radio pirate Hannes de Neus from The Hague about his weekly bingo.
"Radio Ivy is not there for commerce, but for the people of The Hague." This is how presenter Hannes Massing describes his own pirate station, Radio Ivy. A chat and a picture, a laugh and a joke, but also attention for the lonely, the elderly and the sick. “Just the real contact with the people, and not necessarily playing the radio like the others did. We played Johnny Jordaan's 'The Rejected Home', because we all lived in a house like that. ”
This distinguished Hannes from the average stations that mainly broadcast music on tape. At home on the Koningsplein in The Hague, he sat behind the microphone in his studio live, often with a gulp. His son, 'the slow one', did the technique. And bingo on Sundays. Participants could buy the tickets at home for a five peak cash. Hannes: “A lot of money from the proceeds went to charity. Wheelchairs for the disabled, cuddly toys for children in hospitals. And of course Hannes also got something. ”
Until 1985 Hannes remains illegally on the air. In the meantime, he has already spent three weeks in the Koepelgevangenis in Breda. And have to pay multiple fines. Unfortunately, his dream to make Ivy a legal local channel does not come true. The Municipality of The Hague does not accept his request. When his son dies in a car accident that year, he thinks it is enough.
When radio DJ Willem van Kooten, aka Joost den Draaijer, traveled to the United States in 1964, he was inspired by the way in which commercial radio was made there. When he returned to the Netherlands, he had a concept in his pocket, with which he managed to convince the management of Radio Veronica that the sea channel needed its own hit parade. In this way, according to him, even more listeners could be attracted. This was the start of a hit parade that would set the trend for years and still attracts many listeners every week: the Top-40 was born!
The hit list could be heard for the first time on Saturday, January 2, 1965. At that time it was still called the Dutch Hit Parade. The forty most popular records of that week were broadcast by Radio Veronica. The presentation was in the hands of Den Draaijer himself. In the first broadcast, both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were particularly well represented, each with no less than three songs. The Beatles' I Feel Fine topped the list.
From May 1966 the new hit parade continued as Veronica Top-40. Den Draaijer continued to present the list until 1969. Then Jan van Veen took over. Den Draaijer went to Hilversum 3 to take over the presentation of a competing list. The Top 40 quickly became a regular ritual in many Dutch living rooms and was therefore jokingly referred to as 'The national Saturday afternoon event'.
When Radio Veronica had to stop broadcasting in 1974 due to the anti-sea broadcasting law, the Top 40 also threatened to end. Fortunately, the Dutch Top-40 foundation had been set up just before that. This foundation wanted to guarantee the survival of the list and it succeeded. After a number of wanderings, the Top-40, through the TROS and Hilversum 2, among others, returned to Veronica. From that year on, the former sea channel continued as the Veronica Omroep Organisatie and became part of the Public Broadcasting. The Top 40 was once again a regular part of the programming.
In 1993 the hit parade again got into heavy weather when Buma / Stemra wanted to launch a new hit list in collaboration with the Public Broadcasting and the record industry: the Mega Top 50. However, the Dutch Top 40 Foundation forced Veronica to complete the contract, which meant that the list could be listened to via Hilversum 1993 until the end of 3.
Because both the record industry and the Public Broadcaster were behind the Mega Top 50, new sponsors had to be found afterwards. The Top 40 moved to the commercial Radio 538. It couldn't have been more beautiful: Radio 538 is named after the wavelength on which Veronica broadcasted as a sea channel.
In addition to radio broadcasts, the Top 40 was also broadcast on television from 1976 onwards. Lex Harding initially presented a four-minute program that briefly told what the most popular songs were that week. This later became a longer program, which also included studio performances and video clips.
The Top 40 has always played an important role in the Dutch music world. Since 1965, the list has reported, based on airplay, the sale of singles and, since 2005, also legal downloads, which are the hottest hits of the moment. The popular printed copy was available at the record store for many years and is a fond childhood memory for many who grew up in the 70s or 80s.
On July 3, 1977, the radio pirate station Radio Centraal Den Haag celebrated the 12 ½ years anniversary of the Top 40 by re-broadcasting the very first list. This broadcast can be heard here. Enjoy hits from the past one more time and pay attention to the striking jingles in between.
And? What do you think? Were people already busy with today? No free communication possible without government control?