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Radio Nord - History (2)

Unfortunately a series of unexpected incidents frustrated the station's well laid plans to be on the air for Christmas. Only two and a half hours after leaving Copenhagen the Captain of the Bon Jour decided to drop anchor for a few hours as the weather was becoming extremely foggy. The voyage resumed the following day, but at 5.00pm, just over half way through the journey to the Bon Jour's intended anchorage, the Captain again dropped anchor off the island of Gotska Sandon. The problem this time was that the stays on the mast had worked loose during severe gales and it was thought necessary to repair the damage before sailing on. On 23rd December the Bon Jour set sail again, anchoring a few hours later at what the Captain thought was the correct position. Engineers switched on the transmitter but the aerial short-circuited and everything went dead.

Radio Nord's owners had sent special Christmas programme tapes on board a fishing boat, the Dannette which had instructions to rendezvous with the Bon Jour when she arrived at the prearranged anchorage position. Because the Captain had anchored the Bon Jour in the wrong location the Dannette spent two days searching for the radio ship, eventually finding her on Christmas Eve 1960.

On Christmas Day, instead of the planned opening of Radio Nord the crew actually abandoned ship, thinking that the mast was about to collapse on the deck. They were taken to Sandhamn by a pilot vessel, leaving the Bon Jour riding at her anchorage unmanned. The following day they were persuaded to return to the radio ship and on 27th December 1960 the Bon Jour was towed into Sandhamn by a salvage tug.

The radio ship was later taken to Lidingo for repairs, but on arrival there the crew discovered that the shipyard had closed down six months earlier! Amidst this fiasco and with press demands for the Swedish authorities to declare the Bon Jour unseaworthy, the vessel briefly visited Stockholm before leaving hurriedly for Abo in Finland to avoid being impounded by Swedish government marine inspectors.

1961

After entering the Crichton-Fulcan shipyard in Abo for repair a new Captain was engaged to take command of the radio ship. However, the Finnish Government, at the request of their Swedish counterparts, pressurised the shipyard into refusing a repair berth for the vessel, so once again the Bon Jour was forced to set sail, anchoring in nearby Chalk Harbour. The shipyard owner, who was personally very sympathetic towards the station, arranged for a party of workers to travel to the ship and carry out repairs at sea, a task which was completed on 4th February 1961.

Two days later the radio ship anchored off Orno, but just as final engineering checks were being carried out the insulators fractured and yet again the Bon Jour was forced to go into port at the Finnboda shipyard in Stockholm. Here new insulators were installed, all equipment checked and, despite the transmitters having been sealed by the Swedish authorities the crew had discovered a way to bypass the seals and a number of test transmissions were made from the ship while she was still anchored in central Stockholm.

Having completed the repairs and technical overhaul the Bon Jour was able to leave port on 21st February 1961 and sailed once again for her anchorage off Stockholm. Shortly afterwards the first test transmissions were made, but after a day or two the condensers started causing problems and the ship returned yet again to the Finnboda shipyard.

By 1st March 1961 the ship was back at her anchorage and had resumed test transmissions. The repairs at the Stockholm shipyard had been completed just before the Swedish Government passed a law stating that any radio ship entering their territorial waters would have its transmitting equipment removed and confiscated.

After two and a half months of frustrating delays and frequent visits to port for repairs to the ship and transmitting equipment, Radio Nord was finally able to begin official programmes at 10.00am on 8th March 1961. On that opening day the station ended its transmissions at 6.00pm in the evening, but the following day programmes started again at 6.00am and within a very short time Radio Nord was broadcasting 24 hours a day.

Once regular tranRadio Nord postersmissions had started the Swedish Government put pressure on Nicaragua to withdraw registration from the Bon Jour. The station managed to arrange alternative registration with Panama, but to do this had to change the ship's name yet again, this time to Magda Maria.

Radio Nord's programmes were a mixture of live broadcasts from the ship and pre-recorded tapes from the Stockholm studios. Usually 16 news bulletins a day were broadcast between 6.00am and 2.00am, although this number could vary slightly depending on staff availability and weather conditions.

The format Radio Nord offered its listeners was something completely new to Europe. Even the other contemporary offshore radio stations off the coasts of Denmark and Holland did not produce their programmes in the American-influenced Top 40 Format. Most other commercial popular music stations of the time, including Radio Luxembourg as well as those offshore, presented quarter, half or hour long programmes (each usually sponsored by a different advertiser) with specific types of music - dance followed by rock, followed by Latin American etc., but Radio Nord's radically different approach to programming style was guided by two main principles:-

  a) no listener tuning into the station should have to       switch off because the kind of music  they preferred       would not be heard within a reasonable time;

  b) everyone should be able to turn programmes on and       off when they pleased, without being tied to particular       programme times.

From the start too, the maximum time between each record  - both for commercials and DJ announcements - was limited to one minute while the hourly newscasts were given a maximum of three minutes airtime. Another time limit, although rarely achieved in practice, was that a maximum of 12 minutes each hour was allocated for commercials.

The guiding light behind  this programme policy was, of course, Gordon McLendon, whose station in Dallas, KLIF, had successfully pioneered such a format. KLIF was particularly strong on news with the slogan "Tomorrow's Newspaper Today". News was broadcast every hour, with headlines every half hour and no item was allowed to be presented in the same style twice. If nothing had happened to update a story since the previous newscast  then it was rewritten so that it sounded fresh to the listener. KLIF also employed mobile units to gather news around Dallas and for on-the-scene reports.

The use of this latter facility was obviously impossible for an offshore station, but Radio Nord nevertheless managed to develop a very efficient news operation, possibly the most sophisticated of any offshore station. Negotiations with news agencies such as Associated Press and United Press International for a direct teleprinter feed to the radio ship came to nothing, but undaunted by this setback an ingenious news-gathering system was developed by the station.


A two part documentary film showing Radio Nord from the Bon Jour  in 1961

Click on picture to enlarge

Aftonbladt

placard 27th December 1960

‘SOS - Lamp signal only sign of life from radio ship’

Ingemar Lindqvist

Dagens Nhyter

27th December 1960

Ingemar Lindqvist

Expressen

22nd December 1960

Ingemar Lindqvist

Aftonbladet

5th March 1961

Ingemar Lindqvist

Aftonbladet placard. 5th March 1961

‘ Radio Nord has started’

Ingemar Lindqvist


Where       next ?


Back to Radio Nord

Back to Scandinavia Gallery

History

Key Dates

Ship and Location

Technical

Staff

Programmes

Key Dates Ship and Location Technical Programmes Staff

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Turtlewax

Turtle Wax ad.mp3





Duralex

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Pepsodent Toothpaste

Pepsodent ad.mp3

Commercials and Programme Trailers courtesy Ingemar Lindqvist


Treasure Chest

Treasure Chest