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TV Noordzee (2)

Having achieved the launch of their radio station and in the process generating a considerable amount of interest and press publicity the backers set about fulfilling their main objective, the opening of an offshore commercial television service.

Television test transmissions, under the call sign TV Noordzee, started on 15th August 1964  at 6.30pm  on  channel  E11, directed  at  a  primary reception area which  contained an estimated 750,000 television sets. Reception reports were received from over 100 miles inland and a public opinion poll carried out at the end of August 1964 showed that one third of all Dutch households owning a television set within the reception area had tuned into TV Noordzee at some time during the first week of test transmissions.

Regular television broadcasts started officially on 1st September 1964 at 6.30pm. The first commercial broadcast was for Johnson's Pledge furniture polish and other advertisers on that first night including Macleans toothpaste, Brylcreem hairdressing cream and Dubonnet wine, as well as some products from major Dutch-based companies.

Joe Brandel, who had experience working on television in America was the station's General Manager and Lloyd Williams Associates, a London based agency, advised on programme buying. Consequently a lot of English language programmes were purchased from the United States and England, including series such as The Invisible Man, Danger Man, Robin Hood, The Saint, Super Car, Mr. Ed, The Bob Cummings Show, My Three Sons, Victory at Sea, Ben Casey and Rin Tin Tin.

Commercials were recorded on 16mm cine film and spliced into the programmes (which were also obtained from distributors on cine film) in the land-based studios before being sent out to the station, generally a week in advance of transmission. Although video tape was still in its development stages in 1964 the station planned to eventually install facilities to handle this new means of recording programmes and even had plans to construct a presentation studio in Amsterdam with video facilities.

As an incentive to buy airtime on the new, unfamiliar commercial television station advertisers were given an introductory   33% discount on the published ratecard rates which varied between £600 and £900 per minute. Even with these discounts advertising revenue for TV Noordzee was said to have been in excess of £100,000 during the first full month of broadcasting. Although such discounts were available on airtime booked until May 1965, it was estimated from the response received to the initial broadcasts that the operation would be profitable within a year - recouping £1.5million of capital investment




Government Action

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 Noordzee 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.

The main argument was not over the existence of a commercial television service - some members of parliament wanted advertising on television - but they wanted to exert control over who provided the service. This was largely because the broadcasting organisations on the state system at the time had strong connections with the political parties and did not want to lose control to an independent, commercial organisation such as REM.

On 16th September 1964 the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament, the States General, began to discuss the situation and the following day it was decided by 114 votes to 19 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.

By first ratifying the 1958 Geneva Convention (to which Holland was not even an original signatory) and then enacting its own legislation - the North Sea Equipment Act 1964 - the Dutch Government was thus able to bring the REM Island within its jurisdiction. Many other European countries had invoked the provisions of the Geneva Convention to claim sovereignty over oil and gas deposits found beneath the North Sea, but it had not previously been invoked with the specific intention of silencing an offshore broadcasting station.

The Dutch Minister of Justice, Dr. Scholten, said he hoped the REM organisation would voluntarily cease broadcasting once the Bill became law. Speaking in the same debate the Minister of Education, Arts and Sciences, Dr. T Bot, promised a radical alteration of the Dutch radio and television services, possibly involving the introduction of advertising and allowing private companies to establish stations.




News Stand

Click on picture to enlarge

TV Noordzee test card

TV Noordzee projected reception area

Click to enlarge

In order to receive transmissions from TV Noordzee it was necessary for viewers to buy a new aerial.

This is a press advert for an aerial capable of picking up the offshore transmissions.

(Thanks to Hans Knot)

TV Noordzee announcer Hetty Bennink on air.

(Photo: Hans Knot)

TV Noordzee control room    

(Photo: Hans Knot)

A short film about TV Noordzee and REM Island

Television Mail

21st August 1964



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