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volume 3
february 2001

Where did all the money go?

 





  RNI Memories (7)
by Hans Knot
Previous
  RNI Sticker (1973)

In the seventies many people sent money to RNI to become members of the Radio Noordzee Foundation, so the organisation could apply for an official licence to broadcast on land. Nothing of the sort ever did happen. Hans Knot recalls the events leading to these plans.

 
1 After publishing the first installments of our series RNI Memories, we received many reactions from former listeners of the stations as well as from some of the people who have worked for the stations themselves during the early seventies. In these emails and letters several questions were raised and one in particular kept returning: what has happened with all the money listeners did sent in to get a membership of RNI? Why did Radio Noordzee came up with the idea to turn its listeners into members of the Radio Noordzee Foundation?
2 Captain Tom

First, let's go back to the "bomb attack" on the radio ship MEBO II on May 15th. That day, late in the evening, three divers from Scheveningen caused an explosion in the machine room of the MEBO II and afterwards escaped very quickly in a little boat. One of the divers, known as Captain Tom, had stayed a while on the MEBO II before — in August / September 1970 — as the main responsible man. So he knew his way around the ship as well as how to disappear as soon as possible after the job had been done. The people on the ship either were watching the late sports programme on television or they were busy preparing and/or presenting their radio programmes. At that moment I myself sat at home, listening to my one time favourite sports programme on Dutch radio, Goal. Each Saturday evening that programme was being broadcast by KRO radio. It was a really good show, produced by George Thor and presented in a excellent way by Felix Meurders and Theo Koomen.

3 Suddenly Meurders interrupted the programme with the message that something terrible was happening on the North Sea as the MEBO II was calling for help. Parts of the SOS calls were retransmitted in the KRO programme. A big fire raged aboard the MEBO II, they said, because on the ship a bomb had exploded. It was really dramatic radio, which I will never forget. During the next hours my two radios were both powered, each on a different frequency. One was receiving the news from the Dutch public radio, while the other one was recording RNI till the station stopped broadcasting, i.e. till the Swiss technician Kurt Bär left the radio ship as the last person on board. In the meantime help was arriving. Several ships left Scheveningen harbour, including the fire-ship MV Volans which succeeded in extinguishing the fire. Luckily the crew and deejays all could return to the ship afterwards. Later that night they went back on the air to report on the dramatic events. As we saw earlier, the three divers had orders to tow RNI's radio ship into Scheveningen harbour, so that the Veronica board could get hold on it.
4 Mixer in the studio on land (1973)

During the weeks after the attack and following the arrest of the divers as well as Veronica director Verweij and his companion Jürgens, a lot of comments appeared in Dutch newspapers and many questions were asked in Dutch Parliament. They signalled that the Dutch government planned to act against Radio Veronica. Next, a part of the Veronica deejay team thought it was about time to get a big action going. "Veronica blijft als U dat wilt" — "Veronica stays if you want it" — was to become its slogan. All over Holland cards were spread which people could sign stating they stood right behind the idea of keeping Radio Veronica on the air. On the station a big campaign was aired for this action, reminding all the people signing those cards that they also could become members of the VOS, the Veronica Omroep Stichting, later renamed in VOO (Veronica Omroep Organisatie). Once it had enough members, the organisation would apply for an official licence to broadcast on land. Of course it took some years before the VOO finally went on the air as a public organisation itself. But that's another story, so let's go back to RNI.

A jingle for the "Hou'm in de Lucht" campaign (1973)
5 Inspired by the Veronica campaign to get their listeners to pay a yearly amount of money and thus getting a licence to broadcast on land, RNI's Dutch directors from Naarden decided to start a similar campaign of their own. Most of the RNI fans of the Dutch service from the past will remember it as the "Hou em in de Lucht" — "Keep It on the Air" — campaign of 1973. Live performances onboard the MEBO II by the complete deejay team were held during a whole week. All over Holland promotion teams were going around to bring in members for the Radio Noordzee Foundation. It was an expensive campaign aimed to get at least 100.000 members.
 
6 This was, however, not the first plan of this sort. Let's go back to June 1972. When the new RNI studio buildings were officially opened, the Dutch press, including myself as editor of Pirate Radio News, was invited to visit RNI's new studio's and to celebrate the event. The new studio's were housed in a huge historical building De Hofstede at Naarden, near Bussum. The same building, by the way, also housed the publishing house Strengholt, the company behind the Dutch Service, music publisher Reditune and Muziek Parade. Karel Prior Productions also had their offices there. Karel started his own programme "Prioriteiten" each Sunday morning on the station, although he also worked for its competitors AVRO and NOS which later on did broadcast his programme 'Cosa Nostra'.
7 The previous studio of Radio Noordzee at the Frans Halslaan in Hilversum (1971)

RNI's studio's, by the way, were previously at the Frans Halslaan on the second floor of an old house in Hilversum. With cheap equipment Joost den Draayer, Jan van Veen, Peter Holland and Ferry Maat made their programmes there, trying to get some money from advertisers to buy them new equipment and hire bigger studio's. In the new studio's not only the deejays from the Dutch service did make their shows but also production work was done there for the English service. Jingle production also took place. Jingles were produced by several persons including Ren Groot, who later started his own company Top Format, which nowadays is Europe's second largest jingle production company.

8 But, more important for the moment, what was said during the celebration? I recently looked up some of my old notes of the speech of John de Mol Sr. As director of the Dutch service, he voiced the station's plans for the future:
  "As you can see we're a happy family today. Not only are we opening our new studio's, but the advertisers also have found their way to our station. Last year, when we started, we of course had to go through a difficult period. But now we can rightfully claim we have a well-run station with a proper income. Maybe you have heard that the NOS department 'Kijk en Luisteronderzoek' [rating research] has published some figures, claiming that at the moment our station draws only 200.000 listeners to its programmes. Well, I can say to you that our own research figures, which will be published soon, show otherwise. And I can already tell you that we reach 4,5 million listeners, which is considerably more than the what the NOS figures indicate. At our office, moreover, we have a blueprint for plans to go for a legal licence in the near future. Today, June 15th 1972, is not only the opening day for our studio's, but also the date on which we present the first news of our plans to go ashore. Soon you will hear more about this."
9 To this he added:
  "I really don't want to talk a lot about our own research, but I'm questioning the NOS results. Whoever did the research must have been a silly person. Luckily we will have time enough to complete our plans for a legal station to the full 100 percent. I don't think the Dutch government is willing to sign the Convention of Strasbourg soon, so no action can be expected against our ship during the next twelve months. I still think the campaign from Veronica to get a licence stinks. Everybody in Holland knows, who was behind the bomb attack: the Verweij brothers. I don't believe many Dutchmen will give money to an organisation which has brought our ship in real problems last month. No, it's sheer soap and nothing else."
10 The Radio Noordzee Seven Club promotion team in action (1973)

After the opening of the studio's the news about the plans, however, went silent and no one did hear a thing about it until the start of the 'Hou em in de Lucht Aktie' a year later. The action didn't prove successful. After three weeks of heavy promotion the RNI owners realized that there was no future for the project on land. Only 30.000 Dutch people did apply as members of the Foundation. What De Mol couldn't think of at that time became reality. Radio Noordzee never got a licence to go ashore. Veronica did and started legal programming as Veronica Omroep Organisatie during December 1975.

A jingle for the "Hou'm in de Lucht" campaign (1973)
11 A few years later the Veronica organisation had the biggest listening and viewing figures and even became the largest broadcasting company in Holland with more than 1 million members. But that now has also become part of history, as the organisation went for a commercial licence in the late 1980s. That, however, is another chapter in Holland's media history, that has to be told at another time and another place. Also, after almost thirty years, we can conclude that a part of RNI's history still is unknown as one question remains unanswered. Not one of the 30.000 people, who applied to become a member of the Foundation, got anything back of their money. Where did it all go?
   
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