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volume 5
may 2002

Getting the sack ...


  RNI Memories (19)
by Howard G.L. Rose
  Nowadays Howard G.L. Rose is editor of The Radio Magazine, the British Radio Industry Weekly and director of Goldcrest Broadcasting Limited. In his publications he not only brings the weekly news from the radio industry, but also his open and honest opinion on what's happening within that same industry. Now and then, with a smile, he looks back to the long time he worked for a series of offshore radio stations. Indeed, also for Rose, the offshore stations were the best learning schools he could get. As deejay Crispian St. John, he worked in the 1970s for offshore radio stations like Radio Northsea International (1971), Radio 199 and Radio Caroline (1972), Radio Atlantis (1973/1974), and The Voice of Peace for a longer period. Radio Caroline, where he used the deejay name Jay Jackson, followed close in the 1980s. In this contribution to our RNI Memories he once again goes back to the days he worked for Radio Northsea International.
1 Aboard the MEBO II: Eileen and Alan West, Crispian St. John and Carl Mitchell

In October 1971 my radio career came to a halt — at least for a few weeks. It seemed like the end of the world to me, especially as I had only ever wanted to "do radio" since I was twelve years of age! Dear Noel Edmunds, then a disc jockey on BBC Radio1, wrote an article in one of the music papers. He was claiming that the station I was working for, Radio North Sea International, was planning to establish an RNI Club which would "charge" listeners to join the club and from the income the station would pay the costs of operating.

2 Now how Noel Edmunds could consider this viable I didn't know then, and I don't know now. RNI broadcast with 100.000 Watts on medium wave, 1,000 Watts on FM and had also two 10,000-Watt short wave transmitters. The owners paid its deejays well and the ship had not one, but two complete crews. The transmitting vessel, MEBO II, was equipped better than any previous offshore station and the running costs could never have been met by listeners, no matter how many coughed up their ten bob a year! In fact, like any normal commercial radio station — on or offshore — revenue was derived from spot advertising, programme end feature sponsorship and ... well, here's a difference, a few pay-for-play' records!
3 As this was "radio" we came up with a "radio" answer. We responded to the article on the air-and it went out during my programme. Now I had a contract as a producer/presenter which clearly stated that I was responsible for the output of any programme that I presented. So when the response went beyond a simple "we are not planning that, Mr Edmunds ..." and began to get into comments about other matters, and a rather unfair comment was made about one Rodney Collins ... it was obvious that I was in for the "high jump".
4 I was duly instructed to get on the next tender to Scheveningen harbour and appear before the big boss, John de Mol Senior, at our Hilversum offices. So I did and he was angry with me. "What am I going to do with you?" I was sacked and as protest, my colleague and old mate Mel Bowden — known on the air as Mark Stuart — decided he too would leave. Little did I understand that had I "hung around", I could have been back on the air after a while standing in the corner with my hands on my head! However, I didn't run to an employment tribunes claiming unfair dismissal. Nor did those deejays who were simply dropped by the Programme Director over the years because their presentation was not up to scratch. If you were told to walk in radio ... you walked... and carried on until the next job came along. It usually did ...
5 So what the heck is going on these days when somebody's contract comes to an end and the programmer decides not to renew? What's all this running to tribunals claiming unfair dismissal? Is this not a creative business? Could an artist who suddenly stops getting commissions for new paintings now be expected to run whimpering to a tribune? No, if you are in radio and somebody decides to make a creative change, fine. If you have a contract end it says you'll get so much if you are not at the end of that contract then you get paid and run along ... don't you? For a long time we've heard about accountants and suits running radio ... we should now add to this the oiks who lurk behind the label employment tribunes ...
6 Don't get me wrong, by the way, I am not against people being protected from the law, but I am against programmers — in particular — not being able to programme what they — yes they — feel is best for their station. By the way, how did I remember that I was talking about working in radio when I was only twelve? Easy, I met up the other week with my old childhood buddy Arnold Bundell who I've not seen since the late sixties. He told my wife Patricia and me that I used to compile a weekly playlist for our — fictional — radio station. This happened at a time when we both used to spend every cent we got hold of on a selection of new releases — 45's used to cost 618 each-three for a pound — or ex-jukebox singles we used to buy for just a shilling!
  Take a look at the index of RNI Memories for other installments of this series.
  2002 © Soundscapes