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volume 2
april 1999

Rare pictures from radio's past


  Scandinavian Offshore Radio: Radio Mercur (1)
by Hans Knot
  The history of commercial offshore radio started way back in 1958 right off the Scandinavian coast, outside Copenhagen, between Denmark and Sweden. In the seven years between 1958 and 1965 no less than four Scandinavian offshore stations were on air: Radio Mercur, the short-lived Danish Commercial Radio, Skånes Radio Mercur, later name-changed to Radio Syd and Radio Nord. Presenting some pictures of Radio Mercur, Hans Knot here looks back at this early episode in the history of offshore radio. Radio Mercur was on the air from July 11th 1958 till July 31st 1962 (frequencies: 88 and 89 MHz) and used three different transmission ships: Cheeta I, Cheeta II and the Lucky Star. Skånes Rdio Mercur/Radio Syd continued broadcasting until 1966. The ships were anchored in a position outside Copenhagen, between Denmark and Sweden. Owners and shareholders were: Ib Fogh (75%) and Peer Jansen (25%); the advertising agency was named Mercur Reklame, Roemersgade 9, Copenhagen.
1 In the summer of 1958 Ib Fogh and Peer Jansen, planning to start a commercial radio station, bought a small German stone fishing boat (107 BRT), the Cheeta I. The ship was taken to a small port on the east coast of Zeeland and furnished with the necessary equipment. On June 11th 1958 the Cheeta left port to anchor south east of Copenhagen, but was later moved to the south of the island of Ven in The Sound. This unique picture shows the Cheeta as a fishing boat.
2 Test transmissions started on 93.12 mHz FM with an ERP of about 20 kW using a directional antenna, that was kept pointing in the right direction from the control room on board. The ship was registered in Panama and officially owned by the advertising agency Mercur Reklame, which itself was registered in Liechtenstein. The picture shows the Cheeta at the start of her broadcasting career.
3 Sound engineer on board of the Cheeta I.
4 As Danish law only did forbid broadcasting from land, studios were built in a house in a high class suburb of Copenhagen. This picture shows Radio Mercur's impressive looking studio complex at Copenhagen from the outside. As the next picture shows the inside of the building was less conspicuous.
5 Radio Mercur land based studio on the inside
6 The tiny Cheeta I seen from the backside
7 Radio Mercur caused some consternation on the political scene. The Danish postal authorities ordered the station to cease transmission. Being in international waters the station, however, could and did continue its transmissions. Here are three Mercur cartoons from the Danish papers at that time (1958), commenting on the political discussions.
  Radio Mercur even harboured its own house orchestra, directed by Ib Glindemann. Here they pose before the Mercur villa in Gentofte.
11 Meanwhile, the Danish government leaned back, expecting that the station would not attract sufficient advertisers and soon would collapse. The station, however, became increasingly popular with the Danish public. And, after Alex Thompson, a director of a banking firm, joined the company, advertisers became more interested in this new form of advertising.
  This photo shows the testing of measurement equipment on board of the Cheeta I.
12 During the night of July 17th-18th, 1958, the Cheeta lost her anchor and antenna and drifted towards the Swedish coast. The ship ran aground just outside Malmö. The salvage vessel Karl brought the Cheeta off and took her into Linnhamn for inspection and repairs. The ship returned to her former position. The frequency was changed to 89.55 mHz and power was gradually increased. On August 31st, 1958 an experimental programme in Swedish was aired under the name of Skaanes Radio Mercur. In December 1958 the Swedish Skaanes Radio Mercur, owned by Nils-Eric Svensson, started more permanent transmissions by renting hours from the Danish station. The Skaanes Radio Mercur studio was located in the city of Landskrona. This picture shows the Cheeta after the repairs and a painting job, at the height of her broadcasting career.
  Photographs are from the Freewave Media Magazine Archive and Hans Knot
  Look here for more pictures of the Scandinavian Offshore Radio Stations
  1999 © Soundscapes