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volume 9
july 2006

Abie Nathan visits London and Crispian St. John boards the Peace Ship


  Remembering the Voice of Peace (10)
by Hans Knot
  Going back to 1976, Hans Knot continues our series on the off-shore radiostation Voice of Peace, while telling us more about Abie Nathan's visit to London and also opening up the diary of the late Howard G. Rose, a.k.a. Crispian St. John.
1 Left: Studio 1

A very important person. On the morning of April 27th 1976, London didn't seem any different to usual; no one knew that the city would soon be host to an exceptionally Very Important Person. In the afternoon an airliner touched down on Heathrow Airport, and one of the passengers was Abie Nathan. LBC, the Independent Local Radio station, was on the spot to interview Abie. Around twenty minutes past six in the evening the interview could be heard. Here a rundown of the comments Abie made during the interview:

  "We reach out to an area of more than 30 million of people; we get through most of Egypt and we have letters from the Sudan, Jordan, Damascus, the area of Lebanon, throughout Israel and Cyprus. We're 24 hours a day on the air and we broadcast music all the time. At special hours we have special music that really talks against the war and violence and promotes the cause of Peace. Most of the music is Western; most of the deejays speak English, a lot of them come from this country.
  "There are a lot of volunteers from Australia, from New Zealand, from the United States, from French, from Holland, from everywhere. They come for a period of three months. We have special programmes in Hebrew and Arabic. I've just come from Guatemala where the Voice of Peace contributed sixty thousand dollars to help rebuilding one of the villages that was destroyed. The money comes from advertising on the station, for the first time we've gone full of swing, doing advertising and we're getting a lot of clients. We first tried to get contributions from people, but I guess the Middle East people have been too much on the receiving end and they just wouldn't support the project.
  Right: Rate cart in Hebrew (front) (click on the image for a larger view)

"So right now every month we contribute between 15 and 20 thousand dollars to various children's hospitals, both Arab and Jewish and in Cyprus; and all the rest of the money, whenever there is a need to help any worthwhile cause anywhere in the world, then there is The Voice of Peace. At the present time it's only the advertisers from Israel that join us. We're trying to get through London some clients in the Arab world who sell products that are sold also in Egypt and in Israel. There are such companies, we're locating them. When you think of the Middle East you begin to ask yourself who has achieved anything really; the Governments, or Kissinger, or anybody. I feel we are achieving by the fact that we do not stop but we continue; that we succeed to draw people away from listening to the other stations. In the area that really most of the time talk of how righteous each one is. What we try to do is to bring the two sides together; we believe that we are on the way and our success can only be measured by the fact that we will not stop broadcasting. Right where we are there are hundreds of ships of the Americans and the Russians that carry a different type of a cargo. A ship such as ours, that reaches out to thirty million people and talks about hope and possibilities of getting together — I think we have the right to be out there. When all the other ships carrying those guns leave the area then maybe we will leave too."

2 Left: Rate cart in Hebrew (back) (click on the image for a larger view)

Crispian St. John's diary. Through the more than 20 years the VOP was on the air several deejays have written their diary and sent it off to Monitor Magazine so all the readers in Western Europe could read what happened in the Middle East on the only Offshore Radio Station which was anchored there. Thanks to the fact I've written several years for the Monitor Magazine I've got the permission to republish parts of these diary's, so after all these years a glance can be given how things were happening in some parts of the history. Let's see what the late Crispian St. John, a very experienced broadcaster, who had earlier worked for stations like Radio 199, Radio Atlantis and RNI, wrote down in September 1976. At that moment of writing Crispian was in England for a leave and he was programme director for the Voice of Peace. This is what he wrote at the time:

  "Tara Jeffries was out there when I got out. She was at United Biscuit Network; Alan King from UBN went over on holiday and stayed there for about a week, and he suggested she went out there for three months good training. The complete line-up at the moment is Gavin McCoy from Beacon Radio, Don Stevens of course, Phil Mitchell who's leaving in the next few days, James Ross and Tom Hardy. I came back and hired Phil and James; Gavin I heard had just left Beacon Radio, so I checked up on his ratings and sort of thing, and they seemed to match up with what I wanted. Finding staff nowadays is very, very difficult. The only people we want to hire at the moment are as far as possible experienced people. We basically say to them: "Look, you want to take three months off from ILR in this country? Then come out to us." They get a wage but that isn't that much. The fare there and back is still paid, and there's a flat now to live in which makes things a lot easier when you're on shore. The wages aren't fantastic but they're enough to go on shore for a week every month and enjoy theirself. Normal times, you're on for three weeks then off for a week; but yours truly? I've had one week off in nearly six months. I just had to stay on board, because every time I wanted to come off there was so much work to be done, it was very difficult.
  "I spent a lot of time with Abie; over the last few months I've been his right-hand man. The funny thing is, when I first got out there he was moaning all the time, about everything basically — he wanted this, he wanted that. In the end he just said to me: "Right Cris, it's your station, you run it." So I've been totally in control of programming these past few months, which has enabled me to do the proper jobs that needed to be done. It's a very difficult job to programme a station like that. In the Middle East it's a totally different market, the listeners like totally different things; but it's taught me quite a few good ideas. I feel a lot more confident now about programming stations over here. You realise that there's more than one kind of market to aim towards.
  Right: The VOP Rate Card (cover) (click on the image for a larger view)

"When I got out there, the station was playing all kinds of music for all kinds of people. But I went out there with the intention of saying "We're an adult music station, we'll play all hit records. Whether they're hit records of the past — good golden oldies — or brand new records by known artists, they must be tuneful; songs that taxi-drivers can hum along to." When we started that sort of policy with the music rather than playing unknown artists and unknown tunes, listening figures went up. We've increased advertising quite a lot, so we had something to show for it.

  I went over there and I did what I said I was going to do; to make the station more popular, properly programmed and to give it a good rating. There are various of things I still want to do but it will take maybe a year to do it. But I've done my job out there and I've achieved what I wanted to achieve. I think I've benefited out of it quite a lot. It's been great experience more than anything for me, another achievement; it's been a success, so that's the main thing.
  "Robin Banks and I looked for a short-wave transmitter. Bill wasn't too happy about it, his attitude was: "Well, I suppose we could shove one in the corner, it probably wouldn't take up much room." But the big killer is going to be the TV project. I'm totally against it. I kept saying to Abie "If you do that, you'll be off the air within days." Governments are frightened of TV. Okay, perhaps there's money available for it. But with all the problems involved with a TV service is it al worthwhile when it could be off the air within a week? If the TV thing comes off then I think it's finished. I think I've got that through to Abie, what could happen.
  "It's much too hot out there — about 28 to 33 centigrade — but luckily we've got air conditioning through the ship. The journey back really annoyed me, I had to go via Paris and there were so many mix-ups with the airline I got very uptight with them. They had this very laid-back attitude to the whole thing; it was very untypical of El Al. I arrived late Wednesday evening and it's been a very busy few days so far."
3 Left: Crispian St. John, Tony Britton and Carl Kingston

Some bad vibrations. As within each organisation also with this radio station there were not always the same pretty feelings about (former) colleagues as Crispian St. John ended this part of his diary with some remarks on one of the former deejays: "The station is totally disassociated with Keith Ashton, and has nothing to do with it. The station does not accept that tape he's selling because it's a sales tape that's available free of charge to all advertising agencies in London. They send it out to all potential advertisers to say: 'This is the Voice of Peace.' I'll say one thing for him; he can sell advertising for radio. But once he starts making money he always tends to want to go to the opposition and do the same thing. He's really weird!"

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