Radio Luxembourg once was a very famous radio station in Europe because of its programming of popular music at a time when most other stations seemed keen on avoiding this musical style. Will this station come back in the air? While visiting London Hans Knot posed this question to Eric Wiltshir and asked him about the plans, the programming and the new big names of the future Radio Luxembourg.
It was in June 1999 that the first rumours spread around about plans to bring the once famous Radio Luxembourg — "the Station of the Stars" — back on the air again. Way before World War II the station started airing English language programmes with as its main target the listeners in Great Britain. Especially in the late fifties, sixties and seventies the English programmes on the Great 208, the frequency (1440 kHz) on which the station transmitted, were very popular in Western and Northern Europe. In 1989 the medium wave transmissions were stopped and the people who had been the stars of the station throughout the years came together one more time to say their farewells. Who doesn't remember the big personality deejays from those days like Tony Prince, Bob Stewart, Peter Powell, Mike Holis, Kid Jensen, Benny Brown, Stuart and Ollie Henry, Barry Aldiss, Kenny Everett, Paul Kaye, Roger Day, Simon Dee and many more: "They filled our evenings on 208 so colourful." Programmes were presented from studios in the Grand Duchy but also from a studio in 38 Hertford Street in London. After the closedown of the "208" the station could be heard for a few years by satellite in English and German but due to a lack of advertising the English service closed down forever in 1991. The German programmes, offering a good alternative for those who liked the Golden Oldies format, were the only ones to stay on the air.
"This is Radio Luxembourg: tune in." The "gong" tune of Radio Luxembourg, used in the fourties by Geoffrey Everill
During Christmas 1998, on one of the many radio channels receivable by satellite, there was a series of memory programmes to the Great 208, and one of the organisers, Eric Wiltsher, made the comment that it would be a good idea to bring the station back some day. Of course none of the listeners thought he was serious at that moment. We were only reminiscing at that point. Eric, who at that time was working for Merlin Network and responsible for the programming of that station, had also no idea that the Great 208 would ever return to the airwaves again. However, in March 1999 he was suddenly approached by people from CLT/Ufa, the owners of all the RTL (Radio Television Luxembourg) activities in Europe. They wanted to talk with him about his ideas of a possibility to bring back the station of the stars.
Reason enough to visit Eric in London, early December. He promised to pick me up around 18.30 near Victoria station but due to the heavy traffic it became an hour later. We should go to the new studio building near Tottenham Bridge Road but we didn't get there. Reason was we took a long drive through London to hear how the signal of the test transmissions, which were on the air for only a few hours, sounded in the Capital. I must say I was not disappointed at all. Remembering those old days there was always a fading signal, but this time, using the new equipment in Luxembourg, it sounded really good. With a power of 300 kW the tests could be heard in the main parts of Europe. When the station will be officially on the air, probably somewhere at the end of January 2000, the power will be around 600 kW. Wiltsher told me that CLT/Ufa uses a lot of monitoring stations all over Europe to get reception reports. Mainly Ham-operators all over Europe send in their reports and from Italy to Norway and from Scotland to Poland the signal is well received. At the moment during some evening hours the signal of RTL Oldies station is relayed on the 1440 kHz. The main reason of these test programmes is to show potential sponsors how the signal beams into Britain.
It was early August that the first official press report went to a small group of journalists and radio people about the possibility of a return and the response was very big. Eric: "As a result we got so many e-mails, phone calls and letters that it seemed to us that it was in all the main newspapers. Within weeks the amount of sites on the Internet mentioning the name Radio Luxembourg, doubled from 800 to more than 1,600. Our mail service has extremely expanded and now more than 3,000 people get our infonews. Also we have been in contact with several stations, mainly local ones, which want to relay a part of our evening and night programming. There is a serious contact with a Scottish station, transmitting religious style programmes for a few hours on a daily base, who wants to relay our signal for 16 hours a day." It seems that this station is Isle FM.
It lasted a long time until a second message was sent out about the project and so there had to be a reason for this delay. Eric: "We had several long talks with the people from CLT/Ufa, including with their topman André Schultz. Talks were held in Luxembourg as well as in London and the three partners in the new project came to each other in a reasonable way. It seems we were quickly on the same line. It was decided that CLT/Ufa would deliver all the equipment as well as the transmitter facilities. We will use the transmitter for the 208 (1440 kHz), the analogue Astra transponder 13 (7.38/7.56 gHz) as well as a digital channel on satellite. One of the proposals done during those meetings was to use Internet for transmissions. The purpose being, of course, is reaching more listeners, especially outside Europe."
"This is Radio Luxembourg, your station of the stars." Tune of the programme Music Scene '66 from the sixties
Eric continues: "From that point on we've worked for weeks to get all the paperwork ready. A very thick contract was made up by our solicitors and those of CLT/Ufa, and the contract tells us what we have to do, can do, and are forbidden to do in the future. On August 10th a licence was requested in a letter to the government of Luxembourg and we hoped that it would only take some weeks. But it took a long time. There were general elections taking place and so the request for a licence was not answered before the election. When we saw that the best party had won the election we made some pressure and finally we got the licence, with personal signatures from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Communications. So from November 4th we knew for sure we could go ahead to make a dream come true: a relaunch of the Great 208."
The three parties who are working together to relaunch the station, are: CLT/Ufa, Davric Productions (Wiltsher) and Square Mile. The last one is a company in the financial world of London which is headed by the former pop singer Gary Wright. They think the station can be on the air for two years without playing a commercial. However this will not mean they won't play any commercial. Eric: "The real costs for putting the station on the air now are far less of those they had to pay in the past. The need for extensive facilities has lessened and the use of satellite channels as well as Internet has made things cheaper than before. We think that the costs of a week of transmission in 2000 are as high as formerly those for a day of programming. We also don't have so much overhead as before. We don't have a big team in Luxembourg. Only a small part of the programmes will come from the Grand Duchy. Next we have a team of deejays who will present their programmes from the studio near Tower Bridge Street, and Shaun Tilley will do his programmes from his house studio. Also, the Emperor Rosko will do his programmes from Los Angeles. In the past the deejays were paid with a monthly wage and CLT had to pay for their living in Luxembourg. Now they will be paid on basis of the hours they've actually presented. Next to the more well known deejays we will have a team of young people who will present the mainstream of the daytime programmes on a freelance base."
On the question who will be in the team Eric told us: "Mike Knight still lives in Luxembourg and he will be responsible for the programmes which will come from Luxembourg. Next to that a team of deejays have promised to do one or more programmes a week. Dave Cash, formerly on the offshore station Radio London and at Capital Radio in London and other stations, will present the weekly Oldies Countdown; Shaun Tilley, formerly on Caroline and Luxembourg, will come back as well as Mike Hollis. We have a contract with the Emperor Rosko, who was on 208 before and also worked for the French language service in the sixties. He will present a daily programme during weekdays, which will be repeated twice. Jodie Scott, who began her career on the offshore Radio Caroline and was heard before in the eighties on Luxembourg, will be in the team. Once again another former Caroline broadcaster can be heard on the station, Johnny Reece. Also, during travelling through Essex I heard a new voice during summer, when Caroline had an RSL in Southend on Sea. Her name is Sarah Miles and next to her work on Caroline satellite and Liberty Radio in London she will also present a programma on Luxembourg. I think, with this chance, she will become a big star in the next century. Finally I want to mention Lee Williams, who will bring his weekly Country Music Show, which he did before on other stations."
"As soon as the station is on the air, five times a week there will be deliverance of commercials and promo's by Mpac (Internet) to all involved in the programming site of the station. We will bring back the original format of the station, with the current hits and a lot of golden oldies. We will try to bring those songs which aren't played on other stations and we love to bring back a lot of soul and disco music from the past. Some new music genres, like techno and hip hop, will not be heard on the Great 208. Also we will bring back the slogans which could be heard in the past." In the past Luxembourg was also famous for their weekly road shows: "We think that the road shows are not fit for the future. We will bring the station to the listeners by organising the Club 208, we will transmit from certain nightclubs during the Saturday evening, and we try to aim this programme to the listeners above the age of 25."
Signature tune of the hits programme Top Twenty Show, presented from 1959 till 1966 by Barry Alldis
Of course the station has to play commercials. Wiltsher told us that some sponsors already have been signed up: "We have one who has already bought airtime for 50.000 Pounds during the first month on the air. A clothing company has already signed up, as well as several others. We have had talks with a Governmental Company which will bring a programme with business news. Something which will not be heard is advertising for cigarettes as this is forbidden in Europe from January 1st. We also have decided not to air commercials for 06 numbers as well as adult channels. Sex has nothing to do with serious radio. We could make a lot of money out of that but we decided not to air them. Also we will not sell any CDs on the radio, as other stations do. Of course we will promote some RTL-material but not in high amount. We like to find an organisation for promotional activities in each country. You can think of buttons, T-shirts, caps and other promotional stuff." It all sounds really promising. Let's wait if Eric and his people will succeed in bringing back Radio Luxembourg so we could enjoy it as much as we did before: The Station of the Stars, Radio Luxembourg, The Great 208.
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