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volume 4
may 2001

Caroline, don't change the format!


  An open letter to the Caroline organisation
by Martin van der Ven
  In the past four decades Radio Caroline has been on and off the air. On March 31st 2001 there came an end to yet another part of the history of the world's most famous radio station, as it stopped its transmissions via the analogue system on the Astra Satellite. The organisation, however, promised to return on May 1st 2001. A recent press report revealed this return will imply a change of format. Not everybody is content with this idea — as this open letter by Dr. Martin van der Ven from Meppen in Germany shows.
1 Caroline's press report April 27th. During the last few years on several pages in the online journal Soundscapes, listeners from all around Western Europe have been writing on the same subject: Radio Caroline. On March 31st 2001 there came an end at another part of Caroline's history, as the station stopped its transmissions via the analogue system on the Astra Satellite. Reason was that the channel, they used, was an audio channel on one of the transponders used by Flechtech in Maidstone. As this company had decided to go digital from May 1st, no cheap audio signal wasn't available anymore for the Caroline organisation. March 31st was for many anoraks, the addicted Caroline supporters, again a sad day. But the station promised to come back as soon as possible. At the end of April the Caroline organization did send the following press report:
  "Radio Caroline re-launches on Tuesday 1st May 2001 on a new Platform and with a new music philosophy. Tests will commence during the afternoon of Monday 30th April 2001. The broadcasts are available at 19.2 East via the Astra digital platform. Tuning details are as follows: 11.876 gHz, Horizontal polarity, Symbol Rate 27.500 FEC 3/4. Please remember, this is not 28.2 East, the home of the Sky Digital broadcasts. Instead you will need either a free to air digital receiver and dish pointing at 19.2 East or — if you are in the UK — a second dish connected to your Sky Digital receiver via a switch. In parallel with the re-positioning Bob Lawrence will take over the role of Programme Controller. In conjunction with this Mark Stafford will be relieved of his music planning responsibilities and David Foster will cease to have a role in the scheduling of presenters etcetera."
  "The re-launch of Radio Caroline sees a re-positioning of the stations music policy. Over the past two years the station has broadcast a predominately adult rock service on 19.2 East analogue. The station will now move away from that format. The new format will be based on the format used on Caroline in the 70's up till the 90's. In particular it will strive to recreate the musical mix from an era when Radio Caroline extensively played such artists as Earth Wind and Fire, The O'Jays, Barry White and Stevie Wonder. The station will however still play some rock music but this will be significantly reduced from the format of the previous two years."
  "This move is seen as a means to increase the current level of female listeners to the station. Many of whom are frightened away by the "Loud, Leather, Harley's" culture surrounding rock music. Key changes from the old music format will be:
  • The introduction of a significant amount of black music into the format. Presenters will now be required to play two black music artists per hour.
  • The dropping of all references to rock. In order ensure that presenters follow this format rigidly the station will be introducing a system which was used previously in the Mi Amigo days. This will categorise music into Format Boxes and all presenters will be required to rigidly follow this format. This will ensure that for instance, songs by the two black artists are played during each hour."
  "Another additional element is the increased promotion of the LA: Loving Awareness concept on air. Presenters will be encouraged to promote the concept to listeners and a minimum of one promotion for LA per hour will be required. There are also a number of changes to the station's presenter line-up. For instance Sundays see Barry James and Graham L. Hall presenting alternative weeks on the afternoon show, Pat Edison joining the team for a four-hour morning show, the new Caroline South Evening Service and Mark Stafford returning to the evening show (but with a reduction from four to three hours). Monday evenings see the new home for Sieste's show and Wednesday see the return of Gil Legune and Johnny Reece. Thursdays and Fridays continue to feature their relevant specialist shows. Finally, Saturday sees the addition of Bob Lawrence in place of Graham L. Hall on the evening spot, The Berlin Service opening the station up from 8 to 9 UK time and David Foster continuing in the afternoon (but with a reduced show). The main programme output will, for the moment, continue to be based around the 6 to 12pm weekdays and 8am to 12pm weekends format. Additional hours will be filled with a non-stop music service."
  Was signed: Mark Stafford for the Caroline organisation.
2 The case of Nigel Harris. These plans to change the format caused some consternation among Caroline fans, whose anger already had been aroused at the start of April, when Nigel Harris wrote on his website that the format would have to change and declared that some deejays were downright amateurs. His prime targets were David Foster, responsible for the schedule, and Mark Stafford. The case was aggravated by his use of the words "fuck off". Mark felt terribly annoyed and withdrew his 2,000 minidiscs with music from the EKR-period. Nigel Harris wrote the following text:
  "And we must get away from this stupid idea that Caroline is a "Rock" station, because it is not. The word "rock" scares people away, save for the bearded hippy types. EKR was a "rock" station, and it failed. For many reasons, but the word "rock" in the name did not help. Caroline is, and should continue to be, a broad based album station, as it used to be. The lines must be drawn alongside the album tag, so we do not end up being just another station doing the same as all the others ..."
  "Meanwhile, you may have heard that there is movement on the forward situation for Caroline. Also, there are those in the organization that, as usual, do not like the way Caroline is moving forward. Let me say to them, that Peter Moore knows exactly what he is doing, without a doubt! He has the experience to know what angles to take, what corners to turn, and what fields to cross! I will also add, that the disgrunted brigade have only been with Caroline for a short while ... and now, this is the time to sort the men out from the boys. And that will be done. It's been an interesting few years, it has to be said. We have welcomed old friends back to the Caroline Family, like Buzby and Dave Owen. We have had our fair share of internal struggles, but, funnily enough, always with the same few people!"
  "I can say that within a very short while, we will have news on the future. Your patience will be rewarded. Thank you for waiting. Some have said that we have acted like "headless chickens", but it has not been easy. Having said all that, it could go either way, so we must be vigilant. I have said so many times to certain people, "lose the bad vibes!" But they continue to be a pain!!! If you think you know who you are, **** off!! Let us get on with it. Take with a pinch of salt things you read on unofficial sites, as they maybe slanted in other directions. These maybe innocent mistakes, but watch out for official news from those that know! ..."
  Nigel Harris
3 Open letter to the Caroline organisation. After Harris' digital attack many people reacted on Caroline's new mailing list and Martin van der Ven wrote the next lines as an open letter to the Caroline organisation:
  "I'm a quite worried about the current format discussions that are going on on some websites and (as a reaction) in the Caroline's new mailing list. Being a Caroline listener from the very beginning in the sixties I know of course these endless and fruitless format discussions. But the station never had such a long and successful period of continuing programmes with the same presenters and the same music format as during the last two years. I know from many discussions with my German radio friends that nearly all the supporters particularly enjoyed the satellite programmes even more than sometimes in former offshore periods."
  "One obvious reason for the format discussion are the survey results (i.e. 92% of Caroline's listeners being male). But offshore radio has always been vastly dominated by male presenters, technicians, stuff and most of all listeners and supporters. Men seem to be more interested in radio, satellite and computer techniques. Go to the Dutch radio days and count the female visitors ... I strongly believe that the survey database should be used to gain new advertisers, but not to commence a destructive dispute on Caroline's format. Don't talk too much about L.A. in your shows, but please practice it instead."
  "In my opinion Radio Caroline had the best format ever during the last two years, a unique mixture of rock and album music mixed with the odd pop record. Please don't change that format as it is loved by thousands of listeners in the whole of Europe! I can't see anyone of the current 183 mailing list members wishing a new format! Most of the satellite listeners have tuned in just because of the great music and not because of the name "Caroline" — and that is different from the past offshore days: by the way I personally disliked "Caroline 558" with its Peter Philips format, but kept on listening because it was coming from a boat ..."
  "I love today's Caroline because I can listen to such different programmes like Tony Allan's fantastic close-down hours, Chris Beach' Rock Show, Johnny Lewis' highly entertaining show, Barry James' sixties and seventies specials, the unique German Service, Andy Tillison's Dance On A Vulcano, Tom Anderson's Overdrive, Graham L. Hall's country and blues programme and last but not least Mark Stafford's Lost Classic Zone and Rock Flashback — which for me is the highlight of each weekend's programmes!"
  "There's no other station with such an excellent and variable selection of good music programmes. Each presenter on Caroline has his/her own individual note and style. So you can't compare Sietse Brouwer with David Foster, Buzby with Johnny Lewis, Mark Stafford with Graham L. Hall, Nigel Harris with Tony Christian or Stuart Cameron with Jerry Wright. But that's it, the unique variety is the reason why Caroline has a growing number of supporters not only in the UK but also in the Netherlands and Germany."
  "So management and deejays please concentrate on much more important tasks than such a format dispute. As on 19 East there won't be that many British listeners left, Caroline has to gain thousands of new listeners on the continent and to get on another satellite position — may it be 28 degrees or World Space — as soon as possible. Otherwise the station won't have a future — but may still discuss its format. Please search for a compromise that could be like this: let Caroline stay what it is, don't change the current format! If you like, experiment a little with dance, pop, soul, funk, black, folk or whatever music you may prefer — but not too much ... There are enough programmes on Radio Caroline bringing you all those dearly loved sounds."
  Best wishes,
  Dr. Martin van der Ven
  Other contributions on today's Caroline(s) are: Howard Rose (1998), A thought for August 14th; Rob Olthof, Hans Knot, Ruud Poeze and Bob Noakes (February 1999), Caroline in Nederland (Dutch); Chris Edwards (August 1999), Ten years ago to the day; Geoff Baldwin (Juli 2000), The many faces of Radio Caroline; Hans Knot (August 2000), Caroline Supporters Day; Paul de Haan and Sietse Brouwer (January 2001), Caroline versus Caroline (Dutch); Hans Knot (February 2001), Caroline en Astra (Dutch). You can subscribe to the Radio Caroline Mailing List on Yahoo! Groups' RadioCarolineMailinglist.
  2001 © Soundscapes