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volume 5
june 2002

The broadcast revolution of CNBC


  Paul Hollingdale and Tineke de Nooij look back at CNBC
by Jan van Heeren
  In the period 1960-191 CNBC — the Commercial Neutral Broadcasting Company — did broadcast its English programmes to the British Isles from Radio Veronica's first ship, the MV Borkum Riff in the North Sea. In a previous essay Jan van Heeren recalled the history of this offshore station, after he had successfully located John Michael, one of former deejays, and checked his story with another former deejay, Doug Stanley. He now has found the last one of the three deejays working for CNBC, Paul Hollingdale, and lets him tell his story of the offshore station. Tineke van Nooij, who at that time was one the young deejays of Dutch Radio Veronica, adds some praise in a few memories.
1 It now has been proven beyond any doubt: all former employees of CNBC are nice people. When, on my quest for information about CNBC, I succeeded in contacting Paul Hollingdale, he almost instantly sent me his story about the station by fax. Just like John Michael, who started my renewed interest in the English-speaking sister station of Dutch Radio Veronica, Hollingdale couldn't remember Bob Fletcher, who in those days presumably — at least according to many books on the history of offshore radio — had worked for CNBC. I also approached Tineke de Nooij, former deejay of Radio Veronica, and asked her about her memories of CNBC. She already had been interviewed extensively before about this subject and some of her stories can be found in the books of Hans Knot about Radio Veronica. The CNBC episode had a short time span and now lies about forty years in the past. De Nooij, however, yet came up with three small but important memories. Below we present the stories of Hollingdale and De Nooij, but first we will tell something more about CNBC and Hollingdale.
2 Paul Hollingdale (left) and Robbie Dale

CNBC — The Commercial Neutral Broadcasting Company Ltd. presenting itself as "your friendly host off the Dutch coast — was set up in the late summer of 1960 by Doug Stanley, a Canadian deejay, who in the late fifties, worked for the British Forces Network in Cologne Germany. It was there he met Hollingdale who joined BFN in the autumn of 1958 having previously worked as a free-lance with the station whilst serving as a sergeant with the Royal Air Force. Stanley left BFN in 1959, and Hollingdale continued to work in Cologne where he was quickly promoted and presented the prestige Sunday morning show "Two Way Family Favourites", a request programme which was heard in Britain, with an audience of 12 million listeners. Hollingdale returned to the UK in 1960 where he intended to start his professional career with the BBC. There was not too many opportunities at the time, and by chance he met up with Stanley again who told him that there might be a chance of some work with a projected radio station which was being set up by some people in Hilversum, Holland. Hollingdale tells us how the British did meet the Dutch:

3 "The station would be known as CNBC and would be part of Radio Veronica which would be operated by three Dutch brothers, Dirk, Luke [Bull] and Jaap Verweij. These three men ran a small factory at the Herenstraat in Hilversum where they had made their fortune selling textiles in the post-war years with a particular emphasis on nylon stockings. With the money they made they decided to invest in radio, as they had heard that a Swedish pirate radio service had created a lot of interest when it was broadcasting from international waters in Scandinavia. An office was set up in their textile factory and a makeshift studio was built using egg cartons for sound-proofing. In London, Dirk Verweij, the senior brother, met with Stanley and it was agreed that an English service would operate in the morning period from 6 am to 2 pm as an experiment."
4 "The remainder of the days broadcasting output would be in Dutch and broadcast under the name of Radio Veronica. Among the Dutch team working in the office, as a teenager was Tineke, later to become one of Holland's top TV talk show presenters. In London an office was set up at Royalty House in Dean Street for CNBC. Test transmissions began in the autumn of 1960 and the programmes were taped in Holland with the tapes shipped out daily to the Borkum Riff, the pirate ship where the transmitter was housed. The English language deejays, except for myself, were Doug Stanley and John Michael, another Canadian who had been living in London."
5 Hollingdale, who by that time was presenting his first series "The Six O'Clock Record Show", a sponsored show for Philips, on Radio Luxembourg, travelled with Michael to Hilversum where he shared a flat in the Waldecklaan, owned by Mrs. Abeness [Eemnes?], a friend of the Verweij's. Hollingdale and Michael went to the studio each day to record the morning shows. CNBC broadcast from the autumn 1960 to the early summer 1961, when there were transmitter problems aboard the Borkum Riff. What happened next, Hollingdale remembers:
6 "A then recently retired BBC engineer, named Thomas was contracted to go aboard the ship to try and sort out the problems. Repairs were carried out but it soon became obvious that a new transmitter and other equipment would be needed. The Verweij brothers knew of a Dutch engineer called Luke N., who lived in Rotterdam with his wife. He was sent to London to negotiate the purchase of the new transmitter and ancillary equipment. Unfortunately, Mr. N. proved untrustworthy as he started to spend the money that the Verweij brothers had given him on fast living and woman. Stanley realized that the days of CNBC were numbered and he began to discuss the possibility of setting up a radio station in the Channel Islands, which was outside British jurisdiction. He contacted the Dame of Sark — Sark being a small island within the Channel Islands group. Doug had been advised that he could easily get an AM-transmitter from America, but negotiations with the Dame fell through as she wasn't sure she wanted a radio station on her island."
7 "During 1961, CNBC was the subject of much discussion in the UK, and it was covered in many newspaper and magazine articles. It must be remembered, that apart from Radio Luxembourg, which was broadcast from the Grand Duchy, the BBC still had the monopoly in radio and TV and there were no plans to introduce commercial radio into the UK. Questions about CNBC were raised in the House Of Commons, by Labour M.P.'s who were totally against commercial radio, and the Conservative Government were asked what could be done about the pirate ship. The Lord Privy Seal, Edward Heath, was instructed to contact the Dutch Government about trying to stop the station, but the Dutch radio authorities said that as the ship was outside territorial waters they could do nothing. CNBC was eventually closed in late summer 1961, but Radio Veronica continued and became part of radio and television history in Holland. It would take another three years before another attempt at setting up a commercial radio service from a pirate radio ship would emerge in the form of Radio Caroline. This station would be followed by others including Radio London and an "easy listening" station, which was set up on some disused forts in the Thames Estuary."
8 By this time Paul Hollingdale had worked on Radio Luxembourg for three years and he then joined in 1967 the BBC in preparation for the launch of Radio 2. For further information on Hollingdale and his career and current activities, please see the website of TV-UK. Stanley eventually emigrated to Adelaide Australia where he started a new career as a film-maker. Hollingdale met up with him again at St Catherine's Dock in London in the late 1980s.
9 Tineke de Nooij in the studio of Radio Veronica

Next to Paul Hollingdale I approached Tineke de Nooij and asked her if, looking with the eyes of the Dutch deejays, she could tell something more about the CNBC deejays. "Ah," said she, "I think I told it all before, but in case you think it's important, I can add the following to it all." And she gave me three short but interesting memories:

"It's funny, that I, being a fan of Radio Luxembourg and deejay jockey Jack Jackson — that's the way I wanted to be — suddenly saw this way of making radio coming much closer by, because of the arrival the British deejays. They showed the station's backers — that is the uncles Verweij — that making radio programmes had to be done in a completely new and different way. All this resulted, after the CNBC-people left, in an internal revolution of some sorts at Veronica. Most people who had been there from the start, left the station: Frans Termaat, Ellen van Eck and — canvasser and programme-leader — Nico de Jong. The old-fashioned way of presenting radio now was finished. Pop programmes had to be made in a much more easy style of presentation. Room was made for Joost den Draayer, Tineke de Nooij — I suddenly had to make 24 hour of radio broadcasting a week — Rob Out, Jan van Veen, Eddy Becker, Kees van Zijtveld and many others. In the early years these were the youngsters. Only in 1965, with the start of the top 40, it all got the right shape."

10 But that's quite another story. For now let's get back to the British and Canadian deejays. I'd like to share three small, but important moments of the past.
  Memory 1. I was sitting next to Doug Stanley. We always worked with a technician, but he himself adjusted all the equipment. Very carefully he listened to his intros, timed his jingles — What? Jingles? We hardly did have any of the kind, let alone a jingle with your name. He sang the intro of the hit a few times to himself, searched for a station call in the right key: "Sea Of Love". I will never forget it. I listened to him and I forgot to breathe. That was the way I wanted to do it too!
  Memory 2. One morning I entered the kitchen of the small building on the Zeedijk and could not open the door, because there were stretchers were placed all in front of it. The gentlemen had been working late and long and decided to go under canvas there. You had to step over the bottles.
  Memory 3 — this one is from several years later. There goes the intro of 22 seconds, which for the first time you have recorded yourself, it's well timed and comes out without any flaw, and exactly at the same time Robbie Dale enters the studio, and stays there listening on the other side of the glass window and then with a big smile he's signalling OK with his thumb up, smiling approvingly ...
  Thanks to Paul de Haan for furnishing the photographs and to Wim van de Water for translating the memories of Tineke de Nooij. The complete story of CNBC has been told by Hans Knot in his book Herinneringen aan Radio Veronica, 1959-1964 (Amsterdam: Stichting Media Communicatie, 1995). Another essay, published in this journal in May 2002, tells the story of CNBC as seen by John Michael and Doug Stanley. See: Jan van Heeren, Remembering CNBC Radio.
  2002 © Soundscapes