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Legendary Radio Ship Returns to Air

Former home of ‘Radio Veronica’ takes to the airwaves legally

Norderney in Groningen harbor. Credit: Matrin van der Ven.

On June 1, the former radio ship Norderney took to the airwaves again, this time legally. The vessel that was the home of unlicensed offshore broadcaster “Radio Veronica” from 1964 to 1974 was used for a remote broadcast of “Café Martini,” the weekly Saturday 2:00-4:00 pm show broadcast by Regional Radio Noord. The Norderney is currently moored in the harbor of Groningen, Holland.

Norderney in Groningen harbor. Credit: Matrin van der Ven.

The June 1 broadcast was anchored by Café Martini host Eric Bats, and featured various guests such as media historian Hans Knot. Fittingly, it was a nostalgia-themed show that focused on Radio Veronica and other famous offshore stations.

The Norderney’s legal broadcast was a far cry from its glory days, when the ship was home to Radio Veronica in international waters off Scheveningen, Netherlands. As was the case with English radio ship Radio Caroline, Radio Veronica brought rock’n’roll music to teenagers deprived of such seditious music by conservative, state-run licensed broadcasters.

Café Martini host Eric Bats (left) talks with media historian Hans Knot (right). Credit: Matrin van der Ven.

It anchored in international waters, in a bid to avoid being shut down under Dutch broadcast law. Radio Veronica was actually launched on another ship in 1960. But it wasn’t until late 1964, when the station had moved to the Norderney, that program director Joost den Draaier programmed Top 40 on the unlicensed station, after studying the format while visiting the United States. (For the record, the steam-powered Norderney was built in 1949 as a fishing trawler.) That’s when the station really took off.

The Norderney’s heyday ended in 1974 after the Dutch parliament passed a law banning “offshore radio” — despite protests that grew as large as 150,000 people. After subsequently serving as a restaurant discotheque in various ports in Belgium and Holland, the Norderney came to Groningen this year where it is being renovated in a radio/TV production center — ensuring that this ship will remain a “radio-ship” for years to come.

— James Careless