Radio Luxembourg

The English language service of Radio Luxembourg began in 1933 as one of the earliest commercial radio stations broadcasting to the UK and Ireland. It was an important forerunner of pirate radio and modern commercial radio in the United Kingdom. It was an effective way to advertise products by circumventing British legislation which until 1973 gave the BBC a monopoly of radio broadcasting on UK territory and prohibited all forms of advertising over the domestic radio spectrum.
It boasted the most powerful privately owned transmitter in the world (1,300 kW broadcasting on medium wave). In the late 1930s, and again in the 1950s and 1960s, it captured very large audiences in Britain and Ireland with its programmes of popular entertainment.

In 1922, the British government awarded a monopoly broadcasting licence to a single British Broadcasting Company, whose shares were owned by British and American electrical companies. Although in theory the BBC could have sold sponsored airtime, it attempted to gain its revenue by selling its own brand of licensed radio receivers manufactured by the member companies of the BBC. This arrangement lasted until 1927, when the broadcasting licence of the original BBC was allowed to expire. The assets of the former commercial company were then sold to a new non-commercial British Broadcasting Corporation, which operated under a UK charter from the Crown.

With no possibility of commercial broadcasting available from inside the UK, a former British Royal Air Force captain and entrepreneur (and from 1935 Conservative Party member of parliament) named Leonard F. Plugge set up his own International Broadcasting Company. The IBC began leasing time on transmitters in continental Europe and then reselling it as sponsored English-language programming aimed at audiences in Britain and Ireland. Because Plugge successfully demonstrated that State monopolies such as that of the BBC could be broken, other parties became attracted to the idea of creating a new commercial radio station specifically for this purpose.

See: www.radioluxembourg.co.uk


 

Formation of Radio Luxembourg

The Junglinster Transmitter

In the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg during 1924, François Anen built a 100-watt transmitter to broadcast military music concerts and plays to listeners in Luxembourg. Because the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is centrally located in western Europe, it was an ideal location for transmitters aimed at reaching audiences in many nations, including the United Kingdom. Anen became inspired by the activities of Captain Plugge, who was using transmitters licensed in other countries to broadcast English-language radio programmes to Britain and Ireland, where commercial broadcasting had not been licensed by the British or Irish governments. On 11 May 1929, he brought together a group of mainly French entrepreneurs and formed the Luxembourg Society for Radio Studies (La Société Luxembourgeoise d’Etudes Radiophoniques) as a pressure group to force the Luxembourg government to issue them a commercial broadcasting licence.

On 19 December 1929, the government of Luxembourg passed a law awarding a monopoly licence to operate a commercial radio broadcasting franchise from the Grand Duchy.
On 29 December, this licence was awarded to the Society, which in turn created the Luxembourg Broadcasting Company (Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Radiodiffusion) to be identified on the air as Radio Luxembourg.

In May 1932, Radio Luxembourg began high powered test transmissions aimed directly at Britain and Ireland (which proved, inadvertently, to be the first radio modification of the ionosphere). The reaction of the British government was hostile, as the long-wave band used for these tests radiated a signal far superior to anything previously received from outside the country.
The British government accused Radio Luxembourg of “pirating” the various wavelengths it was testing. The station had planned to commence regular broadcasts on 4 June 1933, but the complaints caused Radio Luxembourg to keep shifting its wavelength.
On 1 January 1934, a new international agreement, the “Lucerne Convention (European Wavelength Plan)” (which the Luxembourg government refused to sign), came into effect, and shortly afterwards Radio Luxembourg started a regular schedule of English-language radio transmissions from 8:15 am until midnight on Sundays, and at various times during the rest of the week.

Radio Luxembourg began broadcasting in both the French and English languages on a new 200 kW transmitter on 230 kHz (1304 metres) in the long-wave band. The English service was leased to Radio Publicity (London) Ltd in the United Kingdom. In December 1933, they transferred 23-year-old Stephen Williams from directing their English-language programmes transmitted over Radio Paris to become the first manager of the English language service of Radio Luxembourg.


 

First Commercial Era (1933 – 1939)

The Ovaltineys

In the years from 1933 to 1939, the English language service of Radio Luxembourg gained a large audience in Britain, Ireland and many other European countries with sponsored programming aired from noon until midnight on Sundays and at various times during the rest of the week. 11% of Britons listened to it during the week, preferring Luxembourg’s light music and variety programmes to the BBC. Up to half of Britons did so before 10:15 am on weekdays when the BBC did not broadcast, and on weekends when it followed the “Reith Sunday” schedule of only serious and religious programmes.

The BBC and successive British governments continued to oppose the competition, citing Radio Luxembourg’s use of an unauthorized frequency.
As the station could not use General Post Office telephone lines to broadcast from London, many English-language programmes were recorded there and flown to Luxembourg.

Despite the opposition, by 1938, many British companies advertised on Radio Luxembourg and fellow European broadcaster Radio Normandy.
The stations thus exposed millions of Britons and British companies to commercial broadcasting, which contributed to the creation of the commercial ITV during the 1950s.

Programmes

These were some of the shows heard in 1935 as listed in the 3 May edition of Radio Pictorial:

Sundays: 12:00 Noon – Musical Voyage – with Bobbie Comber and Reginald Purdell and sponsored by Halls Wine.
12:15 pm – Do-Do Broadcasts – sponsored medication programme “for asthma suffers”.
12:30 pm – Golden Hour of Music – the Irish Concert recorded programme
1:00 pm – Zam-Buk Broadcast – the latest dance music sponsored by a medication “for cuts, burns and bruises.”
1:30 pm – Littlewoods Broadcast – sponsored by a football pools coupon company in Liverpool.
2:00 pm – English service ends until 2:30 pm.
2:30 pm – Vernon’s All-Star Variety Concert – gramophone records presented by a football pools company.
5:30 pm – League of Ovaltineys – presented by the makers of Ovaltine. (The anthem of this children’s show was still being celebrated by fan sites in 2007.
Another version of the Ovaltineys programming began again after World War II on Radio Luxembourg over its 208 wavelength.)

Presenters

Stephen Williams – the first station manager, who resumed his duties with the English service when the station resumed commercial English language transmissions after World War II
Gerald Carnes
Charles Maxwell (1936)
John Bewley
S.P. Ogden-Smith (Chief Announcer in 1938)


 

World War II

On 21 September 1939, the Luxembourg government closed the radio station down to protect the neutrality of the country during World War II.
The station and its transmitters were taken over by the invading German forces in 1940, and were used for English-language propaganda broadcasts by William Joyce (“Lord Haw-Haw”) and others.
When Allied forces took over Luxembourg in September 1944, the station was transferred to US Army control and used for black propaganda purposes for the remainder of the war.

Second Commercial Era (1946 – 1956)

When the Allied armed forces vacated the Radio Luxembourg premises at the close of World War II, the English-language service attempted to restart transmissions to the United Kingdom as a full-time commercial radio station using the European long-wave band, once more under the management of Stephen Williams.

During the war Geoffrey Everitt served his last few months in Luxembourg and this led to his employment by Stephen Williams on 21 June 1946. Williams soon left the station and Everitt found himself in charge of a small on-air staff of three women and one man. Because of the dearth of advertising available in English, the early morning shows on long wave quickly disappeared and made way for French-language programmes. More contractions followed and this led to cuts in more of the morning, afternoon and evening programming in English.

By the start of the 1950s, sponsorship of the English service had begun to grow once more, and while initially some of the English-language programmes continued via Radio Luxembourg I on long wave, a second but less powerful wavelength was opened up as Radio Luxembourg II on medium wave. The English programmes of Radio Luxembourg moved on July 2, 1951 from long wave to the medium wave frequency of 208 metres (1439 kHz). The controversy over the station’s broadcasting frequencies had been resolved with the 1948 Copenhagen plan (which this time the Luxembourg government did sign), which allocated the country two high-power frequencies, one on long wave and the other on medium wave. Eventually all English programming moved to medium wave, with long wave being dedicated to French programmes, while German, Dutch and other languages used medium wave during the daytime.

In 1955, Hal Lewis who was better known at Hawaiian radio station KPOA as J. Akuhead Pupule (and later became the morning DJ at KGMB in Honolulu, Hawaii during 1965), offered to buy the morning time from 6 am to 9 am for his own show on 208, but his offer was rejected. The 208 signal could be received satisfactorily in the United Kingdom only after dark, when it was able to strike the ionosphere and bounce back to the British Isles.

It was this second wavelength that eventually became dedicated to English-language programming after 6 pm under the slogan of “208 – Your station of the stars”, referring to the entertainers heard on the station.

Programmes

These were some of the shows heard in March 1952 as reported in the 208 programme schedule:

Sundays: 6:15 pm – Ovaltineys’ Concert Party – a version of the popular show that was originally broadcast before World War II over the original Radio Luxembourg long-wave station.
9:15 pm – Leslie Welch – “the famous Memory Man”.
10:45 pm – The Answer Man – “anything you want to know” (Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays).
11.00 PM – Top Twenty – introduced by Pete Murray.
Mondays: 7:15 pm – The Adventures of Dan Dare, “Pilot of the future” – fifteen minutes serial heard Monday to Friday and featuring the voice of Noel Johnson who also played the part of Dick Barton on BBC radio. This serial began on 2 July 1951 and ran for five years.
9:30 pm – Perry Mason, serial heard from Monday to Friday.
Tuesdays: 10:55 pm – Soccer of Leicester – odds announcement.
Wednesdays: 8:30 pm – The Story of Dr. Kildare – every Wednesday starring Lew Ayres, produced in Hollywood by MGM.
11:00 pm – Back to the Bible – religious broadcast.
Thursdays: 8:00 pm – Music From the Ballet.
8:30 pm – Movie Magazine with Wilfrid Thomas.
11:00 pm – Old Fashioned Revival Hour – religion (Charles E. Fuller)
Fridays: 8:00 pm – Scottish Requests with Peter Madren.
11:00 pm The Voice of Prophecy – Adventists’ Union religious programme.
Saturdays: 7:00 pm – Chance of a Lifetime – quiz programme with Dick Emery.
10:00 pm – At Two-O-Eight – dance music with Russ Morgan Orchestra compered by Pete Murray.
11:00 pm – Bringing Christ to the Nations – The Lutheran Hour.
Radio Luxembourg also served as a refuge for stars and shows previously heard on the BBC but with whom the BBC had fallen out for one reason or another.
Thus, when in 1951 the BBC wanted Vera Lynn, one of its biggest singing stars, to perform more upbeat material than her traditional repertoire, she refused, and signed up to record 42 shows for Luxembourg instead – which, she said, also paid better. Likewise, the comedy series Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh, terminated by the BBC after six years, transferred to Radio Luxembourg for a period in 1950–51 before the BBC relented and revived the show.

On 7 April 1956, Billboard magazine reported that “WINS Radio made a deal with Harry Alan Towers of the Towers of London, for deejay Alan Freed to do a special taped 1/2 hour rock and roll record show on Saturday nights over Radio Luxembourg, which is beamed to most of the countries of Free Europe.”

Presenters

Resident announcers in Luxembourg at different times:

Stephen Williams – the English service manager before World War II, resumed his duties when commercial broadcasting began again.
Ursula Brennan – Patricia Giles – Beatrice Feltes – John De Denghy – record presenters who all left the station with Stephen Williams around 1948.
Geoffrey Everitt – joined Radio Luxembourg on 21 June 1946 after being demobbed from British Army in Luxembourg. He was hired by Stephen Williams and when Williams returned to the UK, Everitt took over his job. In later years he became the London-based boss of the entire English-language operation.
Teddy Johnson – joined in May 1948 and he and Everitt ran the English service in Luxembourg by themselves until 1950 due to the lack of advertising income. Then Johnson returned to England to develop his singing career and later returned to join Pete Murray.
John Drexler – joined after Johnson departed but Drexler left after one month.
Roger Moffat; Richard Beynon; Warren Mitchell – all joined with Drexler and left shortly after Drexler.
Pete Murray – joined with Drexler, Beynon and Mitchell; remained in Luxembourg until 1956.
Peter Madren – joined Everitt, Johnson and Murray in May 1951.


 

1954 – 1963

Expo 58 in Brussels

Following the merger of the English-language service of Radio Luxembourg I with the new English-language service of Radio Luxembourg II on 208 metres medium wave, the station came to be known as Radio Luxembourg. A British company, Radio Luxembourg (London) Ltd, controlled the programme content and sold the advertising time.

The station sign-on time at dusk varied between summer and winter to allow maximum benefit to be gained from a skywave propagation at night that covered the British Isles, although reception was stronger in northern England. By restricting the service to night-time, the sales representatives were able to sell most of the available airtime both for spot commercials and for sponsored programmes. One spot commercial that became burned into the minds of every Radio Luxembourg listener was for Horace Batchelor’s “Infra-Draw Method” of winning money on football pools, turning the previously obscure Bristol suburb of “Keynsham, spelt K-E-Y-N-S-H-A-M” into a household name throughout the country.

Programmes were partly live disc-jockey presentations by the team of “resident announcers” from the studios in Luxembourg City, partly shows pre-recorded in the company’s UK studios at 38 Hertford Street, London W1. This was not made clear to listeners, who were allowed to form the incorrect impression that all the presenters were sitting in the Grand Duchy or, alternatively, that they were indeed in London but performing live via a hypothetical landline to Luxembourg – a landline which in reality the British government was never prepared to permit until well into the 1980s.

A strange conspiracy of silence operated throughout this period between sworn enemies Radio Luxembourg and the BBC, each of which never mentioned the existence of the other, although many famous names appeared on both, often almost simultaneously.

Programmes

During this period, and particularly from about 1960, the station’s output came to be more explicitly targeted at the growing teenage market, with increasing emphasis on a pop music format. Drama productions, comedy, variety and sports programming disappeared altogether. By about 1963, almost the station’s entire output was based around the playing of music on discs. This must have greatly reduced its production costs. It also reflected the fact that the mainstream evening audience for middle-aged “family entertainment” had by this time largely migrated to television.

These were some of the shows heard in December 1956, as listed in the 208 programme schedule for that month:

Sundays: 6:00 pm – Butlin’s Beaver Club – with “Uncle” Eric Winstone.
8:30 pm – Take Your Pick – with Michael Miles.
9:30 pm – This I Believe – the Edward R. Murrow show presented by Sir Basil Bartlett.
Mondays: 9:30 pm – Candid Microphone – starring listeners caught in the act.
11:15 pm – Frank and Ernest – religion from Dawn Bible Students Association.
11:30 pm – The World Tomorrow – with Herbert W. Armstrong, later heard on Tuesdays as well replacing Oral Roberts.
Tuesdays: 9:00 pm – Lucky Number – with Keith Fordyce.
10:00 pm – The Capitol Show – Mel Thompson presenting Capitol Records’ new releases.
Wednesdays: 8:00 pm – Double Your Money – Hughie Green.
10:00 pm – Rockin’ To Dreamland – with Keith Fordyce playing the latest British and American hit records.
11:30 pm – The Hour of Decision – religion with Billy Graham.
Thursdays: 8:30 pm – Lucky Couple – with David Jacobs recorded on location in the UK.
9:30 pm – Irish Requests.
10:45 pm – Italy Sings – presented by the Italian State Tourist Office.
Fridays: 10:30 pm – Record Hop – Benny Lee presents the latest Columbia and Parlophone records.
Saturdays: 7:00 pm – Amateur Football – results of the matches played today.
8:00 pm – Jamboree – “120 minutes of exciting, non-stop, action-packed radio … “Teenage Jury” and at approximately 9:30: Alan Freed, the remarkable American disc-jockey whose programmes in the States cause excitement to rise to a fever pitch, presents “Rock ‘n’ roll”.”
10.00 PM – Tonight – “Peter Haigh presents news, music and personalities recorded at the Embassy Club in London.”
10:30 pm – Philips’ Fanfare – records from this label presented by Guy Standeven.

Presenters
The following were some of the resident announcers in Luxembourg during this period:

Barry Alldis – joined the team in 1956, becoming Chief Announcer and staying until 1966, when he left to work for BBC radio. He returned to Luxembourg in 1975 and remained on the staff until his death in 1982.
Chris Denning
Colin Hamilton
Ted King
Johnny Moran
Don Moss 1957–60
Don Wardell (became Chief Announcer after Barry Alldis left in 1966)
The following disc-jockeys recorded shows in the London studios at 38 Hertford Street. Many of these programmes were sponsored by record companies: Peter Aldersley, Sam Costa, Alan Dell, Keith Fordyce, Alan Freeman, David Gell, Tony Hall, Jack Jackson, David Jacobs, Brian Matthew, Don Moss, Pete Murray, Ray Orchard, Jimmy Savile, Shaw Taylor, Jimmy Young, and Muriel Young.


 

1964 – 1967

Radio Luxembourg had enjoyed its own commercial radio monopoly of English-language programming heard in the UK but, in March 1964, Radio Caroline began daytime commercial radio transmissions to southern England from a ship anchored less than four miles off the coast (the station later acquired a second ship, and moved the first to the Irish Sea). In Caroline’s primary reception areas, her groundwave signal was strong and unaffected during daylight hours by fading and interference. Following the success of this first offshore station, others soon followed, mostly broadcasting from locations off the Essex coast or the Thames Estuary. These transmissions were eventually extended around the clock and featured many different broadcasting formats, though pop music on discs predominated.

As a result of this competition, Radio Luxembourg gradually abandoned pre-recorded sponsored programmes for a more flexible continuity. Its new format featured mainly spot advertising within record programmes presented live by resident disc jockeys in Luxembourg, some of them recruited from the offshore stations.

In August 1967, the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act passed into law, and forced all but the two Caroline stations off the air by eliminating their means of selling commercial advertising in the UK. As well as closing down offshore “pirate radio”, the British government instructed the BBC to create its own non-commercial replacement, named Radio 1. Radio 1 commenced transmissions at the end of September 1967. While Luxembourg almost had the UK commercial airwaves to itself, it was still restricted to evening and night hours.

Presenters

Kenny Everett on Luxembourg

The presenters included the following:

Pete Brady, Radio London Big – L 266
Tony Brandon, Radio London Big – L 266
Paul Burnett, Radio 270
Dave Cash, Radio London Big – L 266
Simon Dee, Radio Caroline, BBC TV
Noel Edmonds BBC
Kenny Everett, Radio London Big – L 266, BBC
Stuart Grundy
Tommy Vance, Radio London Big – L 266, Radio Caroline South
Keith Skues, British Forces Network, Radio Caroline 199, Radio London Big – L 266
Johnny Walker, Swinging Radio England, Radio Caroline South
All ex Radio London DJs did work later for BBC Radio One 247 m


 

1968 – 1988

By the middle of 1968, even the two Caroline offshore stations had left the air and, while other attempts were made to restart offshore radio commercial broadcasts aimed at the UK in the early 1970s, Luxembourg did not face commercial competition, only a growing increase in audience share by more BBC services. For a time in the late 1960s Luxembourg advertised itself as “The O.I.S. – the Only Independent Station on the Air”. But in 1973, the BBC radio monopoly was finally ended by new legislation introducing Independent Local Radio, funded by the sale of advertising time.

In 1983, Radio Luxembourg marked its fiftieth anniversary as a station, but the British commercial radio stations kept whittling away the 208 audience and advertising, while a brief replay of competition for audiences began to emerge from off the British coastline with new radio ship transmissions.

Programmes

These were shows heard in 1982 as reported in the Radio Luxembourg Research Report (page 20) of 208 listeners. The Survey was conducted during the last quarter of 1982 by British Market Research Bureau for Radio Luxembourg (London) Ltd. By the time the survey appeared, the programme line-up below had changed in various ways, including the untimely death of Barry Alldis in the middle of the survey:

Sundays: 7:00 pm – Haunted Studio – with Stuart and Ollie Henry. 9:00 pm – Star Chart and Top 30 UK Singles – with Tony Prince. 11:00 pm – Sunday’s Top 20’s – with Barry Alldis and Rob Jones. 1:00 am – Earthlink – with Benny Brown.
Mondays: 6:45 pm – Radio Outreach with John Knight; Battle of the Giants; Top 30 Airplay; Top 30 Disco – with Rob Jones and Benny Brown. 1:00 am – Earthlink – with Barry Alldis.
Tuesdays: 6:45 pm – 208 Editorial with Rodney Collins; Beatle Hour; Daily Mirror Rock and Pop Club; Top 30 UK; Top 30 Albums – with Rob Jones and Barry Alldis. 9:00 pm – Top 30 UK; Top 30 Albums – with Benny Brown. 1:00 am – Earthlink – with Mike Hollis.
Wednesdays: 7:00 pm – Gold and Games – with Rob Jones and Benny Brown. 9:00 pm – American Top 30 – with Bob Stewart. 11:00 pm – Top 30 Easy Listening – with Benny Brown. 1:00 am – Earthlink – with Mike Hollis.
Thursdays: 7:00 pm – The Number Ones; Top of the Pops – with Bob Stewart and Mike Hollis. 9:00 pm – Top 30 Futurist – with Rob Jones. 11:00 pm – Discothèque – with Benny Brown. Midnight – Spotlight On … – with Stuart Henry. 1:00 am – Earthlink – with Stuart and Ollie Henry.
Fridays: 7:00 pm – The Record Journal – with Stuart and Ollie Henry. 9:00 pm – Top 30 Disco – with Tony Prince. 11:00 pm – Top 30 Airplay (repeat) – with Bob Stewart. 1:00 am – Earthlink – with Barry Alldis.
Saturdays: 6:45 pm – 208 Editorial – with Rodney Collins. 7:00 pm – Street Heat; Top 30 Rockshow – with Stuart and Ollie Henry. 11:00 pm – Big L Marlboro Top 20 Country – with Bob Stewart. Midnight – Midnight Memories – with Barry Alldis. 1:00 am – Earthlink; Love Songs – with Mike Hollis.

Some other presenters in the 1970s and 1980s:

Dave Christian
Neil Fox
Peter Powell
Tony Prince, Radio Caroline North
Tony Blewitt
David Lee Stone (former Laser 558 DJ)
Bob Stewart, Radio Caroline North
Rob Jones
Mike Hollis
Mike Read
Emperor Rosko, Radio Caroline South
Mark Wesley, Radio 390, RNI
Paul Burnett, Radio 270
David “Kid” Jensen, BBC Radio One
Stuart Henry; Radio Scotland 242
Ollie Henry (wife of Stuart Henry)
Rodney Collins
Keith Fordyce
Alton Andrews
During the 1980s one of the station’s slogans was “Planet earth’s biggest commercial radio station”.


 

1989 – 1992

In 1989, hoping to build a new audience, Luxembourg in English once more returned with a daytime schedule for the first time since the early 1950s, but this time it was aimed at Scandinavian audiences using a 24-hour stereo transponder on the Astra 1A satellite to supplement the 208 analogue night-time service.

The end eventually came for 208 at 3 am GMT on 30 December 1991 (the station did return to the analogue 208/1440 for one night a year later when the station finally closed its digital service), with the last record played on AM being Van Morrison’s “In the Days Before Rock and Roll” (chosen mainly because of its mention of the radio station), before “At the End of the Day” (one of their closedown songs) was played heading into the top of the hour (even though DJ Jeff Graham had said that they were going to play the original closedown tune, it was in fact the original song, but a later version the station used as the original was not located, “It’s Time To Say Goodnight”).
The station then went satellite and shortwave (15350 kHz) only, with the first songs played being “When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring)” by Deacon Blue and “Always” by Atlantic Starr.

The satellite and shortwave service continued until midnight on 30 December 1992. The closedown night was relayed on various stations, including the old 208 wavelength. The Van Morrison song was the next-to-last record that night, followed by Marion Montgomery’s “Maybe the morning”.

The 208 service from that moment on carried an oldies service in German, identifying itself as “RTL Radio – Der Oldiesender”.

Presenters in the 90s:

Chris Moyles under the professional name Chris Holmes
Jonathan Miles
Mike Hollis
Bob Stewart, ex DJ Radio Caroline North
Mark Page
Peter Antony
Wendy Lloyd
Tony Adams
Shaun Tilley, ex DJ Radio Caroline South ?
Jeff Graham
Steve Joy
Sandy Beech
David Bozzato
Jodie Scott (ex Caroline 558 DJ. Canadian, on Caroline as Judy Murphy)
Nik Martin
Jessie Brandon, ex DJ Laser 558

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