NORTH SEA: The Warring Pirates

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Aboard Radio Northsea, a ship that broadcasts pop music and news to Western Europe and Britain from just outside the Dutch three-mile territorial limit, Disc Jockey Alan West was playing a tune titled, all too appropriately. Melting Pot. Suddenly a tremendous blast shook the vessel. "I thought another ship had hit us in the fog," said West, but when he rushed on deck he saw three men in wetsuits heading toward Scheveningen beach in a motor-powered rubber boat. West sped back to his microphone and shouted: "May Day, May Day, this is Radio Northsea. We are on fire. A bomb hit us."

Alarmed listeners in Britain as well as The Netherlands deluged radio and TV stations, newspapers and the police with phone calls. "There is a war on," said one panicky listener. Actually, the war was but a skirmish between Radio Northsea and a competing pirate radio ship, Veronica.

Bland and Boring. Since 1960 Veronica, an old German lightship owned by the Worldwide Trading Co. of Liechtenstein, has beamed advertisements, contemporary pop music and news to Dutchmen bored with the conservative blandness of The Netherlands' three state-subsidized radio stations. Veronica became so popular that the Dutch government refused to ratify the 1965 Strasbourg convention for fear of losing votes. That agreement bars pirate stations from the territorial waters of the European nations that have signed it, and makes it illegal to supply programs or ads to such radio ships.

Veronica enjoyed its unchallenged position until 1967, when Dutch radio and TV introduced commercials. In the same year a lively pop music radio channel called Hilversum Three was put into operation by the official broadcasting associations. To add to Veronica's troubles, a second pirate ship. Radio Northsea, appeared off the Dutch coast in 1970. At first Radio Northsea was content to broadcast in English,

German and Spanish. Veronica's directors loaned the station $260,000 to persuade it, as one of them said, "to keep its big Dutch mouth shut." As collateral, Radio Northsea handed over the bill of sale for its ship to Veronica and allowed itself to be staffed with a Dutch crew picked by Veronica.

God Bless. Early this year Nortlisea's Swiss owners decided to open their Dutch mouth. They tried to repay their loan, but Veronica refused the money. The Swiss thereupon armed themselves with pistols, sailed to their ship in a tugboat, overpowered Veronica's men, took them ashore and replaced them with their own crew. They hired one of Veronica's top D.J.s, Joost de Draaijer (Johnnie-Turn-Them-On), and began broadcasting 24 hours a day in Dutch (v. 1 8 hours for Veronica).

Growing desperate, some of Veronica's officials decided on sabotage. They hoped to shut down Northsea's transmitter, disable the ship and force it into a Dutch harbor where it could be confiscated for its still unpaid debt.

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