FRS History 1980-1989
The story of the Free Radio Service Holland begins in the second half of the 1970s. Peter Verbruggen takes up the story:
Peter got more and more interested in the Sunday morning short wavescene and this eventually resulted in presenting the Dutch service on E.M.R. That was in August 1979, the same period in which the first idea of starting his own SW station was born. The beginning of FRS-Holland's life was at the same time the end of an era in which several well-known stations put their mark on the SW scene of the late 1970s. Stations such as ABC Europe, Viking, Corsair, ABC England, FRBC and E.M.R. had already closed down or would soon be closing down. They had dominated the 48 metre band for several years and disappeared from the scene for various reasons. The German heydays had already passed with the closure of stations such as Radio Valentine, Channel 292, Radio Partisan and Radio Gloria. It was the beginning of a new era with new stations and new ideas: Atlanta Radio, Britain Radio Int., Weekend Music Radio, ABC Radio, Radio Mercury and FRS-Holland took over here the others left. Peter V. about his first step into the world of SW radio:
“Well, I thought to myself: why not give it a try yourself? You don't have to be inferior to many of the other station's output. Very important in those early days was the support given by E.M.R.'s Barry Stephens. I guess he was some kind of master for me. He learned me a lot about SW, not only in technical respect but also programme wise. First thing I did was to find a suitable name. And so the FREE RADIO SERVICE HOLLAND was born.”
The first transmitter and a failed test
Work on the very first FRS transmitter started in September 1979 when Barry Stephens visited Peter Verbruggen in the Netherlands. Bobby Speed- FRS' engineer- completed the little 10W transmitter and it was on February 24th 1980 when a first test on SW was planned. The frequency was 6265 kHz within the 48 mb and the test was a complete failure... Everything which could go wrong went wrong: the transmitter couldn't be tuned up properly, the aerial wasn't hanging higher than a clothesline and to make matters even worse Peter and his mate Bobby Speed got an unwanted visit in the person of the mayor of their town who went for a walk with his dog. All transmitting gear was lying on the ground and he approached them, looked on the ground and mumbled: 'a radio-electric installation.' Then he turned his back and disappeared together with his dog. Bobby Speed shouted "pack up and go" and both Peter and Bobby Speed never left the location faster than on that memorable Sunday. What a start! In the following months work continued to set up a serious SW radio station.
Main problem was that the home built transmitter didn't work at all. There was a close contact with Barry Stephens and this resulted in the problem being solved: it appeared there was a wrong wire-connection to the PA 807 valve thus making it impossible to put out any reasonable signal. It was quite logical Bobby Speed didn't discover what the problem was because that wrong connection was also part of the circuit diagram of the transmitter! On Sunday June 22nd 1980 a second attempt was made between 11.00- 13.30 CET on 6265 kHz. Two letters were received, not to wonder when knowing the actual SWR was 1:5 meaning only very little power was radiated by the aerial. Wrongdoer was the coax feeder. A new aerial was constructed and on Sunday July 27th the first successful FRS-Holland test was carried out between 11.00- 12.30 CET on 6250 although 6265 was announced in the show. No less than 23 letters were received from 5 European countries. The success of this test was a kind of stimulant for the people behind FRS-H. and immediately preparations started to commence regular monthly transmissions. It was indespensable to use a reliable Post Office Box. Through Barry S. PV got in touch with Michael Burden who run the in those days famous Kent Place address. To this day former FRS deejays still know that address like the back of their hand: Kent Place/ Norwell/ Newark/ Notts in England. Another important task was to find broadcasting staff . PV was already involved in a local radio station called ABC Music Radio and that made things rather easy. Fred van Es and Frankie Fanatic were asked. In a local pub PV met Joop ter Zee and within a few days Joop joined the FRS-H. team. Bobby Speed wasalready involved because of his technical skills and via the local hospital radio Chris was approached. The same applies to Barry S. of E.M.R. and he completed the deejay line-up. Things were treated very seriously : Joop & Peter recorded the very first FRS jingle-package, qsl cards and stickers were printed and most important: a broadcasting-schedule was put together. There were a number of reasons for starting up FRS-Holland: offering people in countries like East and West-Germany, where the radio-situation wasn't particularly satisfactory, a real alternative was one reason. FRS felt it was the right moment for a Dutch station on SW among all the British ones and wanted to maintain the people's interest in free radio. The main idea however was to bring entertainment to the audience based on a wide variety of musical and informative programmes. Only music was in the opinion of the FRS people not enough to satisfy the SW audience because most of the listeners are real radio-enthusiasts interested in more than only playing top 40 records. For that reason a DX and Mailbag Show were included in the programming.
Sunday August 31st 1980 will always be remembered as the first official FRS-Holland broadcasting day. Already two weeks earlier- on Sunday August 17th- Barry Stephens announced it in his popular DX-Spot on E.M.R.
At 09.45 CET the 10W rig was switched on and 4 hours and 15 minutes later FRS-H. closed down. It was decided that 6250 would become the fixed 48 mb frequency, not only a good choice but also an easy one because in those days none of the colleague hobby pirates used 6250 on a regular basis. As already previously mentioned: FRSH provided an International flavour of music and information, presented in English, German and Dutch. The introduction of a German Service was an appropriate choice because in the course of the years it became more than obvious that the majority of FRS listeners was to be found in East and West Germany although the UK also brought a good number of listeners. The following programme schedule was to be heard in the first months of FRS-Holland's broadcasting life:
A good signal was noted in large areas resulting in more than 40 letters from a total of 7 European countries. What a start !This gave a good indication of the transmitting range. The 4th Sunday of each month was chosen as FRS-Holland's fixed broadcasting day. More 4th Sun broadcasts were to be heard Sept. 28th, Oct. 26th and Nov. 23rd of 1980. Oct. 19th was a sad day because of the raid on FRS-Holland's sister-station E.M.R. Here's a programme-extract of ‘FRS Goes DX’ on Sunday October 26th in which the news about E.M.R.'s raid is read out ....
Move to third Sunday, 41 mb test
In October 1980 FRS improved the service to its listeners with the introduction of a written info package containing no less than 6 pages, supplying them with all kind of valuable info about the station. As a direct result of E.M.R. 's raid, the programme schedule was slightly adjusted as from November onwards: FRS started with E.M.R. relays between 09.30- 10.30 CET. At the same time a move was made to the 3rd Sunday. That same month FRS headed the cover of the German Köln-Dusseldorfer Kurzwelle Club (KDKC). In those days a very popular magazine among German (free radio) DXers. A good promotion! The month of December brought another very important change. Peter V. was visited by Barry Stephens and together with Bobby Speed, the FRS transmitter engineer, they tested two new 10W rigs which were sent from the UK the previous month. December 14th 1980 it was the first time that two transmitters were running in parallel from the secret FRS location. Frequencies which were used were 6250 & 7325 kHz in the 41 metre band. The FRS crew felt it would be much more efficient to add a second frequency in the 41 mb. If one frequency would suffer from interference, there was always the possibility for the listeners to switch to the second one. Besides: the 41 mb provided better possibilities for medium and long distance reception, for example in Scandinavia, France and the northern part of the UK and Scotland. The decision to use a second frequency proved to be a bull’s eye: satisfactory reception reports were received for the 14th December test broadcast, much to the satisfaction of the FRS team.
USA test, XMas
Barry Stephens informed the FRS people how to achieve the best possible modulation quality. A louder modulation was possible by using the loudspeaker output of the cassette recorder instead of using the normal DIN output. A simple adjustment which indeed was very effective. Sunday December 21st saw the last 1980 transmission being the first one on a 3rd Sunday. The original transmitter was used on 6250 while one of the new rigs was putting out the 41 mb signal. Both transmitters were built-in in a wooden trunk which was supplied by Frankie Fanatic. More about this legendary trunk later on in this story. Programmes that morning commenced at 07.30 GMT when an one hour test to the U.S.A. was carried out. Problems with one of the car-batteries meant that the test sadly had to be cancelled within 15 minutes. Hurriedly a new car-battery had to be fetched. At 08.30 GMT E.M.R. was relayed for 60 minutes followed by a 4 hour special FRS X-Mas broadcast, the start of a long time annual tradition.
1980 had almost passed and already more than 220 letters were received from as many as 13 countries, an overwhelming response and a good basis for a fresh start in 1981. Chris' German Service was very popular due to his inimitable way of presentation. Just before the end of the year a letter from Michael Burden was received in which he announced the closure of the Kent Place address. A set-back because it was a well-known address among DXers & moreover a very reliable one. Luckily Michael was so kind to give a helping hand and FRS-Holland was allowed to use the address until a new one was found. That would be some 5 months later. All in all 1980 meant a very promising start for FRS-Holland.