Voice of Peace

The Voice of Peace (Hebrew: קול השלום - Kol Hashalom) was an offshore radio station that served the Middle East for 20 years from the former Dutch cargo vessel MV Peace (formally MV Cito), anchored off the coast of Tel Aviv. Founded by the late Abie Nathan and The Peace Ship Foundation, based in New York, the station broadcast almost continuously between May 1973 and November 1993.

History

The aim of the radio station, rumoured to have been set up with the financial help of ex-Beatle John Lennon, was to communicate a message of peaceful co-existence to the volatile Middle East. The station's output was a popular music format presented by a team of professional, mostly British, DJs broadcasting live from the ship.

The main on-air studio comprised a Gates Diplomat mixer, Technics SL-1200 turntables, Sony CD Players, and Gates NAB cartridge machines, on which the jingles and commercials were played out. The second studio, used for production, had a Gates turntable, reel to reel tape recorders and a NAB cartridge recording unit.

The Voice of Peace was Israel's first offshore pop station and the first commercially-funded private broadcast operation. The station’s use of catchy American PAMS, CPMG, JAM and TM Productions jingles, English speaking DJs and playlist of Top 40 hits attracted such big-name sponsors as TWA and Coca Cola. Initially, the station transmitted on 1539 AM and 100.0 FM.

The Original AM/Medium Wave transmitter was installed in New York prior to 1972 and comprised two 25,000 watt Collins units and a Collins combiner giving the station a potential 50 kW AM signal. The MW signal was broadcast from a centre-fed horizontal antenna slung between the fore and aft masts, a similar design to those used by Radio Veronica and, later, Laser 558. The station normally ran at 35 kW until late 1976 when it was decided to operate just one transmitter at a time, keeping the other in reserve. In 1985, Keith York's repair of the combiner enabled the two Collins units to be run together again, resulting in a large mailbag from Turkey, Crete, Greece and Cyprus, areas the Voice of Peace message hadn't reached for nine years. After these AM transmitters became unserviceable, a Canadian Nautel 10kw AM transmitter was installed.

The 20 kW FM transmitter installed in Israel was manufactured by Harris. This, combined with the antenna array, delivered around 80 kW ERP (Effective Radiated Power) of stereo to the region. A second 20kw Harris FM transmitter was also installed onboard the ship.

During the station's heyday, many notable personalities were involved in broadcasting on the station. John Lennon, The Carpenters, Johnny Mathis and many other celebrities recorded ‘messages of peace’ which were transmitted from the ship. John and Yoko Lennon signed hundreds of 'Peace' posters, held on the ship, which Abie Nathan could sell on to raise revenue for the station should times become hard. Thanks to Tavas Advertising, this situation never developed and due to their hard work, The Peace Ship was able to function into the early 1980s on Tavas-generated revenue pre-May 1976.

During the mid-1970s, the station boasted more than 20 million listeners stretching from the Middle East to southern Europe and Turkey due to the 4GGclarifyme format used by the professional broadcast team drawn from Britain and Australia and led by Keith Ashton. The VoP had several (mostly short lived) rival offshore radio (and even television) stations during its time on air. The most well known of these was the right wing station Arutz Sheva (Channel 7).

Many notable broadcasters spent time as presenters with The Voice of Peace, including Tony Allan, Ken Dickin, Phil Brice, Steve Gordon, Richard Wood, Don Stevens, Alan Roberts and Crispian St John who sailed through the Suez Canal onboard with Abie Nathan in early 1977, Gavin McCoy, Tony Lyman (as Vince Mould), Malcolm Barry, Guy Starkey, Tom Hardy, Norman Lloyd, Richard Jackson, Keith York, Kas Collins, Nathan Morley, Mark Hurrell, Steve Marshall, Chris Pearson, Steve Silby, Rob Charles, Dave Shearer, Doug Wood, Digby Taylor, Tony Mandell, Nigel Harris, Cliff Walker, Alex Skinner, Nigel Grover, John Macdonald and Grant Benson. Johnny Lewis appeared on the VoP in the early 1980s as Johnny Moss. Steve Greenberg, who would go on to become a Grammy winning producer and president of Columbia Records, was another early-80's broadcaster aboard the ship. Kenny Page is acknowledged as being one of the station's longest serving presenters, having worked on board from the 1970s to the 1990s. Paul Rogers spent one year on board from 1984-1985, before moving on to become Dave Rogers on Radio West in Mullingar, Ireland and then Dave Collins on Radio Caroline and is currently still working on radio in the UK.

A Reunion in Amsterdam 'The Radio Day' 2006, celebrated the launch of a new book by Hans Knot of station memories in November 4 2006 and the conference was attended by many media interests including Channel Two Israel who interviewed Don Stevens, Chris Pearson and Steve Silby and showed the newsreel worldwide. This resulted in Don Stevens making contact with his long lost child Sarit, one whom he prayed for every day, through the good offices of Channel 2, and he was overwhelmed to discover he was part of a three child family.

Programming

The station primarily produced programs in English (but a small section of the output also included shows in Hebrew, Arabic and French) readily accepted by listeners in all countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea who felt the station reflected Western ideals held by the upper classes of the region.

The station had several popular long running shows which ran for almost 20 years, these included "Twilight Time" (broadcast daily at 18:00, using the Platters hit of the same name, as its introduction theme), "The Classical Music programme" (daily from 19:30) and "Late Night Affair" (00.00-03.00).

Government reaction

The Voice of Peace was generally tolerated by the Israeli Government as Abie Nathan was a beloved personality in the country; however officials at the IBA (Israel Broadcasting Authority) were alarmed at the station's popularity in its first years on air and quickly set about devising a state run pop service, Reshet Gimel, in May 1976.

Nathan was imprisoned on several occasions for violating Israeli laws forbidding contact with enemy countries and the PLO.

Sinking of the ship

Nathan decided to intentionally sink the ship in international waters on November 28, 1993 after various promises of a broadcast licence and mooring in Jaffa Port failed to come to fruition, he closed the station due to high levels of losses and also following the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords, which he assumed was validation of the station's mission. On the final day of broadcasting, Abie instructed the presenters to play non-stop Beatles records. The line up of presenters onboard ship on the final day included Nathan Morley, Matthew French, Bill Sheldrake & Clive Sinclair.

Tributes

In 2003 NMC Music released a CD called the Voice of Peace, featuring songs and jingles from the station. A film about Abie Nathan soon followed called "As the Sun Sets", directed by Eytan Harris. Double CD compilations followed in 2007 and 2008.

Israeli radio station Radius 100 airs a weekly 2-hour tribute program Fridays at 16:00 local time, repeated Saturdays at noon. The show is streamed live and archived online for anytime listening at http://www.100fm.co.il/video.asp?videoGallery_id=22. Weekday shows are from 18:00-19:00 local (Sun-Wed), and 20:00 (Thu), hosted by former Voice of Peace presenters Gad Bitton, Gil Katzir, John McDonald, Tim Shepherd. Doug Wood guest hosted on August 17 & 24, 2008 and may present occasional shows in the future (TBD).

Station founder Abie Nathan died in Tel Aviv on 27 August 2008, aged 81.

ee also

* Arutz Sheva
* Pirate Radio

External links

* [http://www.offshore-radio.de/VOP.htm More pictures of the ship]
* [http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME02/Worlds_last_offshore_radio_stations.html Soundscapes VOP article]
* [http://www.offshore-radio.de/main.htm Israeli Pirate radio - past and present]
* [http://www.abie-nathan.com/main-en.html Abie Nathan site]
* [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/ Arutz Sheva - A rival political station]


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