Where will I get the news from?
It's not easy to get news reports while on a ship off the coast. CNN had offered free use of their radio news service, but we could not solve the technical problems of trying to use a satellite dish on a rocking ship. United Press International (UPI) in London had offered free use of their radio news service via the internet. We had no PC on board or link via mobile phone to an internet source. "Well", said Ray, with his usual smile of confidence, "I've got you a ghetto blaster and an old portable typewriter... Use traditional offshore methods. You can do it!"
On day one the radio did not work, nor the typewriter. Oh well. The first five news bulletins were hand-written, and all about Big L. By the afternoon a working ghetto blaster had been found from the tender Lady Gwen, so a news service got on the air, and by day three, a working portable typewriter appeared (which museum did Ray rob?). After these revelations the news actually got typed, much to the relief of Chris Elliot who found my handwriting and somewhat esoteric spelling to be a bit of a challenge. Big L news was up and running. Of course, if anyone asked where I got the news from, the answer was from Chipping Sodbury Sound (ILR) via a satellite link on 10069 gigabicycles in the mega band. Where is the dish? Oh, hidden below deck. I know no one fell for it, but the explanation caused a few laughs.
Philosophy of news
Big L 97 was musically and style-wise time-warped into 1967, with the exception of news content. However, the style of news was similar to the original; news on the half hour, all read (no poor-quality almost unintelligible phone reports saying in one minute what a news reader could say better in 15 seconds). I set myself some ground rules which I think are correct for news on a music station. No more than six items per bulletin, no more than two paragraphs per item, use international news values ignoring the xenophobia which afflicts BBC and IRN news, and keep to one and a half minutes total length including the weather. Most of all, make it sound part of the station output, unlike IRN on the majority of stations who all sound as anaemic as the rest, with poor quality telephone reports that no-one can understand, and pre-pubescent news readers that no-one can accept as an authoritative source (i.e. adult). Present radio news in the UK is nothing but a mess; non-radio broadcasters with a mega-degree in communications who only wish they were stars on TV News, leading the blind. How can a central news source (i.e. IRN or BBC) provide news for a multiplicity of different style and format stations and still sound part of the output? THEY CAN NOT! All I know and feel is that collectively they sound out of style compared with their US and Australian counterparts. Did my way work? Don't ask me.
Help is at hand
Two visitors came to the ship that I was especially glad to see. David Williams, former News man on Caroline North arrived for a visit to take some video for himself. No way Dave! After a chat he found himself reading the Big L news for a shift. He liked it so much he foolishly volunteered to come back for more. He did - thanks Dave. Also an old colleague from BFBS, Dave Windsor visited. Yes, he too found himself relieving me on the news. Dave also got into the Big L news and I deny phoning this news item to BFBS HQ, (Oh, all right, I admit it Dave), from where it spread far and wide. I wonder if Dave has lived it down yet? I hope not!
Everyone on board helped in the news process at some stage, especially John, the Yeoman Rose's Mate. A quiet, thoughtful, typical sailor with an amazing breadth of knowledge on current news events. At 5 a.m. on a rolling ship he was a great help in news monitoring and giving suggestions, as well as keeping up morale!