Eric Wilshire

Eric Wiltsher

 Eric's story.

Don't stop believing if you tune in to a lifetime of fighting back

 Offshore radio gave the teenage Eric Wiltsher a taste for the radio and music that should never have been taken away from him. We contacted Eric in his adopted home of Slovakia.

 When the Marine Offences Act became law Eric wrote to his local MP and the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. The MP gave him the courtesy of a reply, but as Eric said: "the other mob didn't". And that was the start of Eric taking on The Establishment.

 Over the next few years he continued to be annoyed, particularly with the Government. Then it dawned on him, "don't get angry - get even". With that thought his future unfurled. Still a teenager but now driving a Ford Anglia to the local BT telephone exchange where he was an apprentice, we were off again. Eric decided to put a nice shiny RNI, Radio Nordsea, sticker in the back off his car. The powers-that-be decided to write to his father saying that "Master Eric Wiltsher" - the cheek - either had to remove the sticker from the car or move his car from the BT car park. As there were no yellow lines outside the confines of the telephone exchange Eric moved the car to a spot where the entire town could see the RNI sticker. Mind you The Establishment eventually won as, for some strange reason, yellow lines were painted.

 Mind you Eric said it took them a while as he managed to work overtime so they couldn't complete them. Eventually it was 1 - 0 to The Establishment though.

 However, there is a rule which Eric sticks by - they might have won the battle but not the war, so Eric joined one of the free radio groups armed with his BT tool-kit. He helped people build stuff - now he thought that was funny.

 The Eighties saw Laser come and go, but he kept in touch with some of the guys and still is to this day. They live in the US now so it's via Skype . there's a point to mentioning new technology here and it'll become clear why later.

 In December 1992 another love of Eric's closed down, the iconic Radio Luxembourg. Eric was proud that during the close-down speech he was mentioned and thanked.

 The early-to-mid Nineties saw Eric helping QEFM. On one trip to mainland Europe he had former 390 man and Radio 4's Edward Cole in the car. At that time the Ross had been rescued from the Goodwin Sands and Edward was keen to go on-board. That was probably "one of the best selling jobs I've ever done" Eric said.
 He'd convinced the Harbour Master he wanted to record a documentary for QEFM. After an hour or so Dover agreed and he took Edward on-board a radio ship for the first time. Prophetically, Edward asked this question: "Eric can't they go on satellite?"

 Caroline started doing the overnights on QEFM and eventually Eric helped with the very first application for a satellite license for Caroline. Most of this period is well documented, but Eric was proud of the fact that he once enjoyed a night - August 14 - with Ronan and Johnny Walker. Plus another night of radio history on LBC. The recording is still available on a well-known ftp web server.

 Having moved to Slovakia and already suffering grief from the then (now gone) members of the Slovak regulator he maintained Radio Tatras International as a 50/50 Slovak/English radio station - watch out there will be some more new tech in a moment!

 At about that time there was much being touted around about the 40th anniversary of the MoA. But it was being touted about by people Eric felt shouldn't be involved. Caroline wasn't getting the coverage he thought it should either. So he called Peter Moore and suggested it would be fun to air Caroline again, this time on FM in central Europe. The pair rapidly issued a press release. It was sent to Sky News and whilst they were interviewing 'the touts' - people jumping on the band-wagon for free plugs - Eamon Holmes did a lovely thing and read out the press release almost word for word. Eric said: "One back for the good guys then."

 Not that there is any connection, but a short while after this RTI was told that that it either had to close its English service or face sanctions and possible closure. RTI Chairman Mr Jan Telensky started a huge legal battle (I'm sure he and a well-known Irishman could have some wonderful conversations!) which RTI eventually won.
 However, the then regulator found another loophole and said they must stop. That's when the British Ambassador and an MEP with close ties to Slovakia became involved. Then RTI received a call from Bratislava, the Slovak capital, telling Eric to go back on air in English, the Queen was about to visit. Eric felt that The Establishment wouldn't dare risk an international spat at this time so, following a chat with Mr Telensky, he went back on air in English. He recalled Jan calling him the first evening and asking if all was okay? Eric clearly remembered saying: "The gun boats haven't shown up yet" and laughed - Slovakia is land locked. Two days after the Queen left, you guessed it, RTI was told to cease broadcasting in English and just about everyone around the station saw the end. Or was it?

 Christmas came with the sad fact that RTI had to end its FM service - their main source of income. "It was a desperate time," said Eric, "the studios looked and felt like ice blocks."
 The following January on a Wednesday the entire station closed down, including its satellite and internet services
 "The final show was one of the hardest things I've ever done," Eric said. "I knew RTI had done nothing really wrong and in fact had done a great deal of good. To be honest the closure of BigL in 1967 kept running through my mind." Seconds after the closure "the phones lines lit up like a Christmas tree" Eric said. People from "all over the planet were listening and within that group some GREAT friends from Watery Wireless".

 Eric said that it was hard to take it all in at the time as so many said  'come on Eric you can't let them win!' He described the drive home later  taking forever: "I guess I must have felt the same as some did in 1967."  His good friend and chairman, Jan Telensky, said: "One of the things I  likes about Eric is that if he gets thrown out of the door he'll jump  back in the window - if he is then thrown out of the window he'll kick  the door down and get back in."  Well it took a couple of days, but Eric decided to launch a podcast  programme called Postcard From Poprad, Jan Telensky was again supportive  and suggested he should "play radio once a week" having already provided  him with a new day job. At the same time Eric spoke with a former Fleet  Street journalist Leigh Banks and a new service was born. Here comes the  science bit.  Today RTI has expanded the show to include Marc Gander, of the Consumer  Action Group, and is looking to add more talky shows.  Eric can only do this because of new technology and what he describes as  "some excellent people". Jan Telensky still supports RTI and recently  gave them a new studio and computer servers. Mark Rock at AudioBoo is  also a great friend to RTI and that's how the station ended on the iPhone,  and now Android phones, around the world. RTI has its own stream again  with a bigger audience than it had in the FM days - another one back for  the good guys.  Stations as far away as the US now air RTI shows weekly giving Eric an  even larger audience - two back for the good guys.  


The final stage of this story comes on the day of the Royal Wedding and  technology really came into its own.  Eric decided to air a wedding special looking at how broadcasters around  the world were reporting on the day. Eric in Slovakia covering the media  there, Leigh in the UK relaying what the Brits were doing and Marc in  Paris reporting on the French media. RTI was also eves-dropping on TV  stations in the USA. That only left China - no problem. Jan was in China  and he became the fourth correspondent on the live show.  So as the jingle, song and Eric says "Don't Stop Believing".  Eric still anchors and produces Postcard From Poprad for RTI  as well as running Internet TV services, such as HighTatrasTV, plus  student radio stations (Train2Game and Train4TradeSkills) and a range of  online services for Jan Telensky.