Don't stop believing if you tune in to a lifetime of
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.
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.
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
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"
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
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.
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?
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".
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
forever: "I guess I must have felt the same as some did
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
called Postcard From Poprad, Jan Telensky was again
and suggested he should "play
radio once a week" having already provided
with a new day job. At the same time Eric spoke with a
Street journalist Leigh Banks
and a new service was born. Here comes the
Today RTI has expanded the
show to include Marc Gander, of the Consumer
Group, and is looking to add more talky shows.
Eric can only do this because of new
technology and what he describes as
excellent people". Jan Telensky still supports RTI and
gave them a new studio and
computer servers. Mark Rock at AudioBoo is
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
a bigger audience than it had in the FM days - another
one back for
the good guys.
as far away as the US now air RTI shows weekly giving
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
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
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
So as the jingle, song
and Eric says "Don't Stop Believing".
still anchors and produces Postcard From Poprad for RTI
as well as running Internet TV
services, such as HighTatrasTV, plus
radio stations (Train2Game and Train4TradeSkills) and a
online services for Jan Telensky.