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Voice of Peace - History (8)

After many weeks of delay the land-based licence debate  eventually took place in the Knesset on 14th June 1982, but when the vote came the proposal to allow Abie Nathan's Voice of Peace to come ashore was turned down. What had seemed at one time to be a real possibility - official recognition for the Voice of Peace and Abie Nathan's peace campaign - now seemed further away than ever and the MV Peace stayed at sea off the Israel coast.

Following several months of uneventful broadcasting, during which the Peace ship moved to a position off Tel Aviv, concerns arose in October 1982 when rumours began to circulate about the return of the MV Odelia - with a radio station on board this time as well as the television station, Odelia TV,which had briefly broadcast to Israel the previous year. The return of the Odelia raised worries about the introduction of European style anti-offshore legislation and this renewed threat to the future of the Voice of Peace prompted Abie Nathan to apply once again for a land-based licence.

In December 1982 problems were encountered with the official registration of the MV Peace. Rumours circulated that its Panamanian registration and flag had not been valid for four years, with a consequent effect on the vessel's insurance arrangements. Abie Nathan immediately flew to New York to sort the problem out with the Shalom Peace Foundation and the Panamanian authorities.

Also in relation to insurance cover during 1982 the MV Peace was observed to be anchored inside Israeli territorial waters, but this was officially denied by both the station and the authorities who chose to turn a blind eye to the situation. However, the insurers had stipulated that because of the ship's condition it must not be anchored out in the open sea but within reasonable distance of a port with appropriate emergency and rescue facilities available should the need arise.  

1983

On 28th May 1983 the Voice of Peace celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a full day of Beatles music, as it had played on its opening day in 1973. The MV Peace sailed to within a mile of Tel Aviv and was visited by dozens of yachts and windsurfers as well as Israeli and foreign television crews and journalists.

At about this time too a new generator was installed on the Peace and the medium wave aerial was rebuilt to its full height - the station had been operating on a slung wire antenna for some time after the original aerial mast had been damaged in storms. This temporary aerial system had badly affected the Voice of Peace's signal penetration beyond the immediate Tel Aviv area.

The first listenership survey for the Voice of Peace was undertaken in June 1983, and showed that in Tel Aviv, where reception of the station was at its best, it had a 23% audience reach. On 27th July 1983 shortwave transmissions began once again  using a power of 400 watts. These broadcasts were made possible after a centre fold dipole aerial had been rigged between the radio ship's foremast and midships mast. Reception  reports of the shortwave transmissions were received from Britain and  Europe.

1984

The shortwave service closed in March 1984 on instructions from the Israeli Ministry of Communications because a complaint had been received, via the International Telecommunications Union, that the station was causing interference to Swedish Embassy communications. Abie Nathan complied with the instruction because he did not want to cause bad relations with any government.

In September 1984  the Voice of Peace returned to a 24 hour programme schedule on both medium wave and FM stereo. However, there were some major generator problems aboard the MV Peace towards the end of the year which were largely neglected because Abie Nathan had left Israel to campaign for starving refugees in Ethiopia.

1985

Despite the technical problems and the lack of any input, financial or otherwise, from Abie Nathan the Voice of Peace did manage to continue broadcasting, but by spring 1985 the situation became desperate once again and there were so many technical problems that the Voice of Peace went off the air altogether.  

Abie Nathan, having returned from Ethiopia, managed to persuade a friend in the Israeli Army to make some temporary repairs to the transmitting equipment which enabled the Voice of Peace to return to the air. Shortly after this he also persuaded two former DJs, Keith York and Don Stevens, to return to the station and help keep it on the air. The station gradually began to recover  from these problems and by mid-June 1985 the Voice of Peace was beginning to attract listeners and advertisers once again.

This whole episode demonstrated how dependant the Voice of Peace was on Abie Nathan. He would not allow anyone else to make major decisions about the station, but when he was absent or pre-occupied with some other peace campaign, problems remained un-addressed until eventually a crisis point being reached.

A split AM/FM service was introduced in June 1985 -the services split at 9.00pm with specialist programmes on FM (one hour of Russian music then, depending on the day of the week, either French, Italian, Greek or Romanian music) and international pop music on AM. The services then rejoined after four hours for parallel transmissions of international music. Although this experiment was discontinued after four months the Russian music hour was retained in the normal programme schedule.

However, the revival of the station's fortunes was short-lived. In July 1985 more problems were encountered with generators on board the MV Peace and this, together with staff shortages and the fact that the price of oil had doubled due to the state of the Israeli economy, led to Abie Nathan announcing yet again that he would close the station. Lack of advertising revenue, which had dwindled to virtually nothing, also played an important part in this decision. Not for the first or last time this 'closure' was Abie Nathan's way of bringing his problems to the attention of a large number of people in the hope that, somehow, both moral and financial support would be forthcoming.

1986

A new Perkins generator was installed on the MV Peace in July 1986. The FM transmitter was still working but both medium wave transmitters were now virtually beyond repair, yet the station struggled on trying to maintain some sort of regular service.



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