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Internet Radio and Radio Caroline Tours

Mark Fielding talks about internet radio. Plus his wife Kerry gives her experience of being refused a tour of the Radio Caroline ship, so Caroline CEO Peter Moore explains why.

Mark Fielding talks to Peter White about his passion for radio. Mark owns internet station Ultimate Radio Experience and tells Peter about the process involved and the regulations governing internet stations. His wife Kerry gives her experience of trying to book Mark a tour of the ship Ross Revenge, which became famous in the 70s when it broadcast Radio Caroline. CEO and owner of Ross Revenge Peter Moore, explains his reasons for having declined Kerry's request, stating safety concerns.
Mark suggests a resolution being if blind people bring a sighted companion when they take the tour.

Presenter: Peter White
Producer: Cheryl Gabriel.

Available now

20 minutes

Transcript

THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT.  BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY. 

 

IN TOUCH

 

TX:  16.01.2018  2040-2100

 

PRESENTER:          PETER WHITE

 

PRODUCER:            CHERYL GABRIEL

 

 

White

Good evening.  It’s hardly surprising that blind people love radio, after all it’s a medium which could have been invented for us.  And now more and more people are turning that enthusiasm into an all-consuming hobby, maybe even a potential job.  We also look at the disappointment when you can’t get to visit one of the key historic sites of your radio enthusiasm.

 

Clip -  Radio Caroline

 

That will set a few bells ringing I’m sure.  More about that later in the programme.

 

But my studio guest tonight is Mark Fielding.  He’s in our Blackburn studio.  Now Mark is one of those people whose turned his abiding love of radio into a major interest by, at first, broadcasting on and then buying an internet radio station.  It sounds a bit like this.

 

Clip – Mark Fielding internet radio

 

And Mark’s by no means alone, quite a number of visually-impaired aspiring broadcasters are taking to the air regularly.  Mark Fielding, welcome.

 

Fielding

Hello.

 

White

So, we’ve heard you in action.  Just tell me a bit more about your station, modestly called Ultimate Radio Experience.  What does it do?

 

Fielding

We do mainly music programmes, we’ve dabbled in making documentaries as well, we strive to have decent quality in terms of the way we present our shows, the way we produce our shows, the engineering technical side – we stream at quite high bit rate.  So, we try to go for quality.

 

White

And how many visually-impaired people – I mean is it an all visually-impaired team or is it a mixture?

 

Fielding

We have a mixture.  All the managers on the station are visually-impaired.

 

White

So just take me back to the beginning here because I haven’t got a clue how I would start an internet station, even though I work in radio, what do you need to get started?

 

Fielding

Okay, you need a server, some way of streaming your programmes out there to the internet as a whole.  You need a website, obviously, so that people have that point of contact.  You also need a fair amount of technical stuff – you need obviously a PC so that that PC can communicate, you need a mixer desk, you need microphones, headphones, you need a large record collection – a music collection.

 

White

And that doesn’t sound cheap.  I mean before we talk about the money, do you need a licence?

 

Fielding

You need – to stream on the internet you need two licences, one for PRS so that the royalties are paid to the artists whose music you play and you need a PPL licence, which is effectively it’s a public performance licence.

 

White

This is not chicken feed, is it?  I mean you need quite a lot of money.  I mean okay you may have the PC, you may have, if you’re keen, a lot of the other stuff but there’s quite a lot of outlay there surely?

 

Fielding

I would say the two licences for us come to about £500 per year and our server costs and streaming costs and various other overheads that we have come to about £25 a month.  So, it’s not a massive amount but equally you need a fair amount of money behind you and we split it obviously between the three owners of the station, so it’s not too bad for us.

 

White

But I mean are you making any money?

 

Fielding

No.  We could potentially make money.  I think our licence permits us to make a certain amount – a small amount of money, I think it’s up to £1,000.  So, we could probably just about cover our costs but we don’t do that, we do it for the love of doing radio.

 

White

And we’re talking about this in terms of something that visually-impaired people are doing.  Is there any particular reason why you, as an individual, would need to work with other visually-impaired people?  I mean it’s radio, it’s music, there’s not a visual element in it, you could work with anyone couldn’t you?

 

Fielding

I could, I think from my perspective there are technical reasons why working for say an independent radio station there are the issues of making that accessible.  The software that I have is accessible but most stations in this country don’t use the same software that I use.

 

White

Now you’re in the process of re-branding your station.  What does that mean and why are you doing it?

 

Fielding

We’ve been around for three years now.  We’ve achieved a lot but our server and the website has been held over in America, which there are logistical problems with that happening given that most of us who manage the station – well all of us who manage the station live in the UK.

 

White

I don’t mean to be kind of insulting but haven’t you got almost as many people working for you as you’ve got listeners?

 

Fielding

Yeah – that is true.  The truth of the matter is with the internet you have a lot of stations out there and a limited number of people who listen.  So, the pot to choose from is fairly small.  We’re about to increase the size of our server, so we are limited at the moment, but that limit is about to be quadrupled, so that should help things along.

 

White

To about a hundred, is that right?

 

Fielding

Yeah.

 

White

Somewhere in that region.  Mark, we’ll talk more about the nuts and bolts of how you do it later on because I think people would be interested in how you actually physically do it.  But I mean tell me about your own radio enthusiasm, what was your early listening and what got you so hooked?

 

Fielding

I’ve always had a thing for music, I’ve loved music from a really young age, and then I kind of discovered radio.  In the early stages it was things like Radio 1 and being from the Greater Manchester area it was Piccadilly Radio.  And then I caught a documentary on Radio 1 all about ‘60s offshore radio.  And music radio didn’t exist as an entity until 1964 and Radio Caroline changed all of that.

 

White

Well you’ve brought us exactly to the point that I wanted to raise because it was that enthusiasm that led your wife, Kerry, to try and get you aboard Ross Revenge, which is the ship which still broadcasts under the name of the much loved ‘60s pirate radio station Caroline.  But that didn’t quite go according to Kerry’s plan, as she explained to our reporter Tom Walker.

 

Kerry

I contacted Ross Revenge Radio Caroline Tours and I started having a conversation with a lady called Paula back in November.  We had a conversation backwards and forwards and I explained that Mark was blind and that I was looking for – what did I need to do to get one of these tickets so that he could go on the Ross Revenge Tour.  So, she said to me – Well, we’ve got a trip in May 2018 and it’s booking up fast so if you want it let me know.  I emailed over again and said I’d really like to book Mark on the trip and they said – Really sorry but we have taken the decision that we don’t think it’s no longer appropriate for blind people to be on this ship.

 

Walker

What justification did they actually provide for making this decision, did they explain it in any way or did they just say it was owing to safety?

 

Kerry

Initially they said it was because they were fully licensed and their insurance did not cover blind and partially sighted travellers.  It’s pure discrimination.  I mean we’ve got blind sailors, we’ve had sailors out there for – I’m sure Paralympics, I’m sure I’m not wrong about that.  And there are people I know that used to go sailing regularly and they’re blind.  I mean we’ve been on outward bound trips, we’ve been up to the Lakes and we’ve been kayaking and all sorts.  There’s never been any issues with insurance and going on the water.

 

Walker

Ships can be quite hazardous places, there are trip hazards, there’s sometimes step ladders and stairs can be uneven, do you not think there’s any justification in what they say?

 

Kerry

I understand why but equally – and I appreciate because the way the format seems to work is that one person is responsible for taking round a group of people.  And so, I get it in that context, they probably think that would be quite hard to cope with, especially if you’ve got another group of people.  Why not just say, we can’t take you round, perhaps the answer would be you are allowed to come but you need to bring somebody with you who is sighted but would be able to give you that extra support that we would struggle to give you because we’re in a group?  I mean this is what they do in Disneyland.

 

Walker

How would you like this matter now to be resolved?

 

Kerry

People make assumptions.  Whether we’re disabled or not “we’re as unique and individual as every other person out there who does not have a disability” [quote/unquote].  And I think they do have every right to ask these questions because they need to ensure that we’re safe.  But equally just to say no you’re not coming because it’s too dangerous – how do they know?

 

White

So, Mark Fielding, the surprise didn’t actually eventually come to fruition, how did you feel about that?

 

Fielding

Obviously, I was disappointed, I felt very frustrated, I felt that people were making assumptions about my capabilities or otherwise without actually asking me a question or in this particular case asking Kerry a question.

 

White

Well, we did think that needed some kind of explanation and I’m delighted to say that we’re joined by Peter Moore, who is the current CEO of Radio Caroline, still broadcasting off the Essex Coast. 

 

Peter, can we get Mark on Caroline?

 

Moore

We have tried to operate over the years using good common sense but unfortunately we had a situation a few weeks ago where three either blind or partially sighted people arrived in a group, feeling that they had the ability to make their own way round the ship.  We could see that in fact they didn’t.  But we did transport them to the ship.  We invited them onboard.  We put them in the common room, or mess room and they had the same degree of hospitality as the other visitors.  The issue was that one of the party particularly wanted to go into the on-air studio and unfortunately this was at the top of a very steep staircase which was soaking wet at the time and you bear in mind ships move and we just didn’t want frankly to injure anybody.  So, our view was to let them experience as much of the ship as we reasonably could on a main level but this has now developed into a bit of an issue and we’re looking into what could be done about it.

 

White

The thing is, Peter, you seem to have made a blanket rule after what was an unfortunate experience and that’s the problem, isn’t it, that…

 

Moore

Well no it isn’t, we haven’t made a blanket rule at all, we’ve had an incident and we’re looking into the implications of it.

 

White

But Kerry’s application was refused to go onboard, that sounded like you’d made a decision.

 

Moore

Well Kerry made her call to book and received her call to say I’m afraid we can’t accommodate you just as we were looking into the implications of what had happened.  There was a time when Radio Caroline had no insurance whatsoever and we just took our chances but I’m afraid those days are over.  I have £10 million worth of Public Liability cover, and as much as we’d like to modify the vessel to make it safe for everybody it’s a working deep-sea trawler, it wasn’t made at any point with any consideration for safety, it was made to do a job and earn a fortune.

 

White

Well should anybody be looking around it in that case?

 

Moore

Well there are parts of the ship which I wouldn’t advise a sighted full-able bodied person to go to for that particular reason.  And I’ve injured myself on the ship – accidents can happen very quickly.  And I have to tell you when an accident does happen the whole atmosphere changes.

 

White

But of course, as well as insurance to check, which of course you’re perfectly at liberty and right to do, there’s also the issue of anti-discrimination legislation.

 

Moore

Well I’m not – I don’t have a right to check my insurance I have an obligation to check my insurance…

 

White

There is also laws about giving people equal or equivalent access to entertainments and public places and services.

 

Moore

But this isn’t a public place, this is a privately-owned ship and we invite people on as guests but on our terms.  Now I mean don’t pre-empt me here – I am looking for a way around this.

 

White

I tell you what can I – I mean Mark is here and is a keen – you’ve heard how keen on radio he is.  Mark, what would you like to say to Peter?

 

Fielding

I’m encouraged to hear for a start that Peter is looking for a way around it.  I would be prepared to speak to Peter at any time and offer any guidance or support as regards visually-impaired people going on to the ship.  I felt, at the time, that there wasn’t a process and that, like you Peter, it felt to me like it was a blanket decision.  I accept that that’s not the case now and I accept that Peter is looking into it.  So, thank you for that Peter.

 

White

Peter, you’ve had the courtesy to come on, Peter Moore, so take I you would like an amicable solution, can you fix it?

 

Moore

Well I mean listen it’s all a matter of attitude, if people come with a reasonable attitude and discuss it then I’m equally reasonable back. 

 

White

Can we get Mark on Caroline – that’s the real thing we’re asking?

 

Moore

Well I mean it’s an interesting thing because I think there was that famous American disc jockey called Wolfman Jack who said radio is the theatre of the mind, which it is, it means different things to each listener.  More than that in the case of Radio Caroline, because it is so iconic, and it’s always been a mysterious thing over the horizon, it does cause people to wonder just what’s going on out there when they hear the music and they hear the person playing the music to wonder what their life is like and what their living conditions are like.  So, obviously there’s an interest to experience there but all I’m saying, and don’t castigate it for me, is that I don’t want anyone to get hurt.  And I’m not going to apologise if I accidentally tip someone down a 15-foot ladder on to a concrete floor…

 

White

But you are looking at it…

 

Moore

This whole conversation would take on a different aspect, I assure you.

 

White

Okay, Mark, hopefully you’re still encouraged by that, we are assured that they’re looking at a way of doing this fairly.

 

Fielding

At this stage that’s all I would ask for.

 

White

Well, we will follow this with interest.  Peter Moore, thank you very much for coming on the programme.

 

So, Mark, I mean, you run a full-on radio station, why not just, as many people seem to be doing nowadays, just produce podcasts – cheaper, easier?

 

Fielding

It is but I don’t think it’s as much fun.  I love radio, I love making radio, I love producing, I love presenting, I love the engineering side of it and in our style of radio you have to do all of that.  I mean you’re quite fortunate, Peter, you have a producer, you have engineers and that’s brilliant, that is superb.  However, I love all of that, I love all aspects of radio and in doing what I do I get to do all of that.  When I’m on-air I’m my on-air producer, when I’m putting the shows together I’m the off-air production – I put everything together myself.  And so, I get to do that and podcasting – it would be great but there are certain different regulations with podcasting, I’m not allowed to play whole tracks.

 

White

And a lot of people would be interested in just how you do it.  I know you sometimes get requests while you’re on air and you get to play them and you often get to play them quite quickly, just explain how you do it – how do you do it so fast?

 

Fielding

Ah that’s quite easy.  I have my studio software open all the time, obviously I’m on the air, it’s playing out music, it’s got my jingle [indistinct word] and everything there and also in a different window on the computer I have open my music library.  So, if I receive an email or a tweet from somebody saying they want to hear Duran Duran I can just flick over to my music library, I press the search button, so I’m into the search window, I type Duran Duran Planet Earth, I tab across, it will bring up all the different copies of that that I’ve got, because obviously on various compilation albums you get different copies of that.  I scroll down to the one that I want, select it, I copy it, flick back across to my studio, put myself in the right place and then I just paste it into the playlist and then obviously I do the link at the end of the song that’s playing out and then I can bring that next song in.

 

White

Doesn’t sound that simple to me.  And what happens if it’s not in your vast record collection?

 

Fielding

If it’s not in my vast record collection I can go looking on things like iTunes and just buy it from there really.

 

White

But you can do all that while a previous normal length record is playing, can you?

 

Fielding

If it’s a track I don’t have I can go into iTunes and download it, it may take five or 10 minutes to do that, I’ve got my computer set so that it automatically puts anything that I download from iTunes into my music library, so once I’ve heard the tone to say that it’s downloaded I can flick back into my music library and just do exactly the same process.

 

White

Right.  One final question.  Is there a realistic career in this?  I know you’re doing it for fun but it’s quite an expensive hobby, can it turn into a career?

 

Fielding

I think it could do.  There are people out there who are visually-impaired who are doing it.  One of our managers still works for two other radio stations, independent local radio stations.  So, yes people can do it.  Would I want to do it?  Maybe, if someone came in and said to me we heard the bit on In Touch and we think you’re alright, can we have a conversation, I would certainly have a conversation with them.

 

White

But in the meantime, you’re just having a good time?

 

Fielding

I’m having a great time.

 

White

Mark Fielding, thank you very much for being our guest.  And do enjoy your day on Caroline, if you get it, we hope you do.

 

Fielding

Hopefully I will do.

 

White

Thank you.  That’s it, from me, Peter White, producer, Cheryl Gabriel and the team, goodbye.

 

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