Peter Dawe - a misunderstood benefactor?

The Cambridge Evening News seems to love following the career of Peter Dawe, the founder of Internet Service Provider Unipalm Pipex (now part of UUNET).

In 2000 the CEN started calling him "father of the commercial Internet in the UK" (arguably so) and then dropped the "commercial" - bizarre! The Internet was around long before he started Unipalm in 1986 though in the UK essentially only in certain Universities. In August 2001 the CEN described him as the "long dubbed father of the Internet in the UK" and by September he "made his fortune by pioneering the creation of the worldwide web".

A few years earlier it publicised his view that Cambridge should be closed to further housing and employment development, being "full", though the Editorial disagreed with it.
(CEN 29 & 31-Jan-97 and every Tuesday Feb. - Oct.)

Taking up his "Cambridge is full" theme, he formed a development corporation to campaign for a new town near Oakington of perhaps 50,000. On joining the board of the Regional Development Agency in April 1999 he sold his interest in the corporation to avoid a conflict of interest.

Another of his ventures is Dawe Media, which bid successfully to take over the County Council's disused Howard Mallett Community Centre in Sturton Street as a community multimedia centre, in conjunction with Parkside Community College, in a project valued at 3M. Local groups opposed the loss of community facilities and in particular the alcohol licence that was awarded for the new venture. However City Council planners held up consent due to various concerns such as noise. The building remained disused for a while but building work started in October 1998 and Red Studio was fully operational in January 1999.

In 1997 Dawe Media put in a bid to the Independent Television Commission for a Restricted Service Licence for a Cambridge TV station, to broadcast from the media centre. Dawe Media already ran a "community" channel on Cambridge Cable - initially a modest set of ads. by community groups with a smattering of somewhat-old news and occasional student reportage. It was revamped in early 1998 as Cambridge Red, at first with a modest amount of real content plus mainly various quizzes and games played via expensive phone calls. By mid-1998 they had built up real content, though it tended to be repeated a lot.

For a while Peter Dawe took a large interest in Cambridge Community Radio. The station started in the late 1980s as a group of volunteers and received Restricted Service Licences for three trial broadcasting periods, most recently in July 1995.

In May 1997 he invested 500,000 in Cambridge Community Radio Licence Management, the company which had been formed to bid for a permanent licence, which was granted to it in 1998. The proposal was that Dawe Media broadcast on weekday daytimes as Cambridge Red and CCR's volunteers broadcast at evenings and weekends. There were disagreements amongst the managing group over the "community" aspects and in the end Dawe Media pulled out though Peter Dawe retained his shares in the company.

The station started broadcasting as Cambridge Cafe Radio 107.9 experimentally on 19th November 1997 from Barnwell Business Park (using a 100W transmitter at Lime Kiln Hill) and a full service began on 23rd March 1998. However on 23rd November it was relaunched as Cambridge Red 107.9 FM after all, based in the Howard Mallett centre, subsequently joined by the TV station, relocated from Cottenham. The centre also gained "Cambridge Red Cafe" (Dec-98 to Sep-99) and then "CC's Sports Venue Cafe" (Feb-00).

In March 2000 Peter Dawe announced the closure of the TV station on 30-Apr, citing difficulties with the City Council. It had been in decline for a year, with limited programming.

Dawe Media took a stake in the Oxford equivalent of the radio station, Oxygen 107.9, in April 1998. The station was subsequently reprimanded by the Radiocommunications Agency for failing to keep proper tape archives and its licence was shortened by a year. The two stations were sold in 1999 and again in 2000.

On 23-Sep-1997 the CEN published a article by Peter Dawe in their "The Worst Day of My Life" series. Apparently his worst day is when he sold Unipalm.

All very curious! If he's right, it's a sad state of affairs.