Tuesday, February 13, 2018

To celebrate World Radio we take a look at the significant role Ireland has played in the evolution of radio. 

In the early nineteenth century in 1838 Reverend Nicholas Callan (1799 - 1864) was born in Dromiskin, Co. Louth, Rev. Callan invented both the induction coil in 1836 and the self exacting dynamo in 1838, both of which are still being used today to broadcast. In 1852 the use of electric pulses down a wire had created the telegraph system, a faster means of communication over longer distances than the postal services and the telephone had yet to be invented. Ireland and Britain had first been connected by telegraph cable from Northern Ireland to Scotland and then in 1852 by the Electric Telegraph company from Howth to Holyhead and from Wexford to Wales in 1862 by ‘The London and South of Ireland Direct Telegraph Company’. One of the greatest barriers to the globalisation of the telegraph was the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. In 1858 after many failed attempts undersea cables eventually linked the Atlantic Telegraph Company at Trinity Bay in Newfoundland with Valentia in County Kerry. On August 16th 1858 a cablegram was sent from Ireland to America and it read,
            ‘Europe and America are united by telegraphic communication. Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and goodwill to all men.’

The continents of Europe and North America were now for the first time joined by undersea telegraph cable on August 16th 1858 with the European terminal in Ireland. The global map of the world had begun to shrink rapidlyThe next message sent was a ninety eight word message from Queen Victoria to the then US President Buchannan. The reply that went overland from Washington to Trinity Bay, beneath the sea on cable to Valentia, overland to Greenore Point, County Wexford, under the Irish Sea to Abermawr in Wales and overland to London. The cable took ten hours to be delivered from the time it left the White House. The originally transatlantic cable was not strong enough to withstand the rigors of the Atlantic Ocean and a new cable was laid connecting the two continents in 1866. On July 27th 1866 a second cable is laid across the 1,686 nautical miles of the Atlantic by the ship The Great Eastern with Cyrus Field sending the first message across the Atlantic to Valentia Island.

While not Irish himself one of the most important names in the evolution of radio was born on April 25th 1874. Born to an Italian father Giuseppe and an Irish mother Annie Jameson (part of the Jameson Whiskey producing family), the father of modern radio Guglielmo Marconi began life in Bologna, Italy. Marconi’s mother Annie came from Enniscorthy County Wexford and was the grand daughter of the founder of the famous Irish distillery family, The Jameson’s. The Jameson family lived at that time in the Dublin suburb of Donnybrook in a house named ‘Montrose’ and Annie married Giuseppe Marconi in 1864. This second child Guglielmo was born on 25 April 1874. His Irish mother was very attentive to her children and Marconi remembered
“I owe what success I have had more than anything to the encouragement and inspiration of my mother. I learnt from her my first words in Italian and in English, too.”

He founded the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company in 1897 with the majority of his first investors being Irish businessmen.

There have been some key inventions in the evolution of radio technology none more important than in 1888 when George Francis Fitzgerald  (1851 - 1901) a physics professor at Trinity College Dublin was the first person to suggest the possibility of producing radio waves in laboratory conditions. His theory was successfully tested in 1888 by Heinrich Hertz.

Another key inventor as radio evolves into a mess medium was in 1893 when Brother Potamian sends a wireless telegraph message between rooms. He predicted after his success ‘all that is now necessary is to put up machinery powerful enough to send wireless messages around the world.’ He also predicted that same year that someday ‘not only will you be able to listen to speakers in distant parts but you will be able to see them on a screen’ a prediction of television.

Brother Potamian was born Michael F O’Reilly in Baileboro, County Cavan on September 27th 1846 but in a country gripped by famine, his famine left a year later for North America. He studied to become a school teacher in New York with the Christian Brothers and in 1870 was sent to London where he completed a science degree at London University. He began a lifelong interest in electricity, wireless telegraphy and was a pioneer of x-rays.

In 1896 he was transferred to Manhattan College but his experimentation would keep him in contact with many of the pioneers of early radio including Oliver Lodge and Marconi. In 1906, Marconi acknowledged Brother Potamian’s input into the invention and perfection of the medium of wireless telegraphy

Some of the key dates in Marconi's development of radio include July 6th 1898. Many of Marconi’s early experiments were conducted in Ireland. In July 1898, a Marconi wireless station located in Ballycastle County Antrim was able to communicate with a station on Rathlin Island in foggy conditions. While these experiments were being conducted Marconi arrived in Dublin to use wireless telegraphy for the first time for sports reporting. On July 19th & 20th July 1898 Marconi transmitted radio signals from the tug The Flying Huntress in the bay giving details of the progress of the yacht races in the Kingstown Regatta to his assistant who manned the receiving equipment in what is now Moan Park House, Dun Laoghaire. The information was then telephoned to The Dublin Express newspaper who published the results of the races shortly after they ended. This event represented the very first use of radio in journalism and sports broadcasting.
Marconi thus became the mediums first sports journalist.

In an article titled ‘Commercial Wireless Telegraphy’ printed in The World’s Work in March 1903 if described the                                                                           
‘Marconi system of telegraphy consists of setting in motion, by means of his transmitter, electric waves, which pass through the ether (a colourless, rarefied, unknown agent, supposed to fill all space) and are received on a wire or wires strung in the air. Like water, ether has waves, which may be set in motion just as waves from a stone thrown in a pond--it is the same principle exactly. Air waves and ether waves are totally different; sound is the result of the vibration of air; light the result of vibration of ether. Air waves travel infinitely more slowly than ether waves; that is the reason you see the lightning flash before you hear the thunder. Electricity means etheric vibration. Wireless telegraphy simply means the unharnessing of electricity which has long been transmitted only by wire. Marconi has demonstrated that since ether is everywhere the waves can be set in motion and sent on long journeys without the medium of wires as well as with them. But after these deductions he had first to invent two mechanical processes--one for setting the ether waves in motion so that they would travel great distances, and the other for receiving and registering these waves. Finally he evolved an apparatus which, when a current from a battery passed through it, would cause the current to jump between two brass or silver balls, described in the foregoing, and, passing thus into the aerial wire, would be radiated into space. By turning this current on and off with an ordinary sending-key its waves would be divided into dots and dashes. To catch these waves an aerial wire was hung up many miles away. The waves which the wire catches are too weak to operate an ordinary telegraph instrument.

Another milestone was December 12th 1901 when Marconi sent the first wireless message across the Atlantic from Poldu, Cornwall, England to Signal Hill, St. John’s Newfoundland. The signals from Cornwall were inconsistent for commercial communications and Marconi set up his transatlantic service from Clifden, County Galway to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. The station was destroyed in July 1922 during the Irish Civil War. Marconi’s experimental wireless had spanned the Atlantic with a connection between Newfoundland and Valentia, Kerry and Clifden, County Galway the two closest points from one land mass to another across the Atlantic.
"The  value  of  Wireless  Telegraphy  may  one  day  be  put  to  a  great  practical  and  critical  test;  then  perhaps  there  will  be  a  true  appreciation  of  the  magnitude  of  our  work."
The comments of Marconi in 1914 as the new technology progressed at pace.

In 1902, a Marconi telegraphic station was established in the village of Crookhaven, County Cork, Ireland to provide marine radio communications to ships arriving from the into Queenstown and Kerry ports. A ship's master could contact shipping line agents ashore to enquire which port was to receive their cargo without the need to come ashore at what was the first port of landfall. As existing submarine cable operators in the early 1900s had held a monopoly on the telegraph service to Newfoundland, Marconi's built his first regular trans-Atlantic wireless service was established on October 17, 1907 outside Clifden, County Galway, Ireland to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  Another Marconi receiving station located near Letterfrack operated from 1913 until 1916. Marconi also built wireless facilities near Ballybunion in County Kerry in 1914 which were employed by the British during World War I. In March 1919, the first Marconi broadcast of voice by longwave radio, made from Marconi's station YXQ at Ballybunion was heard as far as Chelmsford and Louisburg, Nova Scotia. Marconi used the wireless stations in Clifden and Valentia to communicate with America through his stations in Newfoundland, Canada and in Wellfleet Massachusetts. In October 1907 Clifden was opened for the Marconi Company to send commercial telegraphs across the Atlantic.

The world's first pirate radio broadcast was transmitted from Dublin on April 25/26th 1916 during the 1916 Easter Rising when rebels used the new technology to circumvent strict British censorship to broadcast news of their Rising to the world.

Perhaps one of the most famous pirate radio stations in the world was Radio Caroline, the brainchild of Irish born Ronan O'Rahilly who's grandfather fought and died during the Easter Rising, The O'Rahilly. The original Caroline vessel was fitted out in Ronan's family shipyard in Greenore, County Louth. Radio Atlantis another pirate radio ship of the early sixties was also fitted out in the port much to the annoyance of the British broadcasting authorities. Caroline's first broadcast was on March 28th 1964 from the North Sea beaming its signal into Britain. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

How Pirate Radio Brought Down an Irish Government

Charlie Haughey the then leader of Fianna Fail and Taoiseach called a General Election to be held on June 11th 1981. Haughey had taken over as leader of Fianna Fail from Jack Lynch and inherited a twenty seat majority. Even if his Fianna Fail party had never achieved the landslide of his predecessor Lynch in 1977, his party were hot favourites to return to power but enter pirate radio and H Block Radio. At the height of the 1981 the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland were taking centre attention with the media. The crisis in the Maze Prison saw the election of Bobby Sands as an MP to the British House of Commons who died on hunger strike after 66 days on May 5th 1981. The following month Haughey called a General Election and the H Block movement ran or supported nine candidates in the General Election but because of the strict implementation of Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act these candidates were denied access to the broadcast media. The Broadcasting Act and in particular Section 31 of the Act was implemented by Fianna Fail Minister Gerry Collins and strengthened by Fine Gael Minister Conor Cruise O’Brien in 1977. The legislation prevented candidates of illegal paramilitary organisations such as The I.R.A. and Sinn Fein appearing on the airwaves. In many of the constituencies where these candidates ran, their campaigns set up pirate radio stations and broadcast their campaigns.

The H Block candidates garnered 15% of the first preference vote. As a result Kieran Doherty in Cavan Monaghan who would later die on Hunger Strike and Paddy Agnew were elected as TD’s. In Cavan Monaghan in 1977 the seat split was 3 Fianna Fail TD’s and 2 Fine Gael members. Although Doherty finished second in first preference votes he was not ‘transfer friendly’ and waited until the transfer of the eliminated votes of Fine Gael candidate Robert Fausset to be elected without reaching the quota. The constituency breakdown was now 2 Fianna Fail, 2 Fine Gael and Kieran Doherty. After the following election in February 1982, the pre 1981 status quo was restored with 3 Fianna Fail TDs and 2 Fine Gael TD’s.

In County Louth Padraig Faulkner of Fianna Fail was automatically returned as he was the outgoing Ceann Comhairle of the Dail. It meant effectively there were just three seats up for election. In 1977 the results saw Fianna Fail win three seats and the final seat going to Fine Gael. Although he was incarcerated in the H-Block he was not on hunger strike, Agnew topped the poll and after transfers was elected on the seventh count. The election of these two TD’s numerically denied Charles Haughey a route back into power. This allowed a Fine Gael Garret Fitzgerald led coalition along with the Labour party to come to power.
In the subsequent election in February 1982, Agnew did not run and the Louth constituency returned to 3 Fianna Fail and one Fine Gael TD.

In his book 'Down Down Deeper and Down, Ireland in the 70's and 80's’ Eamonn Sweeney wrote
‘Altogether, H-Block candidates averaged 15% of the first-preference vote in constituencies they contested. This was a remarkable performance, given that they had been without money, television exposure (or radio due to censorship laws) or any sympathetic media. It was probably beyond the wildest dreams of even their director of elections, Daithi O’Connell  who said the day before the election that "if the H-Block prisoner candidates get between 2,500 and 3,000 votes they will have put up a credible performance’

While Doherty and Agnew were both elected others who ran included Mairead Farrell who was a candidate in Cork North Central and in 1986 along with Sean Savage and Daniel McCann was shot dead on the island of Gibraltar by members of the British Army S.A.S. in a convert operation. Joe McDonnell who stood in the constituency of Sligo/Leitrim died on hunger strike on July 8th 1981, Kevin Lynch who died August 1st and Martin Hurson who stood in Longford/Westmeath died on Hunger Strike on July 13th 1981. In a number of the constituencies while no H Block supported candidate was elected their campaigns split a ‘republican’ vote taking votes from Fianna Fail and allowing the main opposition party Fine Gael to pick up a crucial extra seat in these constituencies.

Pirate radio had been widely used by the main political parties with many candidates being interviewed live on current affairs programmes. The Fine Gael/Labour coalition failed to hold onto power and another General Election was called for February 1982 and by now super pirates like ERI in Cork and Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova in Dublin were topping the ratings and while many illegal stations adhered to Section 31 and refused to let Sinn Fein leaning candidates access to the airwaves political instability continued as Haughey returned to power with the support of Independents like Tony Gregory but once again by November that year his Government had collapsed and another general election would return a stable Fine Gael led coalition. But by November 1982 RTE were issuing ultimatums to politicians of all parties that if they appeared on pirate radio they would not be allowed onto the national airwaves.

The Haughey Government had fallen and but the Fine Gael/Labour coalition only lasted until February 1982 when a proposed tax on shoes brought down the Government. The candidates were still using the pirates especially those broadcasting in the rural towns.  Fianna Fail went one step further than advertising on pirate radio stations they set up one of their own. Election Radio broadcasted for the duration of the campaign on 102 MHz and was set up with equipment borrowed from Eamonn Cooke at Radio Dublin

Monday, December 4, 2017

How Many Facebook/Twitter Followers Does Your Station Have? Have You Been Conned?

Social media such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter are at the heart of Irish radio station media presence as they keep listeners involved. Their online presence is another advertising revenue stream and can influence advertisers as they decide where to locate their cash. On Sunday December 3rd 2017, as the stations in a very competitive broadcasting landscape ramp up their Christmas advertising packages, we took a look at some of the Irish radio stations online presence and found some surprising results. These results do not include every radio station in Ireland just a representative selection and they are listed here in order of their Facebook Likes

Station Facebook Twitter
98 FM Dublin 695,923 145,000
iRadio Munster 580,816 102,000
Beat FM Munster 555,680 70,600
FM 104 Dublin 496,558 123,000
Today FM National 439,501 235,000
Spin 1038 Dublin 414,541 329,000
4FM National 401,900 13,100
RTE 2FM National 393,461 241,000
Spin South West Munster 262,941 81,800
Q 102 Dublin 172,237 15,300
Galway Bay FM Galway 135,279 11600
Newstalk National 121,794 203,000
Cork 96FM Cork 111,853 34,900
Christmas FM Temporary 102,063 89,700
Radio Nova Dublin 101,291 11,200
Sunshine Radio Dublin 98,015 2,645
WLR Waterford 70,629 16100
RTE Radio One National 42,257 110,000
Midlands 103 Midlands 37,282 3,839
MidWest Radio Mayo 31,719 11,400
Northern Sound Ulster 27,838 6,506
LMFM Louth 24,846 17600
KFM Kildare 23,322 10,700
Raidio Na Gaeltachta National 22,114 17,800
Ocean FM Sligo 20,561 6,920
Phever Pirate 12,473 1,634
Radio Maria Online 11,764 14,100
8Radio Temporary 9,620 6585
Klub FM Pirate 9,420 624
Spirit National 9,408 2,097
Tonik Pirate 8,362 353
RTE Gold Digital 6,885 1,921
Radio Na Life Dublin 6,818 7,727
Dublin City FM Dublin 6,111 8,454
Near FM Community 4,894 4,024
Radio Snowflake Online 3,018 571
Dublin Digital Radio Digital 2,694 1308
Cork Community Radio Community 2,573 19

98FM have over 695,000 likes for their page that equates to 58% of Dublin's population. To put that into perspective according to recent JNLR figures (Q1 2017) 820,000 people in Dublin listen to the radio every day. According to those figures 110,000 listen to 98FM on a daily basis that is just 1/6th of their facebook followers. The top ten stations were

Cork based pirate radio station Klub FM have more followers than Spirit Radio which broadcasts across the country and more followers than RTE digital station RTE Gold that has been receiving extra press coverage recently.

Twitter is another measurement stations can use to entice advertisers to their station. The more twitter followers your station has the more popular they are, right? Well NO. 
The top ten Twitter accounts from the above list were 

Spin 1038 Dublin 329,000
RTE 2FM National 241,000
Today FM National 235,000
Newstalk National 203,000
98 FM Dublin 145,000
FM 104 Dublin 123,000
RTE Radio One National 110,000
iRadio Munster 102,000
Christmas FM Temporary 89,700
Spin South West Munster 81,800

Spin topped the twitter top ten but that's not the full story. Spin 1038 was the second most listened to station after FM 104 in the Q1 JNLR figures with a 13% share (FM 104 had 16%) and they have 88,000 more twitter followers than the national state broadcaster's music channel 2FM. This should be music to an advertisers ear but when you drill into the 'followers' just like RTE Radio earlier this year when it was discovered that the 'followers' were padded with non existent followers (https://twitter.com/rtesecretpro/status/926051160972255232)then there is a fraud been perpetrated on advertisers and legitimate followers. These are screen shots of some of their phantom followers

Surely it should be the responsibility of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to ensure that their licensed stations are not conning the public and businesses.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Sound and Vision Awards 2017 -WHY?

The BAI announced to the new awards under the Sound and Vision scheme for radio and television productions. There were some eye openers. Firstly the business to be in is animation. Over three quarters of a million euro awarded to animation projects including the 5% support of the Channel 4 (a UK channel that has an advertising opt-out to take ad revenue from the domestic channels all licensed by the BAI) production 'Oops The Adventure Continues' for €100,000. Also the Cartoon Saloon's feature film 'Wolfwalkers' received 2% funding at the cost of €200,000.

But perhaps the eye opening awards were for Oireachtas TV, the channel that broadcasts proceedings from Dail Eireann who are now producing programmes. The main question is WHY? The channel has such low viewing figures, was set up to broadcast proceedings from the houses of the Oireachtas and committee proceedings. There is no EPG and therefore no one will know when 'extra' historical programming will be broadcast and surely any extra programming should be sponsored by the Oireachtas itself.

The two awards, with Dublin Community TV receiving none, were €125,000 to Yellow Asylum Films for 85% of the production costs of a single episode titled 'In Their Words' and €70,000 to PaperOwl Films for a 11 part animated series 'The Future is You', earning them 65% of the production costs. This seems to a pointless award when there were other worthy projects denied access to funding under Sound and Vision. The excellent work of these companies is not in doubt but both the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Oireachtas TV need to explain in more detail these awards, their benefits and oversight of the money awarded.  


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Alternative IMRO Awards

In October 2017, the great and the good of Irish Radio attended a gala at Lyrath House, Kilkenny to reward those who have in the previous year contributed to the multi layered tapestry that is Irish Radio . But these awards recognise the contribution of stations, shows and presenters in a commercial industry where an award helps to bolster advertising revenue and increased contracts. But there is more to Irish radio than commercial broadcasting and to try and balance this up the Irish Broadcasting Hall of Fame has created a number of new awards and winners. 

Irish Community (non commercial) Radio Station of the Year
GOLD          NEAR FM

Irish College Radio Station of the Year

GOLD       FLIRT FM (Galway)
BRONZE              WIRED FM

Irish Temporary Rado Licence of the Year

SILVER                  WIMS (WALK IN MY SHOES)
BRONZE               8 RADIO

Community Radio Programme of the Year

GOLD       LIVE DRIVE (Dublin City FM)
SILVER                 THE WIRELESS (Flirt FM)

Irish Pirate Station of the Year

GOLD       PHEVER FM (Dublin)
SILVER                 OPEN TEMPO (Waterford)
BRONZE              ENERGY AM (Dublin)

Irish Pirate Radio DJ of the Year

GOLD       RONAN O'SHEA (Phever FM)
SILVER                  MARK SHEVLIN (Trax FM)
BRONZE              ANDI DURRANT (True Radio Cork)

Irish Community Radio Presenter of the Year

GOLD      PAM DUGGAN (Live Drive Dublin City FM)
SILVER                MARTIN CONROY (Connemara Community Radio)
BRONZE            JOHN WALSH (Flirt FM)

Irish Language Station of the Year

SILVER                RAIDIO NA LIFE

Online Irish Radio Station of the Year

SILVER                RADIO MARIA

Tunein Irish Radio Station of the Year


Irish Hospital Radio Station of the Year


Brexit Irish Radio Station of the Year (on the border)
GOLD      Q 101.2
SILVER                RADIO NORTH 846 AM

Online Irish Radio Presenter of the Year

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Irish Pirate Radio Museum Update

Firstly my apologies for the tardiness of an update but some family issues have taken precedence. Some months ago I organised a meeting with the aim of hopefully launching an exhibition or museum dedicated to Irish Pirate Radio and it was a great start in Branigans with some excellent suggestions.

 I have been honoured and privileged to have received the donation of two private collections of pirate radio memorabilia and hopefully in the not too distant future everyone will enjoy the extent of these archives.
I have been in touch with Libraries, galleries and have made contact with both the Arts Council and Heritage departments with the view of either securing grant funding or a venue to display these great collections and delivering the story of Irish pirate radio, an integral part of Irish broadcasting history and Irish history.

A business plan has been drawn up and the archives catalogued and with your help we may be able to secure sustainable funding from a benefactor who has an interest in Irish media history and education or find a donor of a venue especially as we reach the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the 1988 Wireless Telegraphy Act.