Wednesday, January 23, 2019

1989 Radio in Ireland - March, April & May Timeline

March 8th Hearing for the Limerick franchise take place at Jury's Hotel. There are 6 applicants
March  16th  Sunshine Radio wins judicial review o n the awarding of the Radio
2000 licence in Dublin due to Fred O'Donovan's connection with the
Radio 2000 application as his participation as a member of the IRTC
March  16th  Cork Media Enterprises awarded the Cork City franchise, WKLR
win the county Cork franchise
April 12th TV 3 win third TV licence franchise
April 30th Millennium Radio Closes in Dublin
May  12th The Courts clear the way for Radio 2000 to open as Capital Radio
following a review application from Sunshine Radio boss Robbie
May  24th According to Oliver Barry he handed over 35,000 to the
Communications Minister Ray Burke

Sunday, January 13, 2019

1989 Radio in Ireland - Part One January & February

The year is 1989 and the new Wireless Telegraphy Act has put most of the pirate stations off the air on December 30th & 31st 1988. In parallel with the new stricter laws, the Government introduced new legislation to provide independent commercial radio franchises across the country, the franchises were to be awarded by the Independent Radio and Television Commission (IRTC). In this blog we look at the events of January and February 1989. 

January  1st The airwaves are silent as pirate stations across the country close except for Radio Dublin.
January  1st
The last Morse code message sent to Sweden from Malin Marconi station.
In operation since 1902, new voice communication technology had been
recently installed
January  5th 
The electricity and telephones are cut at Radio Dublin
January  12th
The IRTC public hearing for National Licence at the National Concert Hall
January  13th
2FM broadcast live from the lobby of St George's Hotel Limerick
January  14th
RTE Cork Local Radio broadcast hours extended
January  20th
The High Court orders the temporary re-connection of power and telephone to Radio Dublin
January  20th
Final date for applications to the IRTC for one of the new licences
January  20th
It’s announced that Richard Branson of Virgin Radio has purchased Radio Nova International from Chris Cary
January  22nd
Gay Byrne confirms he will not be joining Century Radio
January  24th
85 applications are made for the local commercial independent franchises. '
The great radio race' begins for the 24 licences

Pirates that remain on air include Radio Dublin, Premier Radio, Radio City
105 and K 104. Outside Dublin there was Radio North. Zee 103,
Borderside Weekend Radio, Rainbow Radio, Laser 89 and Radio Star County
February  1st Ray Burke, the Minister announces that the new Radio and TV licences will generate 600 jobs
February  1st
Eamon Cooke win another seven day extension to the injunction against the
ESB and P&T for the cutting of services to the pirate station
February  2nd
Dorothy Hayden Cudahy known as the 'First Lady of Irish Radio' in the US,
chosen as Grand Marshall for the New York St Patrick's Day parade.
She died in August 2010
February  3rd
Waterford newspapers announce that local pirate station Laser 1989 has gone off the air
February  6th
Radio Dublin lose their Supreme Court challenge
February  7th
Radio Dublin is raided.

February  8th
3.05pm Radio Dublin comes back on the air
February  11th
7.30am and Radio Dublin is raided again
February 15th 
It is announced that after ten years (November 1980) Declan Meehan was returning to RTE Radio 2
February 16th
The IRTC hold submissions conference for the two Dublin Franchises
February  20th
NIHE student radio takes to the air with an IRTC licence
February 21st
IRTC hearings held in Cork for the Cork and Kerry franchises, there are 13 bids for 4 licences
February  21st
It is announced that the late Sir Terry Wogan was joining the board of Century Radio
February  22nd
The transmission fee row between Century and RTE intensifies
February  23rd
Radio 2000 and Capital Radio win the two franchises for Dublin

Next blog with cover March & April 1989

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Legacy of the Golden Era of Irish Pirate Radio

What is the real legacy of pirate radio in Ireland? The 30th anniversary of the introduction of a new Wireless Telegraphy Act and the closedown of many of Ireland’s most iconic and successful pirate radio stations has been broadcast but was there more to that period other than the rosy tinted nostalgia for a pre-social media, fake news and Brexit time?

Pirate radio has a long tradition in Ireland dating back to the 1916 Rising when a rebel radio apparatus made Ireland the first nation in the world to be declared by radio. In Britain, the pirate radio that created the need for a pop music channel was located on the high seas with the likes of Radio Caroline but in Ireland the radio buccaneers remained on dry land. The plethora of pirate radio stations in Ireland exposed the listening public to the possibility of an alternative to RTE Radio. It created an awareness of the power of radio and it also demonstrated to financial giants that radio in Ireland could generate huge turnovers.

Pirate radio across Ireland in cities, towns and villages gave a voice to communities and allowed local businesses to advertise local people. The golden era of pirate radio for the decade 1978 to 1988 was the birth of a fledgling radio industry that today directly employs hundreds of people and indirectly thousands in ancillary service such as transmission provision, PR companies and advertising agencies. In the late seventies the hobby, bedroom room, homemade transmitter pirate station was making way for more grounded yet still illegal stations with imported purposely built transmitters, studios and offices located in Georgian buildings and formats that were attracting listeners and advertisers.

It created a host of media personalities many of them still on radio and television today. Household names trained and mentored on pirate radio. Pirate radio was a beacon of light in times of local crises. RTE is a national state broadcaster trying to cater to everyone’s needs and tastes while BLB was Bray Local Broadcasting in every sense of its title. When Hurricane Charlie struck the seaside town in 1986, BLB was the glue that held a community together. It informed, it comforted and it made a difference. In Clonmel on CBC Radio during a severe snow storm, the station's phone was the link that help to summon the assistance of the Aer Corps helicopters for stranded pregnant weapon and farmers in desperate need to get fodder to their animals. It was to the pirate stations that Schools got in touch with to tell pupils and staff that their school was either closed or in the aftermath re-opening. 

Pirate radio transmitters were often homemade but they offered choice. The airwaves were filled with pop music, country music, rock, dance and easy listening even the Catholic church had their own pirate transmitters to bring their services to their communities.

Without pirate radio some of Ireland’s most famous musicians would not have had a platform for success. Would U2 have become the global force they have become if in the 1970s and '80s they were solely reliant on RTE Radio 2 for exposure? Their first airplay was a demo tape on Big D Radio. Would Daniel O’Donnell have become the massive star he is without the airplay from TTTR, Radio Star Country or Mid West Radio? Musically Ireland would have been unable to punch above its weight as a small island on the global music scene without the influence of the pirate radio stations.

Pirate radio shone a light on dull, dark Ireland and for that as a nation we should be thankful and praise the contribution of all those pirate broadcasters across Ireland we have made a difference.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


I am standing in Milly’s Pizza shop window on Broadway in Brooklyn, New York watching Sheri Barclay set up her pirate radio station. Most of the equipment is packed into a purple suitcase and as customers come and go ordering a variety of quality pizzas, Sheri connects the mixing desks, the turntables and computer now resting on the wooden window ledge.

Sheri begins to set up her station

Within minutes she is testing her station KPISS, the Golden Stream. While not broadcasting on FM everything about her station screams irreverence and fun from the station name and tagline to her website .fm domain address. She claims her pirate status through the station being unlicensed

Sheri in the shop window of KPISS

The noise of a passing subway train on the raised tracks along Broadway and the screaming siren of a passing NYFD ambulance is deafening but as I don a pair of headphones and take one of the two microphones to continue my interview with Sheri, it is genuinely impressive the noise reduction and the background noises now create an authentic New York ambiance missing from New York’s legal formatted stations. It is raw radio at its very best.

Sheri is an enthusiastic youthful bundle of energy whose passion for her station is a breath of fresh air. While Sheri is a native New Yorker her mother is from Israel and her father from New York. With her father's Irish heritage she feels she is ‘15% Irish Jew or something like that’. She is one of our own. She began KPISS three years earlier from a shipping container in an alley about 150m from her present location on an alleyway known as Punk Alley. But issues with the landlords and power outages there forced an urgent move and in return for advertising Milly’s Pizza Parlour became the stations new headquarters. The Pizza owner was only too happy to accommodate KPISS as he has seen business increase not only from the on-air advertising, but the novelty of a radio station located in his shop window. 'It's the most sacred place in Brooklyn. Eating a pizza or ravioli or patties if you prefer (they also have salads) makes Milly's a divine experience.'

The Original Location of KPISS

As our interview continued a curious local came into the shop to see what was going on and while Sheri was polite, she was a busy woman setting up her station and being interviewed by this stranger from Ireland she was firm. She directed the gentlemen to her website and he was gone. The downside for Sheri in moving to Milly’s was its accessibility early in the mornings as she must wait until the owner opens in advance of the lunchtime rush. This meant KPISS lost their breakfast and morning programming and connected presenters. She bemoans the fact that she lost quality and popular DJs by losing the breakfast slots and lost others who enjoyed the anonymity of the shipping container studio but were not as comfortable broadcasting from a shop window. Shows like Brooklyn Bullshit, Doctor Zoddity Ghoully Show and Silly Seffy can all be found on KPISS.

Sheri does not do much from the broadcast side and concentrates on managing her stations finances, their new quality website (link below) which Sheri designed herself and maintains and the impressive archive of the stations output. She also has a roster of almost 50 DJ’s to organise. Several local celebrities’ hove dropped in not just for pizza but to be interviewed and this has helped to raise the profile of the station. The finances for the station come from a mix of sources. The DJ’s pay to play and Sheri while offering training courses uses her personal finances to keep the station going.

Sheri speaks of the future of KPISS including a move back to a dedicated radio studio but still intends to keep the successful pizza shopfront studio and she hopes to create a brand for global success with ‘KPISS Vietnam’ a distinct possibility.

The stations output is an eclectic mix of programmes while the spontaneity of pirate or free radio is there. Sheri insists that her DJ’s follow a sort of format by scripting and uploading playlists to her web presence and archive which is a bit hit and miss creating more work for Sheri.

I can both recommend Brooklyn’s premier station KPISS and the pizza at Milly’s.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Time to get involved

Blog of the Year Finalist 2018

After a number of years on the long list and then the short list, The Irish Broadcasting Hall of Fame blog has made the finals at the 2018 Irish Blog Awards with the ceremony to be held in late October. The month will be a pivotal month in the history of the archiving of Irish broadcasting history. More details will be announced on October 2nd 2018.