Broadcasting in Ireland in the 1930’s was strictly controlled by the Government and the Department of Posts and Telegraphs with Eamon DeValera as Taoiseach from March 1932 and the Minister in charge from 33-37 was Gerry Boland.
2RN continued to broadcast but 6CK was closed due to financial difficulties. A high powered sixty kilowatt transmitter was installed in Athlone to cover the entire country and was due to go on the air in 1933 but the Government sped up plans and the transmitter went live for the Eucharistic Congress held in Ireland in 1932.
Eamon DeValera officially opened the station known as Radio Athlone on February 6th 1933. Radio Athlone began life on 413m but the Lucerne Conference altered that to 513mMW. In 1937 the service was renamed Radio Eireann.
Sponsored programmes were the popular medium for advertising in the early days of radio broadcasting. Advertising revenue became increasingly important to cover the cost of the Athlone transmitter. The first sponsored programme, featuring Euthymol toothpaste, was broadcast on 31 December 1927. Through the 1930s, Independent Newspapers sponsored "Slumber Hour", PJ Carroll, makers of Sweet Afton cigarettes, sponsored "Sweet Afton Varieties", The Savoy Cocoa Company sponsored the "Savoy Minstrels", and The Blackrock Hosiery Company, "Rock Revellers".
"The Irish Hospitals' Sweepstakes" programme, sponsored by the Irish Hospitals' Trust to promote the sale of tickets for the Irish Sweepstake, and "The Walton's Programme", Leo Maguire sponsored by the Dublin music shop of that name, became among the best-known and longest-running sponsored programmes.
On St. Patricks Day 1939 following the acquisition of a one hundred watt short wave transmitter for £7,500, Radio Eireann began short wave broadcasts on 19.85metres. With the outbreak of the Second World War these transmissions ceased but was relaunched with transmission of the News Bulletins aimed at North America. The service was discontinued in 1952.
Over several days in February 1936, twenty tunes were played for listeners to Radio Athlone. The purpose was to let the listeners select a suitable identification tune signal for the Irish national station. By a large majority, the tune selected was "O'Donnell Abú". In all, 968 letters were received. There were 260 votes for "O'Donnell Abú".
The 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act was supposed to be a deterrent but one young man in Limerick would break all the rules. Jim O’Carroll attended the Technical Institute on O’Connell Avenue in the city. He had a keen interest in electronics and while experimenting built a crystal receiving set that allowed him to listen to 2RN, the BBC and with improvements he began to listen to Short Wave broadcasts from America and Australia.
In 1935 O’Carroll added an oscillator to his receiving set and turned it into a transmitter that was powerful enough to be heard all over the city. After testing its limitations O’Carroll had to find a home for his new station as living with his sister was not the ideal location for secrecy. He eventually found a location on the third floor at the home of his friend Charlie O’Connor at 84 Henry Street.
The station now named The City Broadcasting Station (CBS) went on the air playing gramophone records and announcing what movie was showing in the local picture houses. On air most nights from 7 – 11pm on 520m the station continued with Billy Dynamite (O’Carroll) and Al Dubbin (O’Connor) at the controls broadcasting a mixture of speech, gramophone records, relayed programmes from American radio and even swimming lessons on the radio.
The station continued from February to October with the only change being the location. The station moved to the home of Michael Madden at 25 Wolfe Tone Street who had been providing the batteries for the station. The station went from strength to strength and was the first station in Ireland to carry a paid commercial when the Wolfe Tone Dairy began to advertise its products.
On October 31st, Halloween while Michael Madden was on the air, the station was raided by the police and an engineer from the Post Office Walter Dain. Madden was arrested and the equipment confiscated. Following a court case in February 1936 Madden was convicted and fined £1 and 2 guineas costs. During the case Garda Lenihan said that,
‘during the illegal broadcasts names were mentioned and scandalous remarks used’.
It would be the first conviction under the 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act.
August 14th 1938 Michael O’Hehir’s first Radio Eireann broadcast All Ireland semi final between Loais and Kerry (Worked on GAA matches until 1985)