Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Irish TV Landscape Changes Dramatically

The Irish television landscape has dramatically changed in 2015 with all three major Independent television stations being sold. The consolidation of the television media by larger media interests began in July 2015 with the acquisition of TV3 (and its sister station 3e) by Liberty Global. Liberty Global is a multi national cable and digital TV operator founded by Irish American millionaire John Malone. In 2013 the company significantly increased its port folio with the purchase of Virgin Media. The sale price is thought to be in the region of €87m, significantly less than the €265m paid by financiers Doughty Hanson in 2006 for the station.

In October it was announced that UTV Ireland would change hands. Originally set up as a sister station to the UK independent television franchise in Northern Ireland, Ulster Television, UTV Ireland was sold as part of the UTV package to ITV for €136m.

And as the year drew to a close it was announced that telecoms provider Eir (formerly Eircom) had purchased the sports channel Setanta Sports Ireland.

The only TV channel licensed by The BAI not to change hands in 2015 is the relatively new Irish TV which is backed financially by Irish born UK resident John Griffin.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Gaybo Revolution

It is no exaggeration to call Gay Byrne a colossus of the Irish broadcasting world. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, as host of both The Late Late Show and The Gay Byrne Show, he played a seminal role in the shift in Irish society and culture from the Church-dominated, fearful state of the early 1960s to the modern, multicultural Ireland of today.

Reviled and revered in equal measure, Byrne was ‘the great window-opener’ and a ‘media lay priest’ who shone a spotlight on some of the darkest and most taboo areas of Irish life. Using media articles, letters to Irish newspapers, recent studies of Irish culture, quotes from Byrne himself and a re-examination of his original broadcasts, The Gaybo Revolution explores how Byrne and his programmes provided a forum for popular debate and were catalysts for change in Irish life.

Examining controversies that shocked the nation, such as the Bishop and the Nightie affair, and the Ann Lovett letters, as well as seminal interviews with Annie Murphy, Pádraig Flynn, Gerry Adams and Terry Keane, Finola Doyle-O’Neill takes us on a journey through Ireland’s recent past. The Gaybo Revolution will appeal to anyone who is interested in the evolution of Irish society and culture in the late twentieth century. 

A fantastic read which lays bare much of the journey not just one TV show took but an entire nation on a Saturday night. This is one book that should be 'one for everyone in the audience'.

Author Dr Finola Doyle-O’Neill is a broadcast historian with the School of History at UCC where she lectures in Ireland’s Film and Media History. She has contributed widely to public debates and conferences on Ireland’s media history, and was convenor of TV50, a collaboration between UCC and RTÉ celebrating 50 years of television in Ireland. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015


I have recently listened to some of the great OTR (Old Time Radio) stations through the 'tunein' app and two thoughts occurred to me. Firstly having listened to so many great programmes from the golden era of US radio, I feel in Ireland we have lost so much great radio from RTE because of the lack of recordings which in turn was due to the lack of finances afforded to the state broadcaster.

The golden era of US radio is usually associated with the late thirties, forties and fifties up to the period when television began to replace radio drama as radio moved more to music and news delivery. On stations such as WNAR, Antioch 1710 or Rumsey Retro Radio you can hear some great dramas such as The Whistler, Suspense or The Lives of Harry Lime (from the Third Man starring Orson Wells), comedy programmes like You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx, The Jack Benny Show or Abbot & Costello.

Perhaps Irish programmes such as one off dramas or The Kennedy's of Castleross would be worth listening to again. Reviews for Radio Eireann programmes were often flowing with praise and how I would love to hear some of the great Irish actors who appeared on the radio.

Secondly stations in the US such as WNAR are available on line but also on medium wave (AM) as a microstation. A microstation broadcasts locally on very low wattage but they are able to broadcast to niche markets without much big brother controls from the FCC. Perhaps a similar system of low powered transmitters could be employed in Ireland on AM frequencies in around 1500 - 1600 Khz where no Irish stations exist and low power would cause little interference to UK stations.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015


Irish broadcasting is now in the hands of a very small cartel of businessmen leading to concerns about diversity, impartiality and competition.

The media news cycle has been dominated by ITV's proposed €135m takeover of UTV and UTV Ireland but is this leading to a further dilution of Irish commercial broadcasting, away from a national identity?

Has the competition and choice as regulated for in 1988 being stifled with UTV Ireland now in the hands of the UK market leader and also by TV'3 acquisition by Liberty Global in 2015 for a reported €80m? The TV3 deal included the sale of its sister station 3e which had begun life as Channel 6 only to have its parent company Kish Media swallowed up by the TV3 acquisition. The diversity for both viewers and advertisers has taken a hit.

Liberty Global has been extremely active in the Irish broadcasting market in recent weeks as it rebrands its cable and digital provision service UPC as Virgin Media Ireland. It is one a major player in the Irish market and as ITV takes over UTV, John Malone's Liberty Global has increased its stake in ITV from an initial 6.4% to 9.9% leading to speculation of a takeover bid that would surely bring Ireland's Competition Authority to the table. Liberty's initial investment in ITV had cost €500 million.

Liberty's CEO is Colorado born Irish-American John Malone. He made his fortune in the cable TV provision sector in the United States. Liberty Global's revenue in 2014 was $18 billion employing over 35,000 across fourteen countries.

UTV having divested itself of its television portfolio is still heavily involved in radio broadcasting both north and south of the Irish border and in the UK. UTV Radio operates Q102, 96FM, C103, Limerick 95, U105 and FM 104. As though to prove that the Irish media circle is extremely small, former CEO of FM 104 Dermot Hanrahan purchased the Irish arm of the cinema advertising giant Carlton Screen from ITV renaming it Wide Eye Media.

In radio terms another giant is Denis O'Brien's Communicorp founded in 1989 which operates the commercial nation and quasi national stations Today FM and Newstalk as well as 98FM and Spin FM. In commercial radio in Ireland there are very few single franchise owning firms with many such as Bay Broadcasting and Landmark Media owning more than one radio station.

The third biggest influence presently in the Irish market is Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB. Their provision of satellite TV services and channel opt outs for domestic advertising has fragmented the advertising cash pool being chased by the state broadcaster RTE and commercial operations like TV3 and UTV Ireland. Sky also provide content such as Sky News, Sky One and Sky Sports.

To a lesser extent in the television market but still a major player in terms of advertising sales and creating expensive bidding for sports TV rights is Setanta Sports Ireland. Setanta is 60% owned by MCD promoter Denis Desmond through his Gaeity Investments vehicle while the remaining 40% is in the hands of founders Michael O'Rourke, Leonard Ryan and Mark O'Meara.

The deregulation of Irish broadcasting in the late 1980s dismantled RTE's airwaves monopoly and was created to create choice but as the old adage goes 'its more about the survival of the fittest' leading to consolidation and restricted choice. The choice has become stagnant, even the arrival of a new station like UTV Ireland fails to ignite the market but in terms of viewers choice and advertisers. Ireland is left with a State monolith and three smaller monopolies. This stagnation has led to an acceptance by the public, regulators and legislators that money talks whether it's the sale of broadcasting outlets or the carve up of advertising revenue. The viewers and the listener are the casualties.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Irish Broadcasting: The Last Post & Chorus

The Irish Broadcasting: The Last Post & Chorus: Following the recent and sad death of a friend and a gentleman Johnny Lyons, it put me to quickly remember some of those in the world of bro...

The Last Post & Chorus

Following the recent and sad death of a friend and a gentleman Johnny Lyons, it put me to quickly remember some of those in the world of broadcasting we have so far lost this year and it seems to be such a sad year and a loss to our broadcasting family.

Johnny Lyons (August 2015)
A gentleman on and off the air, Johnny was a well known voice and authority on sports broadcasting on 98FM and more recently the Premiership broadcasts on Today FM

Liam O'Murichu (June 2015)
Cork born Liam joined RTE in 1964 as editor of Irish language programming. He is best remembered as the host of the bilingual 'Trom Agus Eadrom' and the pre All Ireland shows 'Up for The Match'.

Diamuid Mac An Adhaister (July 2015)
Diarmuid was a familiar face on TG4 and starred as Seamus on that Irish channel's soap opera 'Ros na Run' since its launch in 1992. He can be seen on Youtube in the episode starring Stephen Fry some years ago.

Derek Davis (May 2015)
Larger than life Derek passed away after a short illness. He began his career with American network ABC before moving to the BBC and then onto RTE. He famously presented 'Live at Three' for many years with Thelma Mansfield and twice as host of The Rose of Tralee. In latter years he presented a number of programmes about fishing around Ireland.

Bill O'Herlihy (May 2015)
Bill will be best remembered as the 'referee' on RTE's soccer panel with messers Dunphy, Giles and Brady. Bill began his career with RTE Cork before moving to the newsroom in Montrose and eventually into the sports department where he presented everything from soccer to the Olympics.

Tony Fenton (March 2015)
Tony succumbed to a long battle with illness earlier this year. Antony Fagan as he was born began his radio DJing career with Dublin's pirate radio stations including Sunshine Radio and Radio Nova. He left the pirates and joined 2FM but left the state broadcaster and joined the national commercial station Today FM in 2003 to present the very popular afternoon slot.

Sir Peter O'Sullevan (July 2015)
Although Peter is forever associated with horse racing broadcasts in the UK and especially the Grand National Meeting on BBC and more recently Channel 4, Peter was born in Kenmare, County Kerry.

To all their families and friends we offer our condolences but remember that they have all left us a legacy for future generations.   

Saturday, 4 July 2015

1916 Irish OTR

TV 3's Pressure Point & Room Full of Empty Clappers

I have written in the past on the history of Irish TV quiz shows and last year I had a look at it from the inside. I spotted an invitation to be part of a new TV game show produced by TV3. Following a written application I was invited for a casting session in the Mont Claire hotel near Merrion Square. In the bar we were asked to fill in an application form and handed hand written name badges.

We were told that they were trying to weed out those who genuinely had a good general knowledge and those who just wanted their fifteen minutes of fame on TV. The prize ladder was to be €50 up to a maximum of €200, so it wasn't exactly going to be either Who Wants to be A Millionaire or the Weakest Link. In small groups we were taken down to another room where the casting director Gordon explained the rules and mission of 'Pressure Point'. We stood in a semi circle and one of the producers acted as the host. With bits of paper on the floor representing our 'Lives' we acted out the game. After fifteen minutes we were thanked and left.

On February 3rd, I received an email to confirm I had got through the auditions to the actual recording of the show.

"Hello again and congratulations on making it to the final stage of TV3s new quiz show Crossfire (previously Pressure Point)
We are delighted to have you as one of our contestants in the general knowledge quiz where you will have to push your fellow players out of the game with correct answers!
We would be delighted if you could join us in our HD studios in Ballymount in Dublin on Thursday - February 27th at 9am.
Please arrive on time as on the day we will have a lot of stuff to go through with you before you get to play the game. We will brief you on the rules of the game, get you familiarised with our amazing new set, we will have you fed and watered all before hair and make-up and then it’s time for you to play Crossfire!
It will be a great day out and we are really excited to have you as part of the show.

I arrived at Ballymount and parked up the car. I was greeted at the door and taken to the green room where chatted nervously with other contestants. We were offered light refreshments and the guys and gals tried to put us at ease. There was another semi run through of the game and then one by one we were called out to make up. 

With their new Sony HD studios being used, make up was applied thick and fast with a spray gun to take the shine off my baldy head. Another short wait in the green room and the four contestants for the show I was to appear on was taken to the studio. A large room was a brightly illuminated stage area. To the left was one of the dolly cams and over to the very right was the floor manager's area. 

There was a slight delay due to electrical technical difficulties that seemed to agitate many of those on the stage floor. Sean Moncrieff, the show host arrived 'on set' but had no interactions with any of us until we were all in place on the stage. The entire series of twenty episodes were being recorded over a small number of days.

We were eventually taken to our podium places while cameras and lighting moved into place. Needless to say I didn't win and realised that it seemed to depend more on your podium position rather than your depth of general knowledge. 

'The 20-part, half-hour show features four competitors attempting to force each other out of  the game during three rounds of general knowledge questioning, with the ultimate aim of winning €2,000. (More than the €200 we were originally told of.) The aim of the game is answer correct questions to take out opponents. Each player has ten lives on their podium, answer correctly and a point goes into the centre pot. You can collect up correct answers to hit an opponent with, and steal questions they get wrong.'

The series started on TV 3 on Friday nights beginning on March 28th 2014. The episode I appeared on aired on TV 3 on June 6th and was repeated later on their sister channel 3e. One of the most unusual aspects of viewing the show was the generous applause by the audience as we answered questions or reached the next round but alas the studio had no audience and like M*A*S*H added a laugh track, Crossfire added a clapping track for added effect.

I did force a re-ask of a question from the host as I jumped the gun with the answer before our esteemed host had earned his fee and given me the choices. Then before the show begun we were all asked to look with interest in each of our fellow contestants probably to be cut in at the edit stage. It was all very formulaic.

To be honest it was a great experience especially the effort I put to 'please do not swear on camera as we are on a tight schedule.' 

Friday, 3 July 2015

TV 3, The Early Days

With the sale of TV 3 to UPC Ireland announced today (subject to Government approval) it may be timely to look back at the early days of Ireland's first commercial TV station.

When the Independent Radio & Television Commission offered a national radio franchise for a commercial channel a number of submissions were made to the Commission. One of these bids was TV 3 headed at that time by Paul McGuinness (Manager of the group U 2) and Windmill Lane Studios who had already set up a news division and had won the contract to provide live television coverage of Dail Eireann proceedings. One by one their competitors withdrew from the race and in April 1989, TV 3 was awarded the contract and the consortium planned to be on the air by the summer of 1990.

The proposal initially was the TV 3 would broadcast on the new MMDS system which was being licensed at the time to bring multi - channel television to areas not cabled. This plan was reviewed when it became apparent that the MMDS system would not be in place for TV 3 to go on the air. The Minister for Communications gave TV 3 permission to broadcast on UHF.

In October 1991, the IRTC withdrew the licence from TV 3 as no start date was imminent. The IRTC readvertised the franchise but TV 3 took their case to the High Court claiming that the IRTC were wrong to withdraw the licence. Mr. Justice Blaney agreed with TV 3 and the licence was returned to chief executive James Morris but he claimed that the station had already lost thirteen million pounds by not being on the air.

In September 1995, Ulster Television decided to take a forty five per cent stake in TV 3 but exactly one year later U.T.V. pulled out of the deal leaving TV3 struggling for investors to generate the required capital to go on the air. One of the shareholders in Ulster television, CanWest Global, who held a 29.9% stake in the Northern station, entered into negotiations with TV chairman James Morris and came to the rescue of the yet to go on air station. The Winnipeg based Canadian broadcaster controlled seven stations in their native country, TV 3 and TV 4 in New Zeeland and a controlling interest in Australia's Network 10. CanWest took UTV's share joining James Morris, Windmill Lane Pictures, U 2 manager Paul McGuinness and accountant Ossie Kilkenny as shareholders in TV 3.

Nine years after first being awarded the licence on September 9th the TV 3 test card appeared on screen.  TV 3 was launched on September 20th 1998 from their purposely built studio complex on an industrial estate to the west of the city at Ballymount. At five thirty p.m. An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern T.D. switched on the new channel with their first programme titled 'This Is TV 3', a comedy revolving a Dublin family being shown around TV 3's headquarters. At 6p.m., TV 3 News fronted by Alan Cantwell and Grainne Seoige, who had been poached from T na G, aired but TV 3 would lose the head to head battle with RTE and in early 1999 announced that instead of their 6p.m. and 11p.m. news programmes, news bulletins would be broadcast at 5.30p.m. and 7p.m. and their normal 11p.m. news programme.

One of the early success stories on TV 3 was the weatherman they poached from 98FM, Martin King. His energetic delivery of the weather led to a shake up of RTE's weather slots. The only home produced programme on opening night was the start of a docu-comic adventure series fronted by comedians Messer’s Rooney and Tylac. Much of TV 3's early programme schedule was dominated by American imports and BBC's Eastenders. Chief Executive Rick Hetherington signed a major movie deal to guarantee the biggest releases for exclusive transmission on the new channel.
Ratings for opening night was put at 900,000 which would not be bettered until November 19th when TV 3 covered the Yugoslavia versus Ireland  soccer game for which TV 3 bought the rights to and the rights to all the away matches in the European Championships. Over one million viewers tuned into TV3's coverage.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Really BBC?

'First time in history to hear the sounds of battle' was a statement in Jonathan Dimbleby's two part documentary 'The BBC at War'. It referred to an event in December 1939 when his father Richard was with the British Army in France. It is perhaps a grandiose comment portraying the BBC as a pioneer and flag bearer for the new medium of radio broadcasting a war but perhaps in his rush to 'soundbite' Jonathan ignored the first war fought through the medium of radio and led to it's study in black propaganda, The Spanish Civil War.

During that conflict especially on the Nationalists side, sympathetic radio stations were broadcasting reports from the front line and while perhaps the sound of actually cannon fire was absent due the the lack of recording equipment, in December 1939 a phony war was being fought on the western front and the so called sounds of battle may have been a soldier cleaning his weapon.

The two part series was in many other respects excellent and in relation to our own situation in Ireland with Radio Eireann and the Emergency demonstrated that many of the issues faced by the Irish broadcaster affected the much bigger BBC. It was also fascinating to know that the BBC HQ was located in Bangor, Wales just 160 KM away from Radio Eireann in the GPO, O'Connell Street.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


UTV Ireland announced (March 18th 2015) that it expects a full-year loss of about £6m (€8.35m) from its newest television channel, UTV Ireland, up from an expected loss of £3m. The company said the increase is due to delayed negotiations with advertisers and slower than expected audience build. This undoubtedly has increased pressure on the man at the top John McCann but let us take a moment to look at St. Patrick's Day for UTV Ireland.
UTV Ireland's contribution to the national holiday was their regular two news bulletins at 6.30pm and 10pm both of which are already struggling to get traction in the ratings. Their movie at 11pm was about an 'Irish' woman in the UK titled 'Felicia's Journey' which was released in 1999 and was not exactly a box office smash. So what about the competition?
RTE One led the way with an entire evening (prime time 6pm - Midnight)of domestically produced programming. TG 4, TV 3 and 3e all had Irish themed nights with the exception of TV3's Champions League coverage. The smaller Irish TV broadcast live a two hour show from Armagh to celebrate the national day.
BBC2 Northern Ireland went Irish from 9 - 10.30pm while UTV Ireland sister station UTV broadcast 'St Patricks Day' from 10.40 - 11.10, a programme not made available on UTV Ireland. The only channel with less 'Irish TV' during prime time was RTE 2 which stuck to its regular Tuesday Schedule.
This may be the source of UTV Ireland problems in connecting with an audience south of the border.
For further reading see

Thursday, 12 March 2015


An extract taken from my forthcoming book 'Ireland Calling - Decade by Decade History of Irish Broadcasting'
The decade was dominated by the Second World War both the events themselves and the aftermath. As a neutral nation Ireland was on the periphery of the theatre if war this despite the fact that American journalist on a visit to Dublin marvelled at the fact that merely ninety minutes from the German blitz on the UK was this serene land going about its normal business. Irish radio also struggled to maintain a presence in the lives of the nation. Economics played a major factor with the introduction of strict rationing. Batteries for wireless sets were in short supply and consequently the revenue garnered from the purchasing of licences declined significantly. Advertising revenue especially from the sponsored programme sector dropped off forcing Radio Eireann into major budget cuts including reducing broadcasting hours to conserve electricity.
The Director of Broadcasting Dr. T K Kiernan departed the station and he was replaced by career civil servant Seamus O’Braonain as acting Director from 1940 until his fulltime appointment to the role in 1942. The early years of the decade also saw the retirement of Vincent O’Brien as Musical director, and he was the last link to the original staff who began with 2RN in 1926. Throughout the Emergency, while power was not rationed and financial pressures overwhelmed the state broadcaster, Radio Eireann continued short wave broadcasts especially aimed at the Irish in North America.
Trials & Tribulations
By far the most popular programme on Radio Eireann was Question Time, a quiz based show that travelled around the country broadcasting live (where telephone lines allowed) from parish and town halls. The broadcasts were often followed by a concert and admission was charged with local charities being the beneficiaries. The programme was one of the few that encouraged unscripted audience participation and therefore outside the control of the censor.
Paul Lazarsfield of Columbia University observed that shows like Question Time ‘enabled listeners to play along at home, without fear of judgement or failure, boosting personal confidence and alleviating class and social restrictions. The shows provided a sense of unity amongst the nation especially in difficult wartime conditions. The show was allowing open debate both on and off air.
In an edition of the show hosted by Joe Linnane and broadcast from St. Mary’s Hall, Belfast a question was asked ‘name the most famous teller of fairy tales’ with the expected answer of Hans Christen Andersen but the respondent answered ‘Winston Churchill’ to loud laughter. Facilities for the broadcast had been made available by the BBC in Northern Ireland but the slight towards the British Prime Minister did not sit well with the natives who were obviously listening to Radio Eireann. Ulster Unionist MP Dr Little raised the matter in the House of Commons to which the responsible Minister said that he would bring the complaint to the attention of the British Post Master General but the furore quickly died away.
For many years their had been complaints in the newspapers and on the floor of the Dail chamber about the version of the National Anthem played at closedown each night on Radio Eireann. The complaint was that the version played was ‘too American Jazz’. There was an element of truth to this as the only commercial recording of the National Anthem at the time was made by the Fighting 69th Regiment in New York. A commercial recording could be easily replaced as it was played every night and was subject to scratches and damage. In the early years musicians stayed in studio until the end of transmissions to play the Anthem live but this became too expensive. There was no musical arrangement available other than the ‘jazz’ version relayed from the Big Apple. Dr John F Larchet, a renowned composer and arranger created an arrangement that is still in use today. In 1933 the rights to the tune and words were bought by the Irish Government but nothing was paid to Larchet for his arrangement this situation was not rectified until 1961 when the Government of the day authorised a payment of one hundred pounds.
In October 1940 Radio Eireann through British pressure on the Department of Posts and Telegraphs synchronised their three transmitters to the one frequency of 531m medium wave. (see 1930s for the BBC Masking of RE’s transmitters). The BBC came to the aid of the cash starved station when despite their own wartime pressures gave Radio Eireann a 2KW transmitter to replace the ailing original 2RN transmitter that had been installed at McKee barracks.
Despite the cash strapped nature of Irish broadcasting DeValera’s government set up a committee in 1943 to investigate the possibilities of creating an Irish language station in the Gaeltacht. The committee discovered that unlike urban areas there was a shortage of radio sets in the west of Ireland and with the war still engulfing the world this would not change in the near future. There was a plan to deliver free sets to those who needed them but this too caused problems not least the cost of handing out free sets. It was thought by the committee that far from encouraging a revival in use of the Irish language, radio sets would allow listeners to listen to a plethora of English language programmes not least those broadcast by Radio Eireann. Another stumbling block as far as the committee were concerned was the various Irish dialects that listeners in Kerry to a station located in the Galway Gaeltacht would not understand broadcasters from Donegal. This was experimented with on Radio Eireann when news bulletins were broadcast in the various Irish language dialects. It would not be until 1972 when Radio na Gaeltachta would be launched in Connemara.
Censorship was also an ever present problem. News bulletins had to be cleared with the Government appointed censor before broadcast. The clergy had to have their sermons checked before live broadcast of Sunday Mass. Sports commentators had to be careful not to report on weather conditions as this may assist any possible invaders. A live concert broadcast from Dublin’s Mansion House was interrupted by an IRA protestor and the microphone at the Cork station was briefly seized by members of the paramilitary group. These incidents led to increased security at all outside broadcasts and at the various Radio Eireann studios and transmitter sites.
Enigma Code Breakers in Ireland
While the British Government were able to throw financial resources and manpower at their code breaking and intercept facilities at the Bletchley Park facility, the Irish Government had a more low key approach.
The Radio Intercept Service was formed in 1940 as the Military struggled to listen to the growing number of stations and wavelengths across the spectrum. Broadcasts had to be monitored twenty four hours a day. Not only were they monitoring foreign broadcasts into Ireland, but local illegal radio stations and clandestine espionage stations operated by German spies in neutral Ireland.
There were twenty five civilians listeners none of them members of the defence forces or the Gardai but reporting to Military Intelligence with radio logs and signal information. These listeners came from all walks of life Architects, Insurance officials, drapers and even a clerk at Guinness’s brewery. Some of them operated homemade listening sets that allowed them to not only listen to medium wave and long wave but also the short wave bands. They were each assigned times and frequencies to listen to.
They detected coded messages being sent from the British to their own forces, German spies in Ireland, distress signals from torpedoed ships and Irish army broadcasts. It took some time for a list of safe stations that did not need further attention. Some of the intelligence gathered on unlicensed wireless transmitters was garnered from the post office intercepting post and seizing QSL cards sent from radio operators to overseas ‘ham’ operators.
Suspect signals was often linked to local Garda reports from concerned citizens. This would be followed up by army intelligence investigation and then if nessessary raids conducted. Sometimes their were innocent explanations for ‘unidentified Morse code signals’ as perhaps a local electrical dynamo or cross signals. They were able to identify both Allied and Axis broadcasts on normal stations when a Morse tone would be broadcast between programmes to inform spies to listen to their private transmitters for messages from their spy masters.
Commandant Sean Nelligan of the Irish Army commented
‘the magnitude of the task can however by gauged from the fact that it took the signal corps plus the PO Engineering Branch four to five months to locate a station that operated on a regular schedule, the wavelength having previously been made public.’
This was a reference to the IRA’s pirate radio station operated in 1939 from Ashgrove House in Rathgar.
If a suspect signal was detected and believed to be broadcasting within the state, the Military and Post Office had two detector vans at its disposal, something lacking in their 1939 search until one was borrowed from the British authorities.
In February 1940 following the pirate radio station raid in Rathgar in December 1939, and while awaiting trial for running the radio station, Sean McNeela was made Officer Commanding of the Republican political prisoners. Shortly after his appointment as OC a crisis developed when a comrade of theirs Nick Doherty was sentenced five years but instead of being taken to Arbour Hill he was taken to Mountjoy Prison. McNeela objected directly to the Governor and the prison authorities but was ignored. McNeela and his cellmate Tony Darcy then began a hunger strike with four other prisoners.
Seven days into the strike, Gardai arrived to take McNeela to his court case but he refused to go and force including water hoses was used to remove McNeela to the special court. He was found guilty and sentenced to two years for attempting to ‘usurp a function of Government by running an illegal radio station’. He was returned to Arbour Hill where the hunger strike continued. On March 14th 1940, all six men were taken to St. Brichins Military Hospital as their condition deteriorated. On April 16th Tony Darcy died and on April 19th after being convicted of operating a pirate radio station Sean McNeela died on hunger strike. The sad fact was that following Tony Darcy’s death the IRA Command had called off the strike but news did not reach the hospital in time to save McNeela.
Just as the IRA claimed to be the Army that represented the thirty two county All Ireland Republic, the organisation operated pirate radio stations North and South of the border. Even though the Dublin station was raided and closed on December 29th 1939, the station in Belfast continued into 1940.
The station was operated by Tarlach Ó hUid (born January 13th 1917 (London)–died October 30th 1990 (Dublin)) and operated on 24metres short wave... As with the Dublin station the Belfast station operated on Short wave and used every means at its disposal to promote the station’s broadcasts. One man Patrick Ferrin was arrested by police in Belfast for writing in chalk on the pavement advertising the pirate station. He was charged and found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. He ran the IRA Broadcasting Station until he was interned in autumn 1940 and was not released until December 8th 1945 months after the Second World War had ended.
May 30th 1939
The station went on air at 7.15pm and broadcast for fifteen minutes. It announced that 1,000 gas masks would be burned on the streets of Belfast. Within an hour of the broadcast it was reported the 500 people had gathered in the Cyprus Street area of the city and burned their petrol soaked masks. ‘Ireland’s only enemy has always been England and these gas masks are only a form of Imperial propaganda and should be ignored by the people in addition to all the other air raid precautions.’ By the time police reinforcements had arrived the protesters had cleared away. The station announcer made a plea towards the end of the broadcast
‘We appeal to all Irishmen and women irrespective of creed or class, whether they are from the Shankill, Falls Road or Sandy Row, to unite as their ancestors did in 1798 in the final onslaught to rid our land of the English invader.’ The station then played the Irish national anthem and announced
‘This is the end of the broadcast we will be heard again shortly.’
The Irish Press reported that the broadcast was heard all over Ulster on 450m on the medium wave.
February 25th 1940
On this Sunday afternoon the station went on the air at 3pm and broadcast for twenty minutes. The main subject of the broadcast was the raid on Ballykinlar Camp. According to the British authorities (Hansard House of Commons Debate 12 March 1940 vol 358 cc977-9) the IRA carried out a raid on February 10th 1940 on the British Army barracks at Ballykinlar County Down. The daring attack took place at 8.20pm as the soldiers enjoyed their Saturday night entertainment and netted the subversives 43 rifles and ammunition.
Sunday March 24th 1940
Special commemoration broadcasts to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising encouraging supporters to attend Milltown Cemetery despite a heavy armed military presence. The station made two broadcasts at 4pm and 6.30pm. In the first of the day’s broadcasts the station referred to Sumner Welles who was the United States Under Secretary of State for President Roosevelt. Mr. Welles was in Europe at the time to attempt to broker a peace deal to put an end to the war. The announcer said
‘If Mr. Roosevelt was sincere he would specify in nay peace plan independence for Ireland, India and Palestine.’
During the latter broadcast the station threatened cinema managers in Derry who were as they termed showing British propaganda films
July 7th 1940
‘We will wreak a fury of destruction on Every English city such as would leave it in ruins. England threatens to go to war if any attempt is made to disgorge her plunder. Let her dare. We shall see to it that no Irishman joins her armies; no food from Ireland reaches her civilians, that there shall be no security for her ships on our seas and that the army she shall be compelled to send to Ireland will be destroyed.
The station fell silent following Tarlach’s arrest in the autumn of 1940. After his release from prison at the end of the war, Tarlach moved to Dublin and probably before the first pirate radio broadcaster to work for RTE when he began broadcasting in the Irish language on Radio Eireann in 1948. He was a prolific journalist and was editor of the Irish language newspaper ‘Inniu’
Another station was discovered during a raid by the Belfast police in autumn 1942. Following a brief gun battle John Graham and David Fleming were arrested and apart from weapons and IRA propaganda literature, a large amount of wireless broadcasting equipment as also seized. The men received 12 years in prison but were released in 1949 under an amnesty. Graham was unusual in the fact that he was a Protestant member of the IRA.
Throughout the war a number of illegal transmitters were also operating in Dublin rebroadcasting the speeches of William Joyce better known as Lord Haw Haw. Joyce, who had been born in the United States but raised in Ireland, became a committed fascist after his hasty departure from Ireland where he had assisted the Black and Tans in their fight during the Irish War of Independence. He ended up in Germany where he broadcast Nazi propaganda in English on transmitters seized from Radio Luxembourg. Beginning his broadcasts with ‘Germany Calling Germany Calling’ he continued broadcasting right up until the Allies arrived in Berlin where he was arrested. He was taken to Britain and tried for treason. He was convicted and hanged at Wandsworth Prison on January 3rd 1946.
Waterford Calling
The Station Location
‘Where is Waterford’s ‘pirate’ broadcasting station?’ may have been a newspaper headline from the heyday of pirate radio in the eighties but this story comes from the Irish Independent in 1942
Reports of the pirate broadcasts were initially made in early March to the Gardai in Waterford who passed the information onto the Post Office’s Chief Telegraph Censor who in turn informed Irish Military Intelligence known as G2 who were the protectors of the nation’s security during the Emergency. The man behind this brazen operation was twenty four year old Francis Colbert.
To cement Ireland’s neutrality during the Second Wold War, the Government implemented the Emergency Powers Act 1939 to maintain control and to stifle the activities of the IRA. As part of the Act, amateur wireless operators and experimenters were required to hand in their equipment to the military authorities for the duration of the Emergency. Most of them did but some stayed below the radar.
To assist with the defence of the nation against which ever army decided to invade, the Government augmented the Army strength with a volunteer army known as The Local Defence Force (LDF). In January 1942 the commander of the LDF in Waterford set up a communications section and he informed the Divisional Commanding Officer Batt O’Mahony to either procure a radio transmitter or to have one built
The LDF wanted the transmitter in order to contact Army HQ at the Curragh over one hundred miles away but the Government and the Army were hesitant about issuing transmitter licences to the LDF for fear they fell into the wrong hands especially subversives. There was a certain amount of paranoia in the country about the IRA and that organisations association with Nazi Germany.
Francis Colbert was a radio repairman and a member of the LDF and he accepted the task of building a transmitter but was told not to broadcast as no licence had yet been granted. Colbert completed the build but instead of testing the transmitter as he claimed he was doing after his arrest on the Army frequency of 120m he began broadcasting on 230m medium wave, a commercial frequency. The transmitter was never going achieve its objective oft contact with The Curragh as its power effectively limited its radius to six miles.
The first broadcast of ‘The Irish Broadcasting Station’ was at 7pm on March 1st 1942. Colbert identified the station and played a selection of gramophone records for the listener’s pleasure. There were further broadcasts on March 5th, 8th, 9th 10th, 11th, 12th and 15th but his station’s location had been discovered. The station had been heard on various frequencies including 230m, 213m, 238m and 222m medium wave.
Post Office engineer Kevin McNeill and Garda Michael Shaughnessey arrived at the home of Colbert at 2 Mendicity Lane, Waterford on April 21st 1942 following a tip off. Colbert let the men in and on the second floor in a back room they discovered the pirate radio station. There was a large selection of gramophone records on the floor including the twenty two identified by listeners and reported to the authorities.
The raiding party seized the following 1 ‘Radiothon’ valve U 250 1 ‘Marconi’ valve U 10 1 ‘Philco’ valve 3E 42 1 ‘Magestic’ valve G 80 (in poor condition) 1 ‘Radiothon’ G Q 7 1 Variable condenser 1 Inductance 1 Rewound mains transformer 1 Valve holder 2 Plug in tuning coils 1 Morse Key 1 Power Pack 1 Part receiving set 1 2 ½ m send/receiving set 1 Valve Arcturus
A series of correspondence between the LDF, Gardai and the Military seemed to reduce the pressure on the need to have Colbert charged. He had been asked by the LDF to build a transmitter and he claimed the broadcasts were only tests to make sure the transmitter was working and that the cost of the build came from his own pocket.
The urgency to close the station was dictated by two key factors. Firstly the authorities were afraid that the Waterford station was another propaganda vehicle for the IRA similar to a station that had operated and had been raided in Dublin in 1939. Secondly the military were conscious of the fact that German bombers made use of radio transmitters to locate targets and while Ireland was neutral, the Waterford signal could have been used to direct attacks against British targets.
The matter was quietly dropped by the authorities but the case led to a more rigorous enforcement of the Emergency Powers Act with regards to radio transmitters rather than the lax attitude with regard to LDF companies operating ‘illegal’ transmitter sets. The LDF eventually were granted limited licences to broadcasting on the Irish Army frequencies of 168m – 176m with a limited power output of thirty watts.
Germany also had a direct radio influence on Ireland with the creation of their ‘Irland – Radekion’ or Irish service. Broadcasting on 395m medium wave from their radio headquarters in Berlin, the station was the brainchild of Adolf Mahr. From its first broadcasts on December 10th 1939 the station broadcast only in Irish until 1941 when broadcasts were bi-lingual. The station stayed on air in form or another until early 1945.
Monopoly Broken & Pop Culture Invades
The monopoly on the island of Ireland enjoyed by Radio Eireann in the Free State and 2BE in Belfast was challenged during the war years. The BBC was aghast at plans hatched between the British War Office and the US Military to set up a radio station for the Americans Forces based in Britain. The BBC boss in Northern Ireland spoke of ‘canned music from the USA’ and that ‘no one would listen to gramophone records’. The BBC was afraid that this American station would open the way and create an appetite for commercial broadcasting after the war. The American’s were given the go ahead for a series of low powered transmitters that would broadcast only to bases where the US forces were located.
The American government spent over $75 million developing the harbour of Derry and one of the first of fifty three transmitters broadcasting ‘Glenn Miller’ was the American Forces Network was located in Derry. Broadcasting on 213m medium wave the station engineers pushed up the power that covered mush of Derry and Donegal. Programmes were made in London and relayed around Britain and Northern Ireland. There was no transmitter located anywhere else within Northern Ireland. The station closed in 1945 as the forces moved into mainland Europe after D Day.
DeValera v Churchill
On 13 May 1945, towards the end of the Second World War, Winston Churchill in his Victory in Europe speech, broadcast to the world, was critical of Taoiseach Eamon de Valera and Ireland's policy of neutrality throughout the war. "Owing to the action of Mr de Valera, so much at variance with the temper and instinct of thousands of Southern Irishmen who hastened to the battle-front to prove their ancient valour, the approaches and the Southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats. This was indeed a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we would have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr de Valera or perish forever from the earth."
Three days later, de Valera, in a much anticipated reply on Radio Eireann, outlined Ireland's right as an independent state to remain neutral. His response was praised widely in Ireland for its strength, dignity and restraint. In this extract from de Valera's broadcast, he gives credit to Churchill for not violating Irish neutrality: "It is indeed fortunate that Britain's necessity did not reach the point when Mr Churchill would have acted. All credit to him that he successfully resisted the temptation which I have no doubt many times assailed him in his difficulties and to which I freely admit many leaders might have succumbed. It is indeed hard for the strong to be just to the weak but acting justly always has its rewards".
To illustrate his decisions on neutrality, de Valera poses a hypothetical question: if Germany had won the war and occupied England for a number of years, finally giving freedom to England with the exception of six southern counties, would Churchill be prepared to "lead this partitioned England to join with Germany in a crusade".
Despite a very Catholic nation and the occasional special occasion broadcast of Mass, the first regular Sunday broadcasting of Mass did not begin until November 1948.
The 1947 All Ireland Final in New York
One of the great Irish broadcasting milestones was Radio Eireann’s live commentary of the 1947 All Ireland Football Final between Cavan and Kerry and not played at its traditional home of Croke Park in Dublin but at the Polo Grounds in the heart of New York.
“To my astonishment there were no wires to be seen anywhere to suggest that the required broadcast lines from the international telephone exchange had been installed,” O’Hehir reflected. In a book on the game Fairytale of New York by Paul Fitzpatrick, the broadcasting of the match revealed 'Money, as always, was the main stumbling block; Radio Éireann were working off a tight budget and the cost of the commentary from New York, estimated at around £300, wasn’t part of it. At the time, the broadcaster was answerable to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs.
As luck would have it, Radio Éireann’s Director of Broadcasting at the time was Seamus Ó Braonáin, a Kilkenny native who had won four All-Ireland football championships with Dublin in the early years of the century, back when he was known simply as Jimmy Brennan
Ó Braonáin, a GAA fanatic who helped draft the first ever set of rules for camogie, was strongly in favour of the broadcast and approached Sean Moynihan, then Secretary of the Department of Finance and a man with zero interest in the association.
The story goes that Moynihan’s reply to Ó Braonáin was: “Tell me, Seamus, does anybody listen to these football matches?” The money wasn’t being released, then, and the negotiations started. Eventually, it was agreed that Radio Éireann would send O’Hehir so long as the GAA covered his flight, hotel and expenses. Deal done, they relayed the news to the commentator, who was equally famous as a horseracing announcer.
After receiving his vaccinations, O’Hehir, not unusually for the recently vaccinated at the time, fell ill and in mid-August, he had to leave the races at Tramore, where he was working, due to sickness. Luckily, he recovered in time, but, two days out from the game, it appeared that all the effort would be in vain. That was until Ó Caoimh got to work.
“I cabled Radio Éireann for the name of the responsible party and, on receipt of their reply, contacted the Colombia Broadcasting System, only to be told that they knew nothing of the matter. A representative of that body informed me that they only supplied equipment and had nothing to do with the relay lines, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company being responsible for that end of the work. However, ATT also informed me that they knew nothing about a broadcast of our proposed game.”
This was late on Friday afternoon, and panic was beginning to set in. A broadcast, which would eventually attract a million listeners, was almost still-born.
“Time was running out and after exhausting my patience on the phone, I went to the CBS at 5.30pm on Friday evening to ensure that the equipment would be available, as my informant told me their staff did not work on Saturdays. From there, contact was again made with an ATT official, who agreed to arrange the lines when I promised payment. I returned to the office and decided to ring Ireland to find out the position there. I also cabled Radio Éireann to ring me so that the position could be clarified.”
Ó Caoimh, unbeknownst to the hundreds of thousands of supporters at home, was a worried man on the Friday night but, at 1pm (local time) the following day, the word he had been praying for arrived. A cable from Radio Éireann’s offices on the top floor of the GPO re-assured him that all was sorted. Then, ATT got in touch to say that it was all systems go – the match would be broadcast and Radio Éireann had promised payment for the supplying of equipment at the ground. The Secretary General breathed a sigh of relief.
Changes Arrive
The introduction of tape recording heralded the end of an era for live broadcasting. For Christmas 1949, a 90-minute pantomime, 'Cinderella' with Jimmy O'Dea, was recorded with success. Acetate discs had limitations. They were complex to make, easily damaged, difficult to store and programmes had to be recorded in "one go". They also had a short playing duration. It also allowed the station to move around the country and record local traditional musicians and also allowed programmes to be pre recorded easing the pressure on live broadcasting.
The battle for hearts and minds was also a battle between the traditional print media and the newer radio service. There was a sense of immediate news from the radio but there was criticism as the radio news department often depended on foreign news wires to fill their bulletins. Many news bulletins became the newspaper news of the following day.
The Irish Abroard
According to the ‘Radio’s Who’s Who’ in 1947 some of the Irish entries include
Television producer, b. Dublin, 13th December, 1912. First connected with radio as a producer, while still at Trinity College, Dublin, performed with the Abbey Theatre and also at Dublin Gate. Later played leading parts in British films and gained experience on the production side. Has also acted on West End stage. After working as B.B.C producer for some time in Northern Ireland, was transferred to London and became one of the pioneers of "Radio Newsreel." Is now employed as a producer at Alexandra Palace. Has done every kind of radio production from variety to reporting Nuremburg trial as B.B.C. correspondent. Has built up large American audiences for his programme "London Column."
Director of Music, Radio Eireann. b. Riverstone, Co. Sligo, 30th November, 1909. Conducted the Radio Eireann Symphony Orchestra fortnightly from September to March, 1946, and the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra twice in May, 1946. He was employed at The Department of Education from 1926 to 1932. He was Cadet Bandmaster Army School of Music, 1932, and Commissioned in 1936, in which year he obtained his B.Mus. at National University and then seconded to broadcasting service in 1940 as conductor of orchestra. Appointed Director of Music, and retired from the army in 1944. Examiner in Music for the Dept. of Education since 1943
A Recital pianist born in Dublin, Eire. First broadcast at age of ten. When very young won Hamilton Harty Cup in open competition at the Irish National Festival. Studied with Claude Biggs and Edward Isaacs, then came to London to work with Solomon. She has played abroad, at the National Gallery and Royal Exchange war-time concerts, and at the Wigmore Hall. Broadcasts regularly in Home and Overseas programmes. Her compositions include a Suite for pianoforte, and "Irish Legend," a tone poem for orchestra, which has been broadcast.

TONY FENTON 1961 - 2015

'Tony's style became a unique identifying point.'
Tony Fenton passed away today March 12th 2015 after a battling war against cancer. Tony had been on the Irish airwaves since a young seventeen year old in 1978 at pirate station ARD. His pal Ian Dempsey was on air and the following DJ had not turned up and a call from the ARD station manager and Tony Fenton was on the air.
Born in Glasnevin as Anthony Fagan, Tony's broadcasting career began to take off when he moved to the professional Radio Nova and later the other Dublin super pirate Sunshine Radio located at the Sands Hotel Portmarnock. Tony was there when the raids came in 1983. His listenership was growing and the legal mandarins were paying attention. In 1985 he joined RTE's 2FM with his first show coinciding with Bruce Springsteen's concert at Slane Castle.
His Hotline show was extremely popular and became a ratings and an advertising success. He made numerous guests appearences on TV including Brendan O'Carroll's (Mrs Brown) 'Hot Milk and Pepper' game show. After eighteen years at the national broadcasters in March 2003 he left Donnybrook and moved to the national commercial broadcaster Today FM.
Tony on air at Radio Nova
In 2004 he was linked to the BCI local licence application of Platinum Radio while in 2008 he was named 'Broadcaster of the Year' award at the then annual Meteor Awards
While his career continued its upward trajectory privately Tony was struggling. In 2011 he was first diagnosed with cancer which with aggressive treatment he recovered from. In November 2011 he was declared bankrupt after the crash of the Celtic Tiger and the property bubble with debts of over €750,000.
In 2012 on an episode of RTE's The Restaurant with his menu earning him four stars. In 2013 the cancer reemerged with Tony diagnosed with prostate cancer. He continued to fight. In 2014 he was inducted into the B.A.I. Hall of Fame. He will be sadly missed by family, friends and thousands of listeners who grew up with his dulcet tones on the Dublin airwaves.
May he rest in peace.
Tony Fenton on Radio Nova in 1981
His Life in pictures

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


Three months after the launch of UTV Ireland and with an ever growing choice of Irish TV channels , RTE 1& 2, TV3, 3e, Seatnta and TG4 on Tuesday March 3rd 2015 just after 8pm I found myself with nothing decent to watch but I discovered other choices that may not regularly appear in the Neilsen/TAM ratings.
First I found an excellent mix of chat and country & western music on 'Ireland Country TV' which I found on the Bonanza Bonanza channel. The show was at The City West Hotel at a country music awards ceremony and as well as interviewing the cream of Irish country music artists they played tracks from all those interviewed. This was followed by the Lawrence John Show and I remember L.J. from his days in 1987 with pirate radio station CARA FM/Heartbeat FM in Dublin.
One channel up was Irish TV and Westmeath Matters. Perhaps it was a little local for my liking but the show was professional presented, edited and despite the fact that I am a jackeen, I found the show fascinating. By now I did not miss the channels that 'deserve our licence fee'.
10p.m. and I channel surfed to Dublin Community Television whose Dublin digest show 'Citywide' was delving into the community across the city. But why confine myself to Dublin, Cork Community TV had an excellent documentary on 'Skiddy's Almhouse' and people who live in a 'living national monument' but by now I had veered off the traditional TV box in the corner of the living room. I was watching TV, like so many in today's technological society online. An Lar TV had a history infomercial titled 'Shoe & Boot Makers Est. 1937 - The Dubarry Story' followed by 'Nefaeria - The Irish Goddess Macha' after whom Armagh was named.
Other channels I admittedly flicked through was Irish Horse TV who had an inspiring interview with Para Equestrian competitor Emma Cahill, while you could watch pirate radio station Phever FM in action on Livestream TV and still on a pirate TV theme LTV2 from Millstreet in County Cork had their latest offering available on Vimeo for someone like me who would not be close enough to a transmitter. These channels can be described as 'TV Channels' as they have a regular schedule although these are not found in the RTE Guide or TV Now
The best programme of the night was on Near TV and a documentary produced with BAI Sound and Vision funding titled 'The Battle of Clontarf, 1000 years on' which took a detailed look at the battle that killed the then High King of Ireland Brian Boru and the centenary celebrations held in Dublin in 2014.
Perhaps the main channels will not feel threatened by these channels as they are not leaking advertising revenue to the small stations but the sheer quality and range of programming available to the viewer is both refreshing and delightful. Two hours of TV, Guaranteed Irish produced TV, nothing imported, no advertising and entertainment that should be embraced and supported.

Friday, 13 February 2015


The Irish Broadcasting: RADIO NOVA - THE ONE AND ONLY. IRELAND'S BROADCAST...: RADIO NOVA THE INTRODUCTION: Prior to the introduction of the 1988 Wireless Telegraphy Act, Irelands antiquated broadcasting laws were ...


Prior to the introduction of the 1988 Wireless Telegraphy Act, Irelands antiquated broadcasting laws were seen as long overdue an overhaul. The 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act was drafted and passed in a time when television was just being invented and broadcasting via radio was a cumbersome operation. Even though technology advanced over the decades, illegal broadcasting was confined to anxious amateurs using home made low powered transmitters covering no more than a square mile.
In the nineteen sixties an Irishman living in Britain became fed up with the state of British broadcasting and the fact that these institutions were vitally ignoring the young generation. In his attempts to change the system, he initially violated the Irish broadcasting laws by fitting out a ship that he had bought, as a pirate radio station. The man and the station were Ronan O'Rahilly and Radio Caroline. The ship he used was a former Danish car ferry the Fredericia and it was fitted out as the radio station in the County Louth port of Greenore which was owned by the O'Rahilly family. It was February 1964.
Off shore radio had its boom years with as many as ten ships operating off the coasts of Holland and Britain. The problem that these countries had was that these ships were operating in international waters outside their jurisdictions. The British government attempt to circumvent this by making it illegal to advertise or supply these stations. The 1967 Marine Offences Act broke the backs of many of the stations but in a period where rebellion was the order of the day, Radio Caroline carried on defiantly. Among the voices heard on Caroline were Robbie Dale and a man who arrived out to the ship on the last legal tender from Britain in 1967 as the station's engineer, Spangles Muldoon. These two men were to dramatically change the course of Irish broadcasting and bring about the greatest shake up since the launch of 2RN in 1926, Robbie Robinson and Chris Cary.
Having left Radio Caroline in the North Sea, both men pursued careers in broadcasting but in slightly different directions. Robinson stayed longer on Caroline but eventually left to become involved in television presentation in Holland. Chris Cary worked for a short time on another pirate radio ship, Radio North Sea but soon moved to drier land in Luxembourg where he joined the crew of The Great 208, Radio Luxembourg. While working in the Grand Duchy he met a local girl, Remy and married her. Having tired of the 'unexciting' Grand Duchy he won the job as disc jockey on B.B.C. Radio Birmingham. While in Birmingham he joined General Instruments but the deal with the company fell through. Cary saw an opening in computers and its associated technologies and decided that this was where his future lay. Chris Cary formed his own company, The Compshop to market this new technology. Over a short few years Cary would become a millionaire. His break through was the launch of Microace. Clive Sinclair, the father of the micro-computer claimed that Cary and the Compshop had stolen and copied his product when they launched Microace. Sinclair sought an injunction against Cary and the Compshop and both parties sued and counter sued. Following out of court negotiations the dispute was settled. Cary commented afterwards that,

"I got the rights to the United States; he (Sinclair) got the rest."

In fact Cary had ended up with the most lucrative market and never looked back. Cary was a man who having succeeded with a project and taken it to its limits, tired of it and looked for something new to get his teeth into. In 1980 he met up with his old Radio Caroline buddy, Robbie Robinson. The airwaves were still in their blood. The came up with a venture to launch a pirate radio ship that would be anchored off the coast of Spain with its programming aimed at the English speaking tourists in Spain and along the south coast of France.
A ship was purchased and brought to Waterford Harbour on the south coast of Ireland with a view to fitting it out as a radio ship. The station was to be called Sunshine Radio but Cary's enthusiasm for going back on the high seas had waned and the project was put on hold. While Cary was in Ireland to look after the ship project and to check upon his Compshop office in Dublin, Cary tuned his radio into the number of pirate stations that were operating in the Capital at that time. He was surprised at the freedom that these stations had, some of them broadcasting twenty four hours a day. He enquired from his Compshop manager in Dublin as to the story behind the large number of stations that were violating the laws. Having been told that the stations were operating openly without interference from the authorities, the seeds of an idea were sown.
He contacted his partner Robbie Robinson and the idea was discussed in a Dublin public house. The two men discussed their plans and decided that there was an opportunity to take advantage of the lax laws to launch a Luxembourg type station located in Ireland with a powerful transmitter aimed at greater park of Britain and in a better position to gain the all important advertising necessary to keep such a station on the air. The idea of the land based Ireland station seemed far more attractive then a leaky ship on the high seas and the British advertising market would be bigger than the seasonal Spanish market. Possible sites were scouted. An excellent site was found on an island a couple of hundred yards off the Irish coast at Skerries, County Dublin. The farmer on whose land they wished to site the transmitter and aerials was approached but was unimpressed with the smooth talking Englishmen. Early indications that all was not within the Robinson\Cary partnership were seen after this encounter with the island farmer when Robinson said later,
"Everytime that he (Cary) opened his mouth, the owner of the land upped his price."
Having been unable to secure the land for their station the two men returned to their hotel disappointed. Help came from an unexpected source. The owners of a North Dublin hotel, The Sands Hotel in Portmarnock telephoned the men and offered them a site for their station in the grounds of the hotel. The two men immediately scouted the location and with their station engineer decided that the site proved excellent. Plans for the setting up of a studio, locating and purchasing a good powerful transmitter, powerful enough to broadcast into Britain, and erecting the aerials were put into motion.
They also found more financial backers for the station in the shape of an entertainments manager Phil Solomons who was credited for many singing careers including that of Lena Zavoroni. Solomons provided forty percent of the capital, Cary provided another forty percent, Robinson had ten percent with the final ten percent taken by investors including the owners of the Sands Hotel, John Ryan and Pat Gibbons.
The studios and transmitters were located in portacabins at the back of the hotel. An aerial mast was erected by Prendegast Aerials in the grounds of the hotel and test transmissions began in September 1980 using the name Sunshine Radio. The first disc jockeys heard on the station were Robinson and Cary and another ex-Radio Caroline D.J., Tony Allen. They chose 539m Medium Wave as their frequency right beside R.T.E. Radio One's main transmitter. The first transmissions went well with receptions reports coming in from Leinster and the west coast of Britain. At 4a.m. on the morning of the fifteenth of September, two weeks after the test transmissions started, a stick of dynamite at the base of the aerial mast, generally thought to have been planted by members of Radio Dublin, brought it crashing to the ground. The sabotage made the front page of the national newspapers. It is generally believed that a pirate radio station owner on the air for many years in the city was behind the explosion with an estimated cost of five thousand pounds to replace the aerial.
Following the sabotage and a disagreement between Robinson and Cary with regard to programming, Cary decided to sell his share in the station. His decision was followed by Solomon’s decision to quit the fledging operation. To both their surprises, Robinson a holder of just ten percent, found the asking price of thirty two thousand pounds for the eighty percent and the two men left Sunshine Radio to Robinson. Having got over the sabotage and the departure of two major investors, the station officially opened and quickly gained a major share of the listening audience in the greater Dublin area. The plans to broadcast into Britain suffered a setback as the frequency they were using on medium wave was difficult to be heard in darkness hours and even in Dublin the station went off the air at nine p.m. As the advertising revenue began to mount their plan to broadcast into Britain was abandoned and they extended their broadcasting hours broadcasting to the greater Dublin area with Sunshine Radio becoming the Rolls Royce of the Dublin pirate radio scene.
Having heard about the success that Sunshine were having, Cary was cursing his haste in pulling out of Sunshine Radio. He attempted to get involved again but Robinson rebuffed his attempts and these were numerous and varied. Cary was not the kind of businessman to take it lying down and he believed that there still room for his American style radio station even if it meant as a bonus putting Sunshine off the air. The 'clutter free' sound as it was called, would be better received in the publics mind than the community style programming at Sunshine. Having had their problems broadcasting to Britain, Sunshine reduced their transmitter strength from ten kilowatts to seven.
Chris Cary set about setting up his own radio station in Dublin and this became a reality in June 1981 when Radio Nova International went on the air for the first time. The station was originally located at 19 Herbert Street, Dublin2 which also housed the offices of the Compshop. Nova's transmitters were located on the Dublin Mountains and were linked to Herbert Street by microwave link. Radio Nova began broadcasting on 88.1mhz F.M. (announcing 88FM) but was soon made to move frequency to 88.4Mhz due to their proximity to R.T.E. Radio One. The choice of 88mhz was to make the station in direct competition with Sunshine whose Medium Wave frequency was directly opposite Nova's FM frequency. A medium wave outlet was opened on 846Khz A.M. (355m MW). In their opening weeks of transmissions, Nova refused to take advertising announcing itself as ' commercial free', a gimmick to make the station more acceptable to the listening public. The station quickly gained a name for professional broadcasting and a large listen base was built before the station approached the advertising agencies for the major contracts. the advertising rolled in faster than the station could take them.
This is how Cary himself described the launch on

I was told that they key to all this FM excitement was due to something called an ‘Optimod’ processor. Which in a nutshell looks at the whole spectrum of frequencies within the audio that’s being played and corrects each segment. For example, if you use a normal compressor it will just trigger on the bass and make the whole sound ‘pump’, in essence you’re trying to bring up the low audio parts and limit the high ones which if not driven too hard will produce a very loud sound without being too tiring. It would take a whole book to write about ‘loudness’ and ‘loudness wars’ which of course to the listener is perceived as power – which is all part of the game. So, my bloody heart led my head (as usual) and I decided that I had to have one of these optimods – which everyone told me would be well nigh impossible as they were back-ordered over a thousand units. But, lo and behold, I found a ‘soft order’ for an Optimod, a Phelps Dodge circular antenna array which was tuned to 88 Mhz (this I hope explains why I chose this frequency for Radio Nova) and a 1 Kw transmitter.

Constant communication with my friend Brian Mc Kenzie in Dublin as I enthused to him about this fantastic FM sound encouraged him to suggest that I brought this kit to Dublin where it had never been heard. I asked him if there was any activity on 88 FM. He told me that the FM band was empty, apart from RTE in Mono and spasmodic tests from Big D and Radio Dublin. Brian was commissioned to find suitable office/studio premises in the Ballsbridge area of South Dublin – and duly came up with 19 Herbert Street. Which deserves a plaque outside commemorating the fact that Radio Nova began there – as radio enthusiasts still make a pilgrimage to the building.
This is what committed me to using 88FM for Radio Nova in Dublin – not the fact that on old rubber band radios if you changed from AM to FM you would automatically go from Sunshine (on 531 AM) to Nova (on 88 FM). It never occurred to me until Robbie Dale pointed it out. I could bask in the glory of how clever I was – but have to admit that it was actually an accident of logistics.
It was now May of 1980. All the equipment duly arrived in Dublin. Here we were all dressed up and nowhere to go. Then by another coincidence/quirk of fate, the ill-fated Radio Paradise boat pulled into Dublin harbour for some maintenance work before it set off for the Netherlands. Here I met A J Byrnes again (who was involved with RNI – Radio Northsea International) and the launch of the Italian off-shoot which was called Radio Nova International. We were busy testing our Dublin radio station – with no name. A.J asked what we were going to call the station. I said ‘you tell me’. As brain-storming goes a thousand names were thrown into the hat during the meeting and he thrust this cassette into my hands saying ‘look after this, it’s the only one there is: see what you think’. I was down the pub with Brian McKenzie that night and lo and behold spilt my drink over this damn cassette. Knowing how fastidiously correct A.J. was, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d wrecked his tape – and hadn’t even yet listened to it. As luck would have it, after a good shake and a hair-dryer the tape played back perfectly in Brian’s house that night, and then we heard this wonderful French rendition of the Radio Nova jingle (which of course made sense as it was to be broadcast in the Nice area of France). I was spellbound by the melodic sound of the jingle (made by Steve England). So what the hell – Radio Nova it was to be.
The following day the test transmissions included the French and English versions of the Radio Nova jingles (by now transferred onto cart). They played every 30 minutes as they were the only stations IDs we had. The name was now set in stone. My previous contacts in California had already told me that Jam was the only jingle company to use, so I contacted Jonathan Wolfert and commissioned the original Radio Nova 88FM jingle package. Jonathan in turn pointed out the importance of the loyalty/feel-good factor and we added to the package the ‘I’d rather be in Ireland with Radio Nova’ jingle.
I was the first station announcer, when all the jingles arrived and were duly carted up. Ken Harley was our first Music Adviser, who worked his clogs off (literally) bringing to fruition every mad idea I had. Tony Allen (once we’d got him out of the pub) was already in Dublin doing Voice Overs for Brian McKenzie’s Bay City Recording Studios and was added to the Radio Nova team. My knack always seems to have been to make the best of what’s given to me – and I was really lucky this time with Bay City, Tony, Jean (who wrote many of Nova’s commercial scripts) Brian and Ken already in town.
The first employee of Radio Nova was Mike Edgar (as Newsreader and Disc Jockey). Then came the impromptu arrival of Jon Clarke (who was auditioned on-air, given twenty ‘idiot’ cards with the only phrases to be said – which were ‘Nova Clutterfree’ and’Nova Playing Your Favourites’) After three hours, which must have seemed an eternity, I went back to the studio and told Jon he was hired. Anne Laird was the first member of the administration team (and remained to the end of Radio Nova). Our first on-air ‘star’ was Terry Riley. Our first local advertiser was the Red Corner Shop, and Silvikrin Shampoo was our first national agency ad.
Because 88 FM is predominantly used in the UK for BBC Radio 2, in odd parts of Dublin they clashed. To put it simply!. Paul Cotter was seconded to change the exciter frequency until we found a slot (I think 88.5 FM was the most successful). We hopped about quite a lot around 88FM trying to find the best and clearest spot. Clearly not the most professional way – but it worked. As we usually undertook this experimentation at 2am and had to hare around the streets of Dublin to see if the signal had improved. The phrase that summed it all up for me, at the time, was “Chris Cary – undercover, Paul Cotter – under stress and Tony Allan – under the influence!”
The transmitters were located in a portacabin on the grounds of the Green Acres Country Club whose owner Eugene Brady bought 26% of Radio Nova. Chris Cary estimated that the initial investment in the station was £150,000 of which he produced the other 76% with Eugene Brady. When Radio Nova was launched, Cary tried for five months to incorporate his company. The Register at the Companies Office refused to agree until November 1981 when Nova was registered under the Companies Act 1963. The company formed to oversee the running of Radio Nova was titled 'Nova Media Services Limited' and the memorandum and articles of association were drawn up by the solicitor firm of Cawley, Sheerin and Wynne.
Cary used his profits from the Compshop to launch Nova while Brady in return for his 26% gave Nova the site for the transmitters and was provided free advertising for his club on Radio Nova. The property company for The Compshop was Uniminster Limited who leased 19 Herbert Street originally to the Compshop and then sub leased it to Radio Nova. With the space leased, the equipment for the station was leased from a company called Stratford Leasing. This company located in England was also owned by Chris Cary. When Radio Nova finally closed its doors, Nova Media Services Limited's total assets were reported as a couple of chairs and eighty thousand car stickers.
When Radio Nova began broadcasting in June 1981 it was immediately branded a pirate radio station by the authorities. The station was retitled a 'super pirate' by the media because of its sophisticated and professional standard of broadcasting. Radio Nova was operating as a pirate as defined under the 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act. The Act states in Section 3,
(1) Subject to the exceptions hereafter mentioned, no person shall keep of have in his possession anywhere in Saorstat Eireann or in any ship or aircraft to which this section applies, any apparatus for wireless telegraphy save in so far as such keeping or possession is authorised by a licence granted under this Act and for the time being in force.
(2) No person having possession of apparatus for wireless telegraphy under a licence granted under this Act shall work or use such apparatus otherwise than in accordance with the terms and conditions subject to which such licence is by virtue of this Act deemed to have been granted.
(3) Every person who keeps, has in his possession, works or uses any apparatus for wireless telegraphy in contravention of this section shall be guilty of an offence under the section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding ten pounds, together with in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding one pound for every day during which the offence continues and also, in every case, forfeiture of all apparatus in respect of which the offence was committed.
The problem with the 1926 law was that a loophole had been found in 1976 during a case involving a raid on another pirate radio station. It was found that they could not be convicted as the raided station proved that the confiscated equipment could have been used for purposes other than illegal broadcasting. With the law having been found deficient, the pirates operated with a degree of immunity usually only raided if they caused offence on the airwaves or caused interference to legal broadcasters. Successive Governments failed to tackle the problems as the country went through a succession of insatiable Governments and fearing a youth backlash if they closed the popular pirate radio stations, these stations continued unhindered. Even when stations were raided, the maximum fine that the courts could impose was twenty five pounds and then upon application to the court could have their equipment returned. The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926 was amended by the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1956, The Broadcasting Authority Act 1960. The Broadcasting Authority Act 1966 and The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1972 but were always referred to as the 1926 Act. Despite the amendments, the law remained lax until the introduction of the 1988 Wireless Telegraphy Act. When Radio Nova was raided on May 19th 1983 and December 6th 1983, it was at the foot of warrants issued to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and the Gardai under Section 3 of the 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act. These cases are discussed later in the story of Radio Nova.


In June 1982, after one year on the air, Nova released the findings of a Lansdowne Market Research survey conducted in the greater Dublin area. It showed that Nova had gained 41% of the listeners in the 15 - 39 age categories. R.T.E. Radio Two was credited with 24% and Sunshine Radio with 11%. The results of the survey pleased Cary because the survey not only showed advertisers that he was the leading station but he had beaten the station that he had helped to start and then rebuffed him, Sunshine Radio. The national broadcaster on the other hand was less than pleased with the survey results and commissioned a survey of their own carried out by the Market Research Bureau of Ireland, the survey claimed that R.T.E.'s Radio One and Two had a 76% rating in the 15 - 39 age group, the earlier L.M.R. survey gave the combined figure at 46%.
In 1984, another Lansdowne Market Research survey commissioned by Nova showed that the stations listenership in the 15 - 34 age groups was now standing at 60%. R.T.E. immediately countered but with less conviction than it had two years earlier. R.T.E.'s survey carried out by the Joint National Media Research showed that Radio two was listened to by 44% in that age group but the management at the state station forbid this finding to be released to the public.


By September 1982, Chris Cary saw his Radio Nova drift from the 'clutter free' all music station that he wanted and had planned. Nova was now including current affairs programmes and specialised programmes in their schedule. Radio Nova was also heavily over subscribed with advertisers and in the run up to Christmas, Cary felt that Nova would not be able to cope. The shrew businessman that he was saw him decide that if one station was able to cope with the advertisers, then launch another station. This he did with the launch of Kiss FM broadcasting from extra studios built in Herbert Street. The station broadcasted on 102.7mhz and stayed on the air until January 1984 when the station closed due to internal problems and the jamming of the stations signal.


This was the name of the channel that went on the air from seven p.m. to three a.m. broadcasting on 88mhz FM only. Radio Nova continued on the medium wave. Super Nova concentrated on a rock orientated formula as opposed to the pop format of Radio Nova.
In January 1984, whether with the blessing of management or not, it is believed that R.T.E. instigated the jamming of Radio Nova's F.M. frequencies. When Cary closed Kiss FM, Radio Nova moved from 88mhz to 102.7mhz to avoid the jamming. The new frequency was also jammed and for a time Radio Nova was running up and down the band trying to avoid the jamming. Nova moved to 102.9mhz, then to 103mhz and back again to 102.7mhz. Cary claimed that the microwave link from Herbert Street to the transmitter site at Green Acres was being interrupted. In a headlined national newspaper article, Cary claimed that the jamming transmitters were located in R.T.E.'s Museum of Broadcasting located on Lower Rathmines Road. Following a public outcry and constant protests to the Minister for Communications, the Minister intervened and the jamming ceased. As a result of the jamming and the resultant lost revenue from advertising, Cary claimed that the station was broke and that it was going to close down. He immediately laid off fifteen members of the staff. Included amongst those fifteen were four of the newsroom workers, members of the National Union of Journalists.
When Cary sacked the four members of the N.U.J., he did so outside official union guidelines. The workers were sacked without the statutory notice and payment of redundancy and no holiday pay. The union leaders immediately supported its members and pickets were placed on the offices of Radio Nova at Herbert Street. The sacking and the strike made the front pages of the national newspapers. Pickets were also placed at the transmitter site at Stocking Lane, Rathfarnham. When Radio Nova moved from Herbert Street to 144 Leeson Street, the pickets went with them. A week after the strike began Cary announced the result of an internal vote by the station's staff, that they voted five to one in favour of a non-union station.
The four journalists, Ken Hammond, Jenny McIvor, Linda Conway and Shane McGowan, had tried a number of times to join the union but had been refused as they worked for an illegal pirate radio station. During one of the General Election campaigns, it was members of the N.U.J. who objected to the presence of Gavin Duffy, a reporter for Radio Leinster, at a Fianna Fail press conference. The conference could not proceed until Mr. Duffy was removed. Following an invitation to the four journalists to join the breakaway union, The Irish Organisation of Journalists, the N.U.J. relented and allowed the four to join the union and so when the strike was started it had official union backing. Prior to joining the union, the journalists were treated rather shabbily by Cary. Jenny McIvor worked a six day week, 9a.m. to 8p.m. and was paid only £71.75 per week. When she complained to Cary and told him that she was joining the union, she was threatened with redundancy but Cary relented and Miss McIvor was given a twenty pound pay rise. As the strike dragged on for months, tempers frayed with frustration. Cary and the strikers had many angry confrontations at Stocking Lane. On September 13th, Radio Nova went off the air. They announced that this was due to an electrical failure but Nova had their own generators. Cary had finally lost his cool and closed the station. A meeting between the staff and the management on September 14th was held in the Gresham Hotel in the centre of Dublin. Following the meeting, Radio Nova went back on the air at 3p.m.
On September 17th, the High Court heard a case for an interim injunction against Chris Cary and others from interfering with the pickets. The case was brought by Ken Hammond and was heard before Mr. Justice Lynch. Mr. Hammond claimed that Cary had threatened to 'smash his face in'. The pickets claimed that they were continually being verbally abused. At one stage during the dispute, a mass picket of Dublin N.U.J. branch members involving sixty people at Stocking Lane was interrupted when a car was driven at high speed at the protesters injuring three people. Mr. Justice Lynch refused to grant Hammond an interim injunction but he gave liberty to serve notices of motion for an interlocutory injunction. The strikers were granted an injunction against Chris Cary and others on October 1st preventing them from interfering with the pickets.
On October 8th, the N.U.J. pickets objected to a renewal of liquor licence by Cary for Nova Park but this failed. Nova Media Services and Sybil Fennell sought an injunction against the pickets restraining them from picketing outside Stocking Lane. The case was heard before Mr. Justice Lander of the High Court but the application was refused as the picket was judged to be lawful. At one stage in the dispute, the Labour Court attempted to intervene but Cary refused to attend. Cary admitted afterwards that it was his frustration with the strike that became one of the reasons for the closure of the station. The strike was never settled.
Two of the consequences for Nova during the strike were that they were forced to purchase their own generators to continually power the station. Two Volvo generators were bought following a power failure at the station and the E.S.B. crew despatched to repair the break refused to pass the pickets. Secondly following the jamming of the telephone lines during a Radio Nova promotion for $5,000. Bored telecom engineers also refused to pass the pickets. The stations next giveaway, a car, was a write in competition.
When Cary was setting up Radio Nova in 1981, he needed a site for his transmitters. Eugene Brady, a building contractor and owner of Green Acres Country Club on Stocking Land, Rathfarnham offered the grounds of his club as a possible site. Nova engineers believed that the site, overlooking the city of Dublin, would be ideal for the powerful transmitters. By 1982 the club was in financial difficulties, with major mortgage repayments due. Cary offered to bail Brady out of trouble but that this had to be seen to be done legally. An auction was set up at which Cary outbid businessman Pat Quinn to buy Green Acres on behalf of Uniminster Limited from Viking Supplies, Brady's company. The cost was £320,000. The club was renamed Nova Park and was heavily advertised on Radio Nova.
Nova Park was bought by Uniminster Limited and then leased out to another of Cary's companies Redbar Limited. Cary then employed Joe Jackson, Eddie Cummins and Mike Edgar to run the club. They claimed that Cary had given them a thirty three month lease but Cary denied this when it ended up in the High Court. On May 5th, the men successfully sought an ex-parte injunction preventing Cary from interfering with the business of running Nova Park. The case was brought following the severing of power to the club but following the injunction the power was restored. Cary withdrew the advertising support for Nova Park. The club ran into deeper and deeper financial difficulties despite attracting such popular cabaret acts as Johnny Logan and the group Chips. The club closed with the impending court case following the raiding of the premises and the club having been found selling alcohol after the legal closing time on two occasions in the month of June, June 6th and 27th 1983. After the raid on the twenty seventh the club did not reopen and Cary retook complete charge.
Because of their difficulties with Cary over Nova Park both Jackson and Cummins decided after leaving the club to retaliate against Cary. They decided to strike at the heart of the operation, Radio Nova itself. Over the 1983 Christmas period, peak advertising time for Nova, the two men set up Nova Southside and Nova Northside. Both stations pirated Nova's signal, retransmitting it via their own transmitters and inserting their own advertisements during Nova's commercial breaks. Originally they had tried to jam Nova's signal but this proved unsuccessful. Nova Northside was located in Clontarf and broadcasted on 198m MW while Nova Southside was located in Sallynoggin and broadcasted on 437m MW. On St. Stephen's Day 1983, Nova Northside was sabotaged and closed. Nova Southside closed in January 1984. It was admitted that the stations had done damage to Nova's clean image. It failed financially to deter most of Nova's main advertisers but the two men managed to gain money from the local advertising that they inserted over Nova's rebroadcasted signal. The third member of the Nova Park partnership, Mike Edgar was not involved in the 'pirate' Nova's and went onto work on a freelance basis for Radio Nova.
Radio Nova's first general election coverage was the February 1982 campaign. Although their had bee an election in June 1981, Radio Nova had not yet established itself even though the political parties extensively used pirate radio stations to get their various messages across to the voters. In February 1982 Radio Nova was used by the parties. Early in the campaign The Evening Herald reported that Fianna Fail were about to use Radio Nova for an extensive media campaign. The plan was that Nova newsreader David Harvey would interview a leading party candidate, Albert Reynolds, and that tape would be sent around the country to various radio stations for rebroadcast. The main opposition party
Fine Gael condemned the Fianna Fail plans and the campaign was shelved. Although officially most of the main parties avoided using the pirate radio stations under pressure from R.T.E., unofficially candidates still appeared on the stations and advertisements were ran. On one of Nova's current affairs programmes, Fine Gael candidate Jim Mitchell appeared along side the Provisional Sinn Fein candidate for the Dublin South Central constituency. This appearance of the Sinn Fein candidate was in direct contravention of Section 31 of The Broadcasting Act which outlawed such appearances. Nova claimed that this legislation only applied to R.T.E. but after the furore caused by this, Nova decided to refrain from giving further opportunities to illegal organisations. In the general election campaign of November 1982, the attitude of the political parties had changed. R.T.E. had issued an ultimatum to the parties that should any of their candidates or spokespersons appear on the pirates that they would be blacked from the national broadcaster. The pirates including Nova were reduced to skeleton coverage of the campaign much of which was plagiarised from the R.T.E. news service. Radio Nova did give a voice to a number of independent and community candidates who would not have been able to get on the airwaves as R.T.E. considered them too small to get more than a mention on the national station.
Radio Nova was often not far away from political controversy. At one point the Government of the day it was revealed was about to use Radio Nova to carry a campaign for the state funded Youth Employment Agency. The campaign, to be fronted by a number of leading politicians, was criticised by opposition parties but despite the protests the campaign went ahead on Radio Nova.
Radio Exidy was one of Cary's more publicised plans. He planned to launch a longwave station with programmes aimed at Britain. The station was to be located at the former Butlins Holiday Camp, now called Mosney Holiday Centre, on the coast of County Louth. The planned frequency was 254khz, a channel originally allocated to R.T.E. but the national station had no plans to use long wave. The Government promised swift action to close the station if Cary carried out his plans. These plans were at an advanced stage with aerial erection about to take place on site and the local Air Force base was informed that a number of large aerials would be erected in the area. The threat of Government action was too much for the camp owner Phelim McCloskey who pulled out of the deal to provide the land for the transmitters and aerials. A fifteen kilowatt longwave transmitter did go on air testing in January 1886 announcing itself as Radio Exidy and then as Radio Nova but nothing more was heard after February 2nd on 254khz.
The name Radio Exidy was used before by Radio Nova to test one of their transmitters on 738khz AM with a five hour show presented by Tony Allen heard on the air until the frequency returned to broadcasting Radio Nova. Radio Nova also tried to put a short wave service on the air and tests were made on the 48 metre band aimed at broadcasting to Europe and North America but insurmountable technical problems placed the service on the back burner. The R.T.E. frequency allocated to them on Long Wave was later to be used in a joint venture with Radio Luxembourg when the successful Atlantic 252 was launched broadcasting from Trim in County Meath with broadcasts aimed specifically at the British mainland.
Magic 103 was launched by Cary to play middle of the road and Irish music both of which would never be heard on Radio Nova. Cary set up a company called Tegrar Limited to run the station. Tegrar Ltd. received a loan of fifty thousand pounds from Nova Media Services Limited to open the station. Broadcasting on 103.1mhz FM, the station stayed on the air for six months but closed following internal problems at the station. Magic was briefly heard on medium wave on 199m MW but closed this outlet within a fortnight. When Cary closed the station he put it on the market with an asking price of £100,000 but there were no takers.
From the young lad on his push bike ringing his bell to the gent in the pin-striped suit and Mercedes blowing his car horn long and loud, this was a demonstration against the actions of the Government in raiding and closing Radio Nova and also as a fond farewell to a radio station that had closed on a black day for Irish broadcasting. It all began the morning of May 19th 1983 just before 9.30a.m., when officials from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs along with members of the Gardai arrived at the studios of Radio Nova at Herbert Street. They were acting at the foot of a warrant issued under Section 8 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1926. When they arrived at the station they requested the keys of the transmitter site at Nova Park from Cary. They informed him that they were there to search and to seize any equipment used in the illegal radio operation. It was a raid. It was the first raid against a pirate radio station since 1979. The P & T officials and the Gardai arrived at Nova Park and began to dismantle the equipment. Radio Nova went off the air at 10.40 a.m. that morning. Radio Nova's sister station Kiss FM was also raided and closed. The raid had been promised by The Minister of State at the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, former RTE presenter Ted Nealon T.D., during question time in Dail Eireann but the raid was a complete surprise when it came on the 19th of May. The official reason given for the raid was that the station's transmitters were causing interference to transmissions of legal operators and that the Government had been receiving complaints from the British authorities and from the International Telecommunications Union. The more likely reason for the raid was Cary's plans to put Radio Exidy and Nova Television on the air.
Robbie Robinson, the owner of the rival Sunshine Radio, whose station was also raided for supposedly causing interference said in an interview,
"Nova brought about the raids and the jamming. He (Cary) took risks and I suppose he considered them calculated risks, to put a fifty kilowatt transmitter on air and cause interference to overseas broadcasters, it back fired on him. They gave the P & T the reason, the big stick they needed. They gave Nova a beating and Sunshine got a beating as well. They could not very well go and beat one of the so called 'super pirates' without beating the other as well."
The raid was the main news story on the 1.30p.m. R.T.E. Radio One news bulletin and on all the bulletins during throughout the day adding an interview with the Fianna Fail spokesman Terry Leaden. The raid on Nova was also the main news story on the Sunshine news programmes as Sunshine would not be raided until the next day. The story was also covered on all television news programmes on R.T.E. including An Nuacht. R.T.E. had a news crew at Nova Park in time to watch as the officials removed the equipment that put Nova off the air. A report was provided by Mary Fanning. The raid was the lead story in the Evening Herald and the now defunct Evening Press and as the lead story in the morning national newspapers the next day. It was reported that evening that the station had been given permission to apply to the High Court to obtain an injunction against the P & T restraining them from interfering with the business of Radio Nova and also demanding that the station's equipment be returned. The case was to be heard on May 25th. Most people on the streets of the capital were saddened at Nova's departure from the airwaves. Chris Cary said in a statement that he was unhappy at the manner in which the station was closed that they were not given notice to wind up the station in a business like way.
The following day at the Sand's Hotel, Sunshine Radio was raided and closed. That same afternoon of the 20th, Cary got the loan of a transmitter from Joe Jackson, the man involved in the Nova Park Affair, and put Nova on the air in what was to be their last day of broadcasting. The station went on air at 6a.m. in defiance of the Government and said they planned to broadcast until 6p.m. that evening. All the station's personnel were given a chance to say their goodbyes and play their final few favourites. At 5p.m. the 'last' Independent Radio News was aired. For the 'last' hour of Radio Nova, Tony Allen was the host. Throughout the day the station appealed to anyone who could to be at Herbert Street at six o'clock to say their goodbyes and farewells to Radio Nova. If they were unable to get to Herbert Street then they could sign a petition asking for the return of Nova or they could blow their car horns ' long and hard' at six to show their feeling of disgust at the raiding and closure of Nova. As the staff made their farewells, the station appealed to its listeners not to 'let them down' a theme that Nova pumped out over the years with Operation Nova Care and the Nova job spot. That slogan 'don't let us down' came from the PhD hit record 'I won't Let You Down'. Nova played the theme to the television programme 'Hill Street Blues' and it was six o'clock. The crowd outside the studios estimated at over a thousand people screamed 'We Want Nova' as the countdown continued. People all over the city as down to Wicklow, up to Louth and across Kildare and Meath began to blow their car horns which lasted until 6.05p.m. Chris Cary was then given the 'last' word when he thanked the staff, the advertisers and listeners and appealed once again to the supporters of Nova not to let them down. Finally Mel Brooks' 'Good To Be A King' was played and then silence. Nova was gone.
The crowd outside began to chant the names of the raided stations, 'Nova Kiss and Sunshine'. About four hundred of the crowd started to march down Baggot Street, disrupting rush hour traffic. They briefly stopped outside the offices of Sunshine Radio and then continued their march to Dail Eireann where they held a brief protest and then dispersed. Many of the other pirate radio stations throughout the country upon hearing the news of the raid on Nova and Sunshine closed voluntarily.
The following Sunday morning to the delight of its supporters and listeners Radio Nova came back on reduced power but yet audible in the Leinster area. Most of the stations that closed in fear of a raid slowly came back on the air following Nova's lead. Only Radio Leinster, who never came back on the air and Sunshine Radio stayed closed. Radio Nova's High Court case on the twenty fifth was adjourned and was not due to be heard until June first. A meeting attended by many of the Dublin City radio station managers decided to hold a protest march on May 27th. assembling at the G.P.O. in O'Connell Street, the capitals main thoroughfare, at two p.m. every pirate radio station in the country at the time was represented on that march. Various figures were given for the attendance on the march but the most reliable were the Garda figures which placed the assembly at between twelve and fourteen thousand people. The multitude marched through the city to Dail Eireann where they handed in a letter of protest to the Minister responsible for broadcasting.
Nova's High Court application for an injunction to restrain the authorities from interfering with their broadcasting and also seeking the return of the equipment pending a trial for their infraction of the 1926 Wireless Telegraphy Act. The case was heard before Mr. Justice Murphy on the first and second of June. The case title was 'Nova Media Services Limited and Eugene Brady versus The Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Ireland and the Attorney General'. Radio Nova was represented by David Butler S.C., Ercus Stewart S.C. and Joseph Hogan. The Government was represented by John D. Cooke S.C. and Erwan Mill-Arden.
The basis of the case put forward in defence by the state, stated that Nova had been causing interference to legal radio users including the communications system at Dublin Airport. In Judgement given on June 10th, Mr. Justice Murphy said having been informed that Radio Nova was a pirate radio station and that Radio Nova had never denied this,
"Indeed any controversy which exists in this regard relates to whether the plaintiffs revel in or profit from the buccaneering image that that title evokes."
The Judge turned down Nova's application stating that the court had neither the power nor the right to interfere with a Minister in pursuit of his duties to the public and to upholding the law, which Nova admitted contravening. Mr. Justice Murphy agreed that Nova,
"have a very significant fraction of the radio listeners in the age group 18 - 34 in the Dublin area",
and that it was significant that they employ

"a staff of approximately fifty with a weekly wage bill in excess of £6,000"

which he commended in the then economic conditions. In conclusion to his judgement he said,

"In these circumstances it seems to me that it would be improper for the court to make an order restraining the defendants from exercising all or any of the powers which the 1926 Act purports to confer on the first named defendant. In these circumstances I will refuse the relief sought."

Radio Nova was eventually fined for being in possession of the broadcasting equipment and as expected in the following months they had their equipment returned.
The political response to the raids was varied with some internal criticism inside Fine Gael especially from Young Fine Gael who came out and condemned the leadership for their actions against the pirates. The Fianna Fail party then in opposition said that they would not have closed the pirates unless legislation for local radio to replace the pirates was ready to be implemented. Fianna Fail said that the vacuum created by raiding the stations with nothing to replace them was wrong. A week after the raids the opposition introduced its own Independent Local Radio Bill into the Dail but the Government called the Bill opportunism on the oppositions part. The main media commentators in the country admitted that the 'jackboot' tactics of the Government in raiding and closing the stations was totally unjustified. Nova went back on the air and within weeks was back to full time broadcasting reclaiming their place at the top of the broadcasting ladder but the raids had changed Nova's attitude. Following the raid their transmitters were operated on reduced power and to signal their intent to reduce the pressure on the Government especially from the British authorities and European broadcasters, Nova began to identify itself as 'Radio Nova broadcasting to Dublin' instead of ' Radio Nova broadcasting from Dublin.'


Cary always believed that there was an opening in Ireland for Independent television as there had been for independent radio. In December 1981, barely six months after launching his commercial radio venture he announced plans to set up a cable television station in Dublin. The station he announced was expected to broadcast from seven p.m. to midnight. The signals from the station would be scrambled with a decoder costing the viewer initially sixty pounds and a further thirty pounds per month for the service. He had planned to show movies that were currently showing in Irish cinemas but the cinema owners objected fearing lost revenue and job cuts and this was one of the main reasons that this service never got passed the planning stages.
Despite his failure to get a cable station on the air he pursued the idea of independent television. Nova Television went on air on Sunday December 4th 1983. Broadcasting via a one hundred watt transmitter, the station broadcasted on Channel 60. The channels studios were located at Nova Park along with the transmitter. A coloured bar test card appeared with the sound channel carrying Radio Nova. At 9p.m. Sybil Fennell came on the air to introduce the station. The Jane Fonda Workout Video was then aired before the station reverted to a test card with the letters 'NTV' written across the bottom of the screen.
The following day the channel was back on the air again with the test card followed at 9p.m. with Sybil Fennell who read the news and continued by introducing the station to the Dublin viewing public.

"NTV is expected to start broadcasting a full programme schedule in time for Christmas. We are a local station for the greater Dublin area. We have a radius of about fifteen miles and we don't expect to increase our power to broadcast to areas beyond that. A number of music videos will be included in the programme schedule. We are basically a channel of family entertainment. There will be no pornographic or video nasties. NTV is broadcast from the Nova studios. NTV is on Channel 60, it can be received on any television with an outdoor aerial although pictures nearby maybe received with rabbits ears but the reception won't be as good as with an aerial. We are not available on cable TV, the pipe, at the moment but in the near future that may change. To tune your television, simply select a clear channel on your television perhaps your video button because we have not got a time base corrector although we shall have one within the next seven days. Tune your television set to Channel 60 VHF and that is it. When full broadcasting commences programmes will be transmitted from 6p.m. in the evening to 2a.m. in the morning and the broadcasts of course will be in full colour. We are open to franchise offers at the moment for the breakfast time and afternoon programmes. Broadcasts will be in full colour and full broadcast standards. We are entirely funded by Radio Nova. The normal responsibility for any company making progress is to expand, diversify and employ more people and that is exactly what we are doing at Nova Media Services. Staff numbers will initially be twenty and we hope to increase that to one hundred in the near future. We will be adhering to full copyright laws. For the first time in Ireland a teletext service with up to one hundred pages will also be available as will a full news service provided by the Independent Radio News team. You do need a television licence although we do not receive any of the licence fees. We don't interfere with any of the television station at present on the air. We are using a channel with an Irish allocation. Our transmitter power is one hundred watts. Our broadcast range is approximately fifteen miles according to reception reports we have received so far. Many of the presenters you know and love from Radio Nova will also be on the air from time to time. The staff will be mostly Irish. Local advertising will be accepted in due course at rates proportionate to viewing figures. We are trying to give local advertisers an opportunity. The whole name of the game is accessibility for the general public of the greater Dublin area. We won't have the cosmopolitan flavour of Radio Nova because we are as we say a local community station with no plans to increase power. NTV is not really expected to make a profit, we don't even know if we are going to break even at this stage, the overheads, the equipment and the staffing are very costly. Our aims are to allow for a local experiment in local television, the first such experiment in Ireland. The afternoons will be available to the Irish language groups who we are hoping will take up the franchise option. We will be broadcasting music videos, news and local current affairs programmes, Irish programmes, religious programmes, we will also be showing local Irish talent shows as well as educational programmes, quiz shows, chat shows and at the weekend’s children’s programmes which we hope will be presented by the children themselves. Basically our idea is to provide family entertainment on a local Dublin community station. If you are receiving this test transmission our phone number for reception reports is 603228. Amateur video groups may like to send us their tapes once they own the copyright to them. That is it for now. I'm Sybil Fennell and this has been a test transmission for Nova Television broadcasting on Channel 60."

Pressure on the Government from R.T.E. and pressure from the Government on Nova led to Cary's decision on Tuesday morning December 6th, to close the station until further notice. This did not seem to satisfy neither R.T.E. nor the Government. On Friday December 9th, Radio Nova and Nova Television were raided. Equipment estimated as valued at £170,000 was taken in the raid along with the television transmitter. As in the May court case, Nova was fined for broadcasting without a licence and contravening the Wireless Telegraphy Act. Having been fined and the fine paid, the equipment was returned to Radio Nova. Cary did not use the television transmitter again and it is believed that the transmitter was sold to some businessmen from Northern Ireland.
For what was to be an experiment in independent television in Ireland, it was short lived mainly because neither R.T.E. nor the Government could allow such a professional operation like Radio Nova with a proven track record in illegal radio to branch out into television and perhaps repeat the success that they had on the radio airwaves. R.T.E.'s paranoia about such a television station was obviously in a reply to a question directed at Deputy Director General Vincent Finn when asked how would fight the television pirates he replied that, "R.T.E. could take a number of measures on a legal front, commercial front, financial front and technical front." When asked if that last 'front' would include the jamming of Nova's signal, the Deputy Director General was non-committal.


Despite being on opposite sides of the law, Radio Nova and R.T.E. did become involved in a joint promotional campaign even though perhaps unwittingly. The Evening Herald national newspaper (part of the Independent Newspaper Group) ran a mystery voice competition. The voice they announced could be heard on both R.T.E. Radio 2 and Radio Nova. The newspaper caption stated, "Did you hear our mystery voice on RTE Radio 2 and Radio Nova today?" Two days after the promotion began, R.T.E. objected to their station being billed along side an illegal station and so the Evening Herald deleted both station names replacing them with the word 'radio'.

Dr. Tony O’Reilly

Tony O'Reilly is one of Ireland's leading businessmen. The managing director of Independent Newspaper Limited, which publishes The Irish and Sunday Independent's, The Evening Herald and The Sunday World among many of its publications. Mr. O'Reilly, a former Irish rugby international, also owned many other companies including the Heinz Corporation. In the United States, the Independent Newspaper Group owned a controlling share in Harrolds Incorporated which owned a Mexican radio station XETRA. The Mighty 690 broadcasted non-stop pop twenty four hours a day from studios in Tijuana Mexico broadcasting to California in the United States. The company sold one of their transmitters to Radio Nova in 1982, with the transmitter refitted in Cary's workshop in Dallas Texas before being shipped to Ireland.
In September 1982, the Sunday Tribune printed a story that Tony O'Reilly was about to buy Radio Nova. There is doubt that discussions of some kind regarding this subject did take place between the two parties but nothing came of it although Cary replied soon after the story was printed "It may happen yet". Some of the speculation stemmed from the fact that Radio Nova's news service had been renamed Independent Radio News. Cary denied that the Independent Newspaper Group were supplying the station with its news and that the title was used as other illegal station around the country were taking the news service from Radio Nova and the title would distinguish the service from that of Radio Nova. The transmitter that had travelled from Mexico to Nova continued its journey when it was bought by a group of businessmen who used the transmitter to launch Radio West from Mullingar, County Westmeath.

The Jason Maine Affair

Jason Maine (real name Pat Long) has had a long and industrious career as a disc jockey with various radio stations both pirate and legal. He became a household name in Dublin while presenting 'Jason Maine's Drivetime' on A.R.D.. He joined Radio Nova at its inception and his husky voice became an instant hit on the station. One afternoon as Jason was playing Van Halen's hit record 'Jump', Chris Cary entered the studio and heard the record and for some reason he did not like hearing it on his station and thought that it should not have been included on the playlist. He told Jason to remove it and apologise to the listeners. Jason asked for a reason and Cary then told Jason, "When I say jump, you jump."
With that comment, Jason left the studio in the middle of his show. He said that he had been sacked, Cary said that he had resigned. Jason took Cary to the Unfair Dismissals Court but before the case ended, the two men settled their differences and Jason returned to work on Nova. Soon after Jason Maine became one of the Nova jocks to leave the station and join the new Q 102. Currently Jason Maine is working with 98FM in Dublin. What the Jason Maine affair showed was Cary's temperament and how many of his staff over the years had either been fired or suspended at the drop of a hat. Eamonn Cooke, the owner of Radio Dublin, once said unflatteringly "He (Cary) treats the Irish like I would treat blacks, like shit."


Sam Hire Limited, an equipment leasing firm, took Nova to court claiming that Nova had not paid an outstanding bill of £9,713.00 for equipment hired over a five year period. Nova said in their defence that they had provided advertising to the value of the sum owed. The court was told did not suit Sam Hire Ltd. and that they had never entered into an agreement basing payment on advertising. The case was eventually settled out of court with Nova paying Sam Hire £4,000 and costs.


In 1984, Radio Nova launched its own school of broadcasting. The school was the brain child of Tony McKensie and a company was formed to run the school from 144 Leeson Street. Gratton Oak had as its directors, Tony McKensie, Sybil Fennell and Chris Cary. The main lecturer on the course was Peter Madison who had worked on a number of different pirate stations in Ireland and Radio Caroline in the North Sea. The course would cost the participant £50.00 for an initial course of six hours training as a disc jockey. The Gratton Oak Company (Registered Company Number 111822, V.A.T. number 9806288E) would be later used as the company running Energy 103.
Despite the intrigue and financial manoeuvrings, the reason for Radio Nova's success and their place in the hearts of the Irish listening public was the professionalism and programming of Radio Nova. Cary used the best equipment to run the station and his transmitters put the clearest signals and most powerful signals on the airwaves of the Capital.
When Radio Nova closed and the receiver moved in, auctioneers P.B. Gunne were employed to sell off the station and its equipment. Listed for auction were two medium wave transmitters, one ten kilowatt and one fifty kilowatt, one three kilowatt FM transmitter, one 140ft antenna, one 220ft antenna, two volvo generators, two medium wave optimods, one FM Optimod and a complete broadcasting studio which included Pye and Soundcraft mixing desks, ITC and Soniflex cartridge machines, EMT turntables and JBL monitor loudspeakers.
This was the equipment that was used to put the station on the air but this was only half the story. The station's programming matched the quality of the signal. Some of the shows that deserve a mention are one that was hosted by an American who was never within a thousand miles of the Nova studios and a double act that had morning alarm clocks ringing. One of the first shows to put Nova on the map was an American syndicated show 'Casey Kasem's American Top Forty'. Radio Nova tried to launch a European version hosted by Declan Meehan put failed to be picked up by enough radio stations.
The double act that got the city talking became the most popular in the city surpassing anything that the national station could offer. 'Deckie Wekkie's Brekkie Trekkie' was the morning show aired from 6.30a.m. to 9.30a.m. weekdays. The show as hosted by Declan Meehan, who had at one stage worked for RTE Radio2 , and Bob Galico, an American who was originally hired by Nova as a newscaster.
Nova's original jingle package included jingles used by Radio Nova International, an Italian station that broadcasted to the Riviera area of the Mediterranean. One of the first instantly recognisable jingles was 'Radio Nova, C'est La Musique pour Toi, Radio Nova Internationale, Radio Nova, The Music's Just Begun, Radio Nova Europe's Number One'. A jingle package from Jam Production in Texas in the USA was used explaining to listeners 'All the Greats on 88' and 'Clutterfree, Where The Music Is The Difference'
Radio Nova also provided listeners with an excellent news service although they freely admitted that they plagiarised most of their news stories from other broadcasters and the teletext services. Current Affairs programmes included Dublin Today and while they were allowed provided comprehensive election coverage.
In order to boost their listening figures and therefore their advertising revenue, Nova and her sister station Kiss FM started a number of cash giveaways, for format of which were copied by various other stations over the years. In March 1983, Kiss FM announced that they would play three records in a pre-arranged order and that the fifteenth caller to the station to say 'You Did It' would win £5000.00. The winner on that occasion was Jane Biddulph from Churchtown. In September 1983, Radio Nova carried out a similar promotion, this time giving away £6,000. The records chosen in order were (i) Wanna Be Starting Something' by Micheal Jackson, (ii) 'Baby Jane' by Rod Stewart and (iii) 'Lets Dance' by David Bowie. Again the fifteenth caller when the records were played won the money but it was not always smooth sailing for Nova's promotions. Another promotion on Radio Nova ran into trouble when the phone lines jammed when the three records were played but when repair crews arrived at Stocking Lane to repair the problem they refused to pass the N.U.J. pickets. The next promotion that they ran was a written competition when they placed a cartoon in a number of daily newspapers and requested listeners to write in the funniest caption but the promotion did not have the same appeal or drama of the phone in competition.
On the charity front in 1982, 1983 and 1984, Radio Nova carried out projects called 'Operation Novacare' which in 1983 raised £14,000 for the National Rehabilitation Institute. The Nova Roadshow, a travelling disco, was based mainly at Nova Park but in the early days of the station it was based in Maxim's Nightclub on Claire Street. On a number of occasions the Nova Roadshow went to the Isle of Man where the station had a sizeable listenership. The Nova Boutique was launched from the ground floor of 144 Leeson Street. The shop sold Nova T-Shirts, pens, car stickers etc. and they also had a five pound membership club which entitled you to a sticker, a membership card and reductions to entry at Nova Park. The shop had a number of problems not least the limited range of products and periodic picketing from striking N.U.J. journalists.
When Nova were aiming their broadcasts not only at the greater Leinster area but also into the West coast of Britain, Nova opened an office in Liverpool at Suite 411, Coopers Buildings, Church Street, Liverpool L1 3 AG. Only a handful of British advertisers used Nova and the office closed, this despite the fact that Nova aimed their programming at a British audience with British news, weather and traffic reports. As one commentator reported "What would the guy listening in the Liberties, Dublin want to know about traffic jams on the M6".
The End of Nova, the Great Broadcasting Experiment
The final hours of Radio Nova came swiftly. Chris Cary had announced on March 16th 1986 that the station would close on the last day of March, with all the station's equipment and the station itself being auctioned off on March 27th. Before all this could happen, Chris Cary's partner in Nova Media Services, Mrs Zena Brady (who had taken over from her husband Eugene) applied to the High Court on March 19th to have the company wound up. She claimed that Cary had misappropriated the funds of Nova Media Services. Mrs. Brady claimed that Cary had been inflating the prices that the company had been paying Stratford Leasing for the lease of Radio Nova's equipment. Stratford Leasing was owned solely by Chris Cary. She also claimed that proper books were not being kept. Cary denied all the charges. Mr. Justice Barrington appointed Mr. Pearse Farrell as receiver/manager of Nova Media Services Limited. The receiver was told by the judge that he was entitled to operate the company but that this must be within the law. Therefore when the receiver arrived at Nova's headquarters at Leeson Street at 4.30p.m. On Wednesday March 19th 1986, he ordered the station to close.
Earlier that day at 3p.m., disc jockey Colm Hayes requested that Chris Cary and Tony McKensie to go immediately to the station. The F.M. signal went on the air briefly only to return with continuous music. Normal programming continued on medium wave. At 4.55p.m. it was announced on the air that the station would be closing permanently at 6p.m. that evening. At 5.54p.m., Chris Cary came on the air and said that it had been nice to have played a part in Irish radio. The final record was played and at 6p.m. Radio Nova went off the air. The carrier immediately disappeared from the airwaves. The end to a broadcasting era unparallel in world media history had come to a sudden end. Cary and Nova's place in the folklore of Irish media had been secured.
Shortly after Radio Nova went off the air, a new station began broadcasting using all the old Nova staff. The station called itself Zoom 103. It went on the air four hours after Nova had gone off the air. The station announced itself as 'Zoom, the new Nova'. The station was being run by Tony McKensie and Sybil Fennell who claimed that the equipment that they were using for Zoom had been bought off Nova over the previous months with the intention of using that equipment to run the Nova Broadcasting School. On March 25th, Zoom 103 went off the air as the receiver for Nova media Services seized the transmitter because he claimed that it still belonged to the company that he was placed in charge of.
Nova and Zoom were eventually replaced by Energy 103 broadcasting from Leeson Street and operated by Gratton Oak. Energy operated on 103mhzFM and went so far as to chop up Nova's jingle package with jingles such as 'Energy, the Sound of Nova'.
On Sunday July 20th 1986, The Phantom of Nova appeared on the airwaves of Dublin. At eleven p.m, that day a mystery signal interrupted Q 102's signal with Nova jingles and announcing that the station was broadcasting on 819khzAM although no station appeared on that frequency. The following day the mystery signal came on the air again blotting out Q's signal on both medium wave and FM. Nova jingles, part of an Anorak programme broadcast the previous day on Radio West and the 'Jam' song were broadcast. The station stayed on the air for twenty minutes announcing itself as Radio Nova.
Upon investigation it was discovered that it was Q 102's microwave signal on 103.5mhz that was being cut into and this was having the knock effect of allowing the Phantom to broadcast on all Q's frequencies. On Tuesday the Phantom was on the air again.
Q 102 engineer, Joe King went to the stations transmitter site and discovered a man on a motorbike with a transmitter in a rucksack on his back. A bamboo shoot pointed out from the satchel and atop it was a wire coat hanger, this was the 'Phantom' and his equipment. Upon seeing the arrival of Mr. King, the Phantom made his getaway and was never heard from again.
In early November 1987, a carrier signal appeared on 100mhz FM broadcasting from Dublin. The strength of the signal led many observers to believe that Radio Nova was about to come back on the air. By late November taped music began to air. The transmitter site was traced to an old Radio Nova site on the Three Rock Mountain adding to the speculation that Radio Nova was about to come back on the air. The speculation became a reality when Radio Nova jingles began to air. Days later Tony McKensie came on air to announce that 'Nova Hot Hits 100' was alive and well and on the air. The reasoning behind the move was two fold. The end of illegal broadcasting in Ireland was on the cards with new legislation about to passed by Dail Eireann. Cary believed that he would have a better chance of getting a legal licence if he were on air. His second reason was the on coming Christmas revenue period. Nova Hot Hits 100 merged with Energy 103 (by then describing itself as NRG 103). Cary said in an interview on Nova's 'Dublin Today' programme (revived after the merger and falling in line with the Governments policy from the new commercial stations to have a percentage of current affairs) that the merger was the most likely step as NRG 103 had not been performing well especially in the advertising sector. The merger was purely cosmetic and aimed at publicity and legitimacy in the eyes of the Dublin listening public. NRG was Nova but without Cary's names appearing on any of the documents avoiding problems with the Nova Media services receiver.
The new merged station began calling itself 'Nova Power 103' and broadcasted on 103mhz, 100mhz and 738khzA.M. from the Leeson Street studios. The re-emergence of Nova lasted one week. On December 14th 1987, the receiver for Nova Media Services applied to the High Court for an interlocutory injunction against the operators of Nova Power 103. In a case heard before Mr. Justice Costello, the injunction was granted against Cary, Sybil Fennell and Tony McKensie as the judge decided that the receiver, Mr Farrell was entitled to protect the goodwill of the name Radio Nova and that any attempt to use that name would be unlawful. The name Nova Power 103 was immediately dropped and the station began to broadcast as Power 103 and then NRG Power 103.
On March 11th 1988, NRG Power 103 ceased transmissions and the station's equipment was placed on the market. This ended months of speculation that the station was failing financially having failed to gain the major corporate advertising. The 100mhz transmitter at 9p.m. that night began to relay the broadcasts of Q 102 as they had bought that transmitter.
When Chris Cary left Ireland having failed to resurrect Nova, he left with his girlfriend, the doctor’s daughter Sybil Fennell and moved to Camberly, Surrey in England. Cary couldn't get the broadcasting bug out of his system. While living in Camberly, Sybil gave birth to their son Nicholas. Cary relaunched Radio Nova from his home now renamed 'Innovation House'. Radio Nova became the first European satellite radio station. Radio Nova had gained a licence to broadcast on satellite thus giving the station certain legitimacy. The station broadcasted throughout Europe on the Intelsat satellite orbiting twenty six thousand miles above the earth. Those listeners who had satellite dishes or had access to a cable service that carried Nova were able to hear familiar voices such as Mike Read (BBC), Tony Blackburn, Pat Sharp (Sky Radio) and familiar voices to Irish listeners such as Tony McKensie and Liam Quigley.
In July 1988 months after Radio Nova went on air some Irish stations began to carry the station on the off peak schedules mainly through the night. The first station in Ireland to carry Nova was Coast 103 in Galway. In Dublin the station was relayed twenty four hours a day on Paul Vincent's Southside Radio on 98mhzFM. On July 23rd 1988, Radio Nova appeared on medium wave broadcasting during the off peak hours of L.L.C.R. in the Liberties on 290mMW. Nova bought Independent Radio News' service from London and broadcast every hour on the hour. Radio Nova was relayed on FM right up until the introduction of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1988 when on December 31st 1988 the relay ceased. Radio Nova marked that occasion by announcing during the 11p.m. - midnight segment that they were saying 'goodbye' to their listeners in Dublin. Radio Nova International continued to broadcast on satellite despite stiff competition from Sky Radio and Richard Branson's Radio Radio.
Like a cat with nine lives, Radio Nova refused to lie down and die. When the Independent Radio and Television Commission announced that there were four candidates for the national franchise, it was with some surprise that along with Century Communications Ltd, Radio 2000 Ltd and the National Radio Franchise was the name Radio Nova International. Despite his 'chequered' career in Irish broadcasting, he was applying to be the holder of the financially lucrative national franchise. Of the four bids his was considered the outsider.
Radio Nova International's bid was the last to be heard by the I.R.T.C. on January 12th 1989. Appearing before the commission were the two directors of Nova, Chris Cary and Sybil Fennell. Chris Cary told the commission that if he were granted the licence he would have the station on the air by the middle of April at a cost of three million pounds. When questioned as to where this finance would come from he told the Commission led by Mr. Justice Henchy that he would provide one third of the cash while Bank of Ireland Finance would provide the other two thirds. His bid was met with scepticism from the commission and on one or two occasions especially in his description of the stations policy to the Irish language his bid met with polite laughter. Cary failed in his bid as Century Communications were awarded the licence although the eventual station failed and closed. Cary returned to Britain where he sold Radio Nova International to his rival Richard Branson for a reported one million pounds.
Cary still had control of a satellite frequency and on that he tried to resurrect Radio Caroline. Radio Caroline went on air but a row within the Caroline organisation forced Cary to pull the station from the airwaves. At that time one section of the organisation wanted to put the station back on air by any means while another wanted to apply to the Independent Radio Commission for a special licence.
Cary returned to his early days and went back into the computer business. Trading from a company called Megatek, Cary sold 'smart' cards to satellite dish owners which allowed them to receive satellite channels especially those of BSkyB such as Sky Movies and Sky Sports, without having to pay BSkyB subscription fees. Cary's operation was closed down in Britain by court injunction under pressure from BSkyB who were losing millions of pounds to this pirate scam. Cary moved his operations to offices in the Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre but a police sting operation in June 1996 organised by The Federation Against Copyright Theft led to Cary's arrest in Britain. Cary went on trial for defrauding BSkyB of millions, it was estimated during the trial that the pirate cards cost BSkyB alone £32 million. The case heard before Justice Richard Haworth at Kingston Crown Court in March 1998 heard that initially Cary had pleaded guilty to the charges but had changed his plea to not guilty and had fired his legal team. Accused with Cary were Remi Steffen, his ex-wife and Richard Jones described as the General Manager. Charges against Sybil Fennell were not proceeded with and left on file. Cary was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison with the Judge telling Cary that he was
"the orchestrator and principal player in a sophisticated hi-tech commercial venture. It was planned and executed with great care and skill. In 1995 and 1996 you were the leading manufacturer and vendor of pirate smartcards. Your criminal activity was not a by product of a legitimate enterprise, this fraud was your full time occupation."
In August 1998 while serving his sentence at Ford Open Prison in West Sussex he escaped and disappeared. BSkyB hired private detectives to find Cary and he was eventually traced to Auckland New Zealand where he was living with Sybil and Nicholas under the assumed name of Chris Brady. He was arrested by the New Zealand police for travelling on a false passport and was extradited back to Britain.
He was returned to prison but to the more secure Parkhurst Prison. While in prison Chris Cary suffered a stroke. On his release he continued to pursue the idea of radio with a Radio Nova internet station and plans for a long wave station based in the Isle of Man.
He went to Tenerife with his wife Sybil to open a station there in January 2008 but suffered a second stroke that paralysed him. Sybil made plans to bring Chris back to England but on February 29th 2008 Chris Cary suffered a third and fatal stroke.