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.