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Friday, 20 January 2023

Linkage Radio, the New York pirate & the FCC Chase

 



In 2022 I was lucky enough to walk the streets of Flatbush and Brooklyn with Professor David Goren, the creator of the ‘Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map’, seeking out the myriad of pirate radio stations that were located in that area. In 2023 I came across an excellent video from Ringway Manchester about pirates in the New York area and they mentioned how a new crackdown had begun in New York by the FCC against the illegal broadcasters.


At this point we must mention President Donald Trump (yes, I must) as during his singular term in office in January 2020 he signed a new Act that would attempt to tackle the issue. The PIRATE ACT, standing for Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement, was designed like legislation in Ireland not just to go after the transmitters and studios of pirate broadcasters but also to implement penalties against landlords and landowners who provide space for the stations. In the video they spoke about a landlord, Michelle Hepburn, in Mount Vernon who had received a notice from the FCC that pirate transmissions had been traced to a building she owned and that as a result she was liable for fines in excess of two million dollars. This set me off on a trawl to find out more about this station which was broadcasting Caribbean music.

 

When I searched for pirate radio activity in the Mount Vernon area of the Bronx in New York, the name Dexter Blake appeared and he is a fascinating character. His first brush with the FCC dates to August 13th 2008 when the FCC traced broadcasts on 101.5mhz FM to Mount Vernon and a Caribbean restaurant known as The Linkage based at 78 East 3rd Street. The radio station was known as Linkage Radio. In March 2009, Dexter was issued with an official ‘Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture’. Dexter was deemed as ‘apparently, wilfully and repeatedly violated Section 301 of the Broadcasting Act 1934.’


Dexter was born in Jamaica before immigrating to the United States. He made the headlines in 2017, when it was reported that when Dexter attempted to bring his two young children from the Caribbean Island to join him in the Big Apple, part of the visa process that a DNA test was required from both children and to his shock and horror it turned out that he was not the father to either child. According to reporter Claude Mills,

‘A popular Jamaican radio disc jockey is devastated this afternoon after he got a letter from a DNA agency informing him that the two kids he had fathered with two Jamaican women were not his biological children. He said that he had spent close to US$300,000 on both his kids since their birth.

DNA tests are required by the US Embassy in Kingston as a vital part of its immigrant visa process over the years has confirmed that a number of women are assigning paternity of their children to the wrong man, a term called ‘jackets’ in the Jamaican vernacular. The number of ‘jackets’ was contained in a diplomatic cable captioned ‘fraud summary’ and covered the period March 2009 to August 2009. According to the leaked diplomatic cable, the US Embassy in Kingston “often requests applicants to undergo DNA testing because their fathers’ name is either not on the birth certificate at all, or was added many years after their birth”.

However, one in every 10 men who turns up at the US Embassy is told the DNA test proves that he is not the biological father of the child he is filing for.’


According to the Radio World newsletter in July 2010

‘The Federal Communications Commission has confirmed a $10,000 fine in the case of a radio pirate in New York. The Enforcement Bureau said Dexter Blake didn’t respond to a notice of apparent liability it issued in March of last year for an unlicensed transmitter on 101.5 MHz in Mt. Vernon, N.Y., northeast of Manhattan.

In the summer of 2008, agents out of the New York Enforcement Bureau office traced transmissions to the Linkage Caribbean Restaurant and spotted an FM antenna on the roof. Taken up by the building super, they saw coaxial cable going through a duct to the first floor where Linkage Caribbean Restaurant operated.

The agents said they talked to restaurant workers, who called Blake; one of the agents spoke to Blake, who admitted to operating the station, according to the commission. The commission staff also reported it had done an Internet search and found a website called “Linkage Radio,” which identified Dexter Blake, “DJ Linkage,” as the owner of the station and restaurant.

 

The FCC remained on his trail and in May 2010 transmissions on 101.5mhz was traced to 238 3Rd Street, Mount Vernon. The building owner, NWO Properties Corporation received a NUO a Notice of Unlicensed Operation’.



Dexter Blake championed Caribbean artistes in New York giving them an outlet on the air and even created an annual awards ceremony to celebrate the music. In May 2016 in a report published by the New York State Broadcasters Association, ‘Field Measurements of Unauthorized FM Band Radio Signals In New York, NY Metropolitan Area’, they identified 2874 Grand Concourse Bronx, NY as the location of pirate transmissions on 104.5 which was a second frequency now being used by Linkage Radio. They described the signals as a ‘very strong pirate signal’.

On the left is a photo taken for the New York Broadcasters association highlighting the FM aerial on the roof in 2016. On the right is a Google Map image from 2023, the aerial has gone.

The Notice of Forfeiture did not put him off the air and his next brush with the law was in 2017 when the landlord of the restaurant he was now located in received a NUO, the owner of the 53 Sea Lounge, Bar and Restaurant, George Brown received the notice to his business at 53 Mount Vernon Avenue. The station was now broadcasting on 104.5mhz FM. The station was described in an article in The Radio World as not only the HQ for Linkage Radio but also as ‘a cosy spot to play checkers and chow down on curry shrimp’


His most recent brush with the FCC was when transmissions on 104.5 were traced to Michelle Hepburn building at 159 South 13th Avenue, Mount Vernon. As the landlord, Ms. Hepburn received the notification and was threatened with fines in excess of $2million if the broadcasts continued from her building. 



The building on South 13th Avenue with the FM aerial on the roof. (2022 Google Map)

The station continues today playing their cat and mouse game with the FCC. A check on MapQuest shows the location of the station at 5 Fulton Avenue, Mount Vernon. We hope that Dexter and Linkage Radio has many more years of out running the law and entertaining his loyal listeners. His station can be found on Tune-In



Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Radio in Thurles, Co. Tipperary

 

An hour and a three quarters from Dublin is the Tipperary town of Thurles. Although more famous for its Feile in the past and Semple Stadium today, the population of just over 8,000 has since the Seventies had a flirtation with radio broadcasting in their town. The first Radio Thurles[1] was set up for the Suirside Festival in the town in 1977. The festival was held from August 21st – 28th 1977.  The station was operated from a caravan in Liberty Square in the town.

According to the Tipperary Star

Radio Thurles has had thousands of-, requests, played for people "deeply in love", lost fans of the late Elvis Presley, tourists returned exiles etc.’

The paper also reported that those ‘spinning the discs’ included Mary Grace, Jim Kearns, Kendall and Michael O'Brien, Johnny Kearns, Jackie O'Brien, Mary Gleeson and Tim Corbett.


The next Radio Thurles began broadcasting on 230mMW. A small low powered station that broadcast to the County Tipperary town that opened in 1978. The studios were in an abandoned building attached to a castle ruins in the town. The station hijacked the station title Community Radio Thurles when they heard that RTE’s mobile service would be in the town in October 1979 forcing the state broadcaster RTE to title itself Thurles Community Radio.


Independent Radio Thurles on 222m MW was a short lived station that began broadcasting on St Patrick’s Day 1979. Then came the RTE’s mobile radio station now known as Thurles Community Radio or Raidio Phobail Dhurlas.

 

Another version of  Community Radio Thurles appeared on 100mhz FM. Following a number of various incarnations, this version of CRT began test transmissions on November 9th 1981. The following December, the Southern Star newspaper reported,

‘Community Radio Thurles has just completed a very successful week of test transmissions. From the enormous response received it has been decided that the station, will commence broadcasting on a permanent basis from Monday, 14th of December.

The station will be broadcasting from a new and eminently more suitable premises. At present a varied schedule of programmes is being prepared and will include a variety of programmes to suit all sections of the community, both young and old. A strong element of community involvement in the station is hoped for and many local bodies are being contacted with a view to forming a programme management committee.

Broadcasting will be between the hours of 6—11 p.m. from Monday to Friday and between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Why not tune in to Community Radio Thurles on 100 Megahertz F.M. It will be worth your while.’


In January 1982, the station moved to a new studio and began broadcasting on a permanent basis to the Tipperary town. The station changed its title slightly to Thurles Local Community Radio.

 

Today apart from the independent franchise Mid-West Radio and the community station Tipperary Community Radio, you will find Thurles parish church radio on FM 106.4.

Sources

Radiowaves.fm

Pirate.ie

The DX Archive

The Irish Newspaper Archives

The Tipperary Star.

 



[1] Originally known as Radio Suirside

Monday, 2 January 2023

When Pirate Radio Nova Stole RTE's Treasure

 

For a generation a bad from Derry with a unique sound and a remarkable lead singer, the Undertones and Fergal Sharkey cut a swathe through the charts and hearts of music aficionados.


But their reign at the top would come to a premature halt in 1983, when they decided to split and play one last gig, pencilled in for the Punchestown racecourse on July 17th. It would become headline news at home and abroad and it would generate many column inches in newspapers and music magazine including Hot Press, the NME and Rolling Stone. But strangely the Irish national broadcaster almost completely ignored the event thanks to one of the gigs main promoters, the illegal pirate station Radio Nova. This scandal came just months after the authorities had raided Nova in May and briefly closed them. The only show to give any serious coverage was Dave Fanning’s RTE Radio 2’s rock show, of course Mr. Fanning was a former pirate broadcaster in his own right. The band were playing support to the top of the bill, Dire Straits.

(c) The RTE Guide

The top selling RTE Guide in advance of the gig advertised that ‘the promoter has offered our readers six double tickets for this rock festival’. They failed to mention who the promoter was, Radio Nova in associations with Paul Charles’s Asgard Promotions.

The Evening Herald Monday September 6th 1982

A year earlier in 1982, feathered had been ruffled at RTE HQ, when the Evening Herald ran a ‘Mystery Voice’ competition on the radio. They would offer clues in their newspaper and allow contestants to post in their answers. When the competition began on September 6th 1982, the advert in the evening edition pointed listeners to listen to the ‘Mystery Voice’ on RTE Radio and Radio Nova, the state broadcasters illegal competition. No advertisement appeared in the next days edition as RTE executives made their feelings clear to the editorial board at the national newspaper. The following day the new clue pointer appeared by rather than naming the stations on which the promotion was running, it was simply referred to ‘on the radio’. Within eighteen months of going on the air, Radio Nova was leading the rating despite their illegal status.

Evening Herald, Wednesday September 8th 1982


The Original 2RN in 1924

The history books tell us that the forerunner of RTE Radio One, 2RN began broadcasting on January 1st 1926. The callsign 2RN had been assigned to the new Irish broadcasting station by the British post office but 2RN was not the first applied for callsign and the Little Denmark Street based station was not the first application of the 2RN callsign.


In 1924[1] when negotiations were taking place as to whether a new Irish Free State radio station should be a commercial enterprise or a state run monopoly, a Dail wireless committee heard that a group of five companies led by Andrew Belton’s Industrial Developments Limited had coalesced into the Irish Broadcasting Company. The IBC was to apply for the licence as a commercial station but a political scandal involving Belton and a committee member Darrell Figgis led to the decision to be taken that the Irish station would be state run. In anticipation of obtaining a licence, Belton applied to the British Post Office for the callsign 4RN[2] as in ‘For Erin’ but at the time there was no callsigns with the number 4 designation. Instead, the British Post Office allocated the callsign 2RN as in ‘come back TO Erin’ instead.


The issue initially was that there was already a wireless operator with the callsign 2RN. It had been assigned to David Daniel Richards, a resident at ‘Mametz House,’ 36 Bontnewydd Terrace in Trelewis, Glamorgan, Wales. Richards was a demobbed British soldier after the First World War who had acquired wireless operator knowledge at the front. To allow for the Irish station to use his callsign, in 1924 his callsign slightly changed to 2 ARN.



[1] Maurice Gorham’s ’40 Years of Irish Radio’.

[2] The 4RN callsign would later be used by a Queensland radio station.


Friday, 16 December 2022

The anatomy of an NUJ strike that silenced a radio revolution in 1986.

 

Courtesy of the #anoraksirelandcollection

The anatomy of an National Union of Journalists strike that silenced a radio revolution.

July 1983                    Following a relaunch of Kiss FM, Cary told the Sunday Independent that he ‘also decided "to get into bed" with trade unions. In the past Carey has threatened staff with dismissal for joining unions but now he has invited the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) to open discussions with him in what he describes as "a necessary evil" following pressure from existing NUJ staff members at Radio Nova.’

 

January 15th 1984     Chris Cary closes Kiss FM following a prolonged period of FM frequency jamming by the State broadcaster RTE.


February 2nd 1984     On the front page of the Evening Herald, Cary said he thought the laying off a 15 staff would be sufficient to keep Radio Nova open but announces the closure of Radio Nova leading to the redundancy of 57 staff.

 

February 3rd 1984     Jenny McIvor, the chapel of the NUJ, Linda Conway, Shane McGabhan, David Malone, Ken Hammond and Brian Johnson, all member of the NUJ are sacked without statutory notice or redundancy payment offer.

 

February 7th 1984     Official NUJ pickets are placed on Radio Nova’s headquarters at 19 Herbert Street. He is reported as saying ‘I did them all a favour by giving them jobs in the first place’.

 


February 11th 1984   A newspaper report states that Cary carried out a poll of his remaining employees who vote by a 5-1 majority to have unions excluded from the radio station. 


February 27th 1984   The striking NUJ workers have a letter published in the national newspaper stating their case and grievances. 


March 4th 1984          The Irish Congress of Trade Unions grant the NUJ an all out picketing of Radio Nova, this prevents other union employees including ESB & Posts and Telegraphs workers passing pickets. Cary also refuses to attend the Labour Court for dispute arbitration. Nova has moved its entire operation to Nova Park on Stocking Lane in Rathfarnham.


March 10th 1984        There another announcement from Cary that Radio Nova would be imminently closing following a £150,000 VAT demand from the tax man. Mike Hogan resigns from the station as General Manager. 


June 1st 1984              The NUJ publish a warning to prospective employees following adverts for replacement employees, that before they take on a position at Radio Nova, that they should contact the NUJ. 


August 4th 1984         The Irish Independent reports that a unfair dismissal hearing at the Employment Appeals Tribunal has been adjourned until a High Court case is heard. According to Radiowaves.fm, ESB refuse to cross the pickets now at the station’s transmitter site at Nova Park in Rathfarnham when power is lost. Cary was forced to purchase generators to power the station.

                                                            Courtesy of the DX Archive

September 17th 1984 Ken Hammond seeks an interlocutory injunction to prevent Cary from interfering with his picketing at Nova Park. He said Cary had been abusive and threatening.


October 2nd 1984       An injunction ordered to prevent Cary interfering with pickets. Hammond in an affidavit said that Cary told him ‘he would find out what real guerrierism was and that if necessary he would hire people and he (Hammond) would find out what thousands of pounds could do’.

 

October 9th 1984        The NUJ objects to the renewal of the pub and dancing licenses for Nova Park by Uniminster Limited, a Cary company. Justice Thomas Donnelly granted the license saying that the union had no rights to object as they were neither an individual nor a resident affected by the awarding of licenses.


November 23rd 1984  The Irish Press reports that after 9 months the strike has been settled. Two of the striking journalists had found employment elsewhere but four remaining NUJ strikers would be returning to Radio Nova the following Monday.

Courtesy of radiowaves.fm

April 28th 1985          Cary’s opens a new sister station to Radio Nova, Magic 105. The station operated from the Nova Boutique on Leeson Street. A company called Tegrar Limited is set up to run the station and Radio Nova leases a news service from Magic in an attempt to out manoeuvre the NUJ.

 

September 22nd 1985 Magic is suddenly closed with the 8 NUJ members of the news room are locked out of the station. The NUJ picket the station once more. On the Nova News, Sybil Fennell read out the news about Magic closing attempting to distance Cary and Nova from the closure. It was according to the radiowaves.fm website The story read on Nova can only be described as pure propaganda (at best), given that Nova clearly owned Magic in every way, and probably didn't fool anyone. It certainly didn't fool the NUJ, who had returned to the picket line with a vengeance, determined to crush Nova.


September 29th 1985 Nova says that the dispute has been settled and that they were recognising the union and offering striking workers contracts. The NUJ denies this.


October 21st 1985      Sybil Fennell resigns from the NUJ. According to Fennell in an interview with Radio Today Ireland

The NUJ strike didn’t just ‘happen’ it was carefully orchestrated.  From memory I wasn’t working at Radio Nova at the time, I was hosting a magazine programme on LBC in London. I have no argument with the NUJ as a union, never have had, my argument was how every possible tactic was being employed to force Radio Nova off-air. The strike was a deliberate move to bring pressure to bear on Chris and to bring about the closure of Radio Nova – as was the jamming. RTE was not a happy bunny – their stations were haemorrhaging listeners not just to Radio Nova, although we were the most popular of the stations, but to a dial filled with radio stations delivering what the Dublin audience wanted.’

 

November 1st 1985    A temporary injunction is granted to Cary and Fennell to prevent picketing at Nova Park on Stocking Lane after Fennell was verbally abused. The station has no telephones as Bord Telecom employees refuse to pass the pickets to repair the lines.

 

November 15th 1985  Nova Media Services and Sybil Fennell fail to get injunction to stop the picketing but strikers said that they would picket in an orderly fashion and would refrain from calling Ms. Fennell a ‘scab’.


January 1st 1986        Bernadette Cotter, described in the newspapers as one of the Nova strikers, made headlines when her daughter was the first baby born in Dublin for 1986. Her husband Paul was Nova’s station engineer.

 

March 1986               Nova closes. Cary lays the blame firmly at the door of the NUJ and the strikers.


1989                            When Cary and his Radio Nova team applied for the new National franchise from the Independent Radio and Television Commission told the commission he would offer £25,000 to the NUJ "to clear the air". His application was unsuccessful with Century Radio winning the franchise.


Further information of the Radio Nova story can be found HERE

Also at pirate.ie & The DX Archive

Sources

The Anoraks Ireland Collection at DCU

The Irish Newspaper Archives

pirate.ie

The DX Archive

radiowaves.fm

The British Newspaper Archives



Thursday, 1 December 2022

The 1924 Dublin station NOT in Dublin

 

CC Baxter in the Middle

We are all well aware that in 1926, 2RN began entertaining the nation from studios located on Little Denmark Street just off Henry Street in Dublin’s city centre. But did you know that in June 1924 a radio station began broadcasting from Grafton Street, Dublin. It was operated by a store owner C.C. Baxter but rather than being a stones throw from St. Stephen’s Green, Baxter’s station was a fifteen watt operation from Grafton Street, Dublin, Texas.


KFPL was opened on June 30th 1924 originally broadcasting from above Baxter’s Discount Store in downtown Dublin but quickly moved to a garage next to Baxter’s house on Grafton Street. It had four studios and initially broadcast many local musicians as the quality of 78s at the time were poor when broadcast. The station proved a boom for the Baxter’s Discount Store that expanded into the neighbouring saloon when prohibition was introduced.  The local newspaper the Dublin Progress reported in 1924 that the reception of the station was excellent with phone calls coming in from as far away as Forth Worth. Over the years the station was heard on various frequencies including 242m initially from June 30th 1924, 252m (June 1925-June 1926), 275m (June 1926 – November 1928) 219m (November 1928-February 1929) and finally 229m (February 1929-March 1941).


Part of Baxter’s promotion of the station was to sell KFPL Mineral Water at a discounted price in his stores. The shop enhanced the success of the station and the station enhanced the success of the store. During the early 1930s, this was the only radio station in operation between Ft. Worth and Brownwood. The broadcasts reached 58 counties and around one million listeners. It has been reported that a broadcast from the station was once heard as far away as New Zealand.


The station remained on air until March 1941 when due to call ups to the armed forces, Baxter struggled to staff his beloved station and he handed the license back to the FCC with the license moved to a nearby town as WFTX.

The Grafton Street location of KFPL as it is today




Friday, 4 November 2022

A Photographic Record of the May 1983 Pirate Protest March - Dublin, Post the raids on Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio

 

On May 19th 1983, members of An Garda Siochana and officials from the Department of Posts and Telegraphs began a raid on Dublin and perhaps Ireland's most successful radio station, the pirate operation Radio Nova. It was a bolt from the blue, the second biggest station in Dublin, Sunshine Radio located in the grounds of the Sands Hotel, Portmarnock was also raided and closed. While Nova managed to get back on air briefly to say their goodbyes on May 20th, the raids on the two biggest stations sent shockwaves throughout the Irish pirate world and many of the over 100 stations closed voluntarily in case of a raid. 

You can read about the raids here. RADIOWAVES.FM

The 1983 Protest March Route

Many of the Dublin station managers and owners met and decided that a protest march would be held on Friday May 27th, gathering at the GPO on O'Connell Street and making their way to Government buildings on Merrion Street, where a letter of protest would be handed into the relevant Minister responsible for broadcasting. According to newspaper reports 3,000 protesters took part but more reliable Garda figures put the figure closer to 10,000. This is their story. 

 

The Radio Nova flatbed truck to be used as a float arrives on 
Westmoreland Street on its way to the GPO.

The Crowds begin to gather outside the GPO at 3pm including a Radio Dublin float

The Crowd depart the GPO travelling briefly Northwards before crossing the central mall and heading southbound down O'Connell Street with several radio station floats including Radio Dublin, Radio Nova and in the bottom right hand corner ABC Radio.

Some more of the truck floats depart the GPO including top right the Westside Radio float 
and the small red Fiat was deemed the 
'Radio Nova Staff Car.' Bottom right the 'Staff Car' is passed by the No.3 bus on its way to Sandymount.

The thousands continue down O'Connell Street, passed Middle Abbey Street and onwards to cross over the River Liffey at O'Connell Bridge. A Nova float full of fancy dress pirates join the March.

Led by station operator Brian Matthews, this is the Community Radio Fingal contingent departing the GPO and then travelling south bound on O'Connell Street.

The march crosses O'Connell Bridge and travels down D'Olier Street where another pirate laden float joins the march. 

The March passes Trinity College and onto Nassau Street

The Marchers reach Clare Street passing the old Green's Bookshop and then left onto Merrion Street.

The crowds pass the National Gallery and begin to arrive at Government Buildings. TTTR and Community Radio Fingal banners feature in the lower two photographs.

The peaceful protesters reach Government Buildings and a letter is handed into the Minister's Office.
Minister's entrance in lower left photo.

It was not just the Dublin stations involved, here is a banner for South Coast Radio in Cork



More pictures from outside Government Buildings and around Merrion Square where the speakers on the floats entertained the crowds. Don't Take My Sunshine Away.

The Radio Dublin truck top right and top left the backs of Mike Doyle 
and Ray Jackson from ABC Radio

Some of the station owners and staff. Top left with the high kick is Paul Vincent (Murphy), and top right in the red jacket is the late Robbie Robinson, owner of Sunshine Radio. In the dickie bow is Radio Dublin Owner and later convicted paedophile, Eamon Cooke. 

The protest ends and the Radio Nova truck heads off into the sunset. 


The Daily newspapers covered the protest as the debate on pirate radio and raids continue. 

Within weeks Sunshine Radio, Radio Nova and many of the stations that closed out of fear across the country had reopened and would continue on air until December 1988. 

The archival photographs come from Paul Davidson at Anoraks Ireland who has donated his entire collection of photographs, audio tapes and printed memorabilia to the Irish Pirate Radio Archive at Dublin City University

Photographs courtesy of Anoraks Ireland
Press Clippings courtesy of the Irish Newspaper Archives


If you have been adversely affected by any of the photographs, helplines are available including the Rape Crisis Centre at 1800 77 8888