1989

Radio Dublin


Broadcasting in defiance of a new Act outlawing pirate stations with the threat of huge fines and imprisonment, Radio Dublin fill the void on a just-emptied MW dial.

Just two days since all other Dublin stations disappeared, in the first recording we join Radio Dublin with live programming from 4.42pm on January 3rd 1989, and then from 6.36pm in the second recording.

Radio Star Country

The Gerry Byrne Show on Radio Star Country temporarily broadcasting from Co Tyrone on 981kHz shortly after legislation forced the rest of the country’s pirates off the air. This recording starts at 8.19am.

MILLENIUM RADIO April 30th 1989

From 4pm on April 30th 1989, Millenium Radio's final day, the team take a look back at some of the highlights of the station's 13 months on air.

From 4pm on April 30th 1989, Millenium Radio’s final day, the team take a look back at some of the highlights of the station’s 13 months on air.

Radio Retro: archiving Irish radio broadcasts since 2002
This recording is by kind courtesy of Dave O’Connor

CAPITAL RADIO July 20th 1989

This is a recording of the launch of Capital Radio, the first licensed independent commercial station in Ireland. The station came on air at 8am on July 20th 1989.

Still on air today as FM104, the Dublin station opened on July 20th 1989 at 8am with a ceremony from the city centre, followed by Colm Kayes on Breakfast.

Colm Hayes on Capital Radio

Launch and Colm Hayes (image)

Scott Williams from 10am

Launch of Capital Radio in July 1989
Launch of Capital Radio in July 1989

The difficult early days of Irish independent radio
IRISH TIMES July 18th 2014

Patsy McGarry: Twenty-five years ago, the State’s first independent radio station, Capital Radio, began broadcasting. I was there. It did not go smoothly

The first song played on independent radio in Ireland was Phil Lynott’s Old Town. I know, I was there, on the roof of St Stephen’s Green shopping centre in Dublin, where Ireland’s first independent station, Capital Radio, began broadcasting 25 years ago on July 20th, 1989.

It was launched at a breakfast at the Berkeley Court Hotel, attended by, among others, then minister for communications, Ray Burke, and Dublin’s lord mayor, Seán Haughey.

Burke’s appointment had been a huge relief to the hundreds involved in pirate radio, as it indicated the stalemate over legal independent radio was at an end. Long suffering had made a stone of many pirate hearts where the 1982-1987 coalition was concerned. Labour wanted independent radio to be under State control, which Fine Gael opposed.

I knew Burke from my days as head of news (1983-1987) at the pirate Sunshine Radio in Portmarnock, Co Dublin, his electoral terrain. I was also on a National Union of Journalists delegation that met him to discuss the introduction of independent radio. By then we at Sunshine’s “news corner” were members of the NUJ, and our news-gathering had for the previous four years been in line with the union’s code of conduct. I was also father of the NUJ chapel (shop steward) at Sunshine and got fired and reinstated three times in disputes over staff wages.

We were so poor. In February 1986, four of us, accompanied by Labour councillor Bernie Malone, met then tánaiste Dick Spring to plead the case for legal independent radio. Afterwards we invited Malone for coffee. We discovered that, between us four pirates, we hadn’t enough money to buy coffee for five. Malone paid, graciously, while we melted into our seats.

The last time I was fired, in 1987, I was reinstated on condition that I accepted voluntary redundancy. I accepted, being sick up and fed, to use a friend’s expression.

Before being head-hunted in 1989 to set up the newsroom at Capital (now FM104), I had freelanced for the Irish Press, the Sunday World and Magill magazine.

With the 1988 Broadcasting Act, Burke established the Independent Radio and Television Commission. All pirates had to be off air by midnight on new year’s eve 1988 or forfeit any chance of getting a licence. It worked.

Baulking at the costs

By February 1989 all independent radio licences had been allocated. That was followed by a pause as new licencees baulked at the costs involved, particularly where news was concerned. The legislation demanded 20 per cent airtime for news and current affairs, almost five hours a day. The pause became a vacuum. Pirates abhor a vacuum, and so they emerged again.

The government was anxious to get new stations on air. An agreement was reached between the IRTC and Capital to allow the station a derogation of one month from fulfilling the 20 per cent news requirement over the 24 hours, but it would meet it between 7am and 7pm. IRTC thinking was “get one station on air and the rest will follow”. It proved correct.

So there we were that bright, blue Thursday morning on the roof of St Stephen’s Green shopping centre, the city below us glittering in the smokeless air as Phil Lynott sang of his broken heart “in the old town”. Bliss was it to be alive.

It passed. There were four of us in the newsroom and two part-timers, mostly ex-Sunshine. We were determined to emphasise Dublin news. But it was July 20th, silly season, with nothing happening. We needed a strong Dublin story to start. There was none. Soon we were desperate.

Then someone spotted the front page of that day’s Irish Independent. It had a report by Brian Dowling about calls for an inquiry into planning corruption in Dublin. Eureka. I was familiar with the story, having reported on it for the Irish Press and Sunday World.

Further problems. Party spokespeople were on holidays. We were at the end of our tether when Eamon Gilmore, Workers’ Party spokesman on the environment, answered the phone. He was in blistering form. It did not escape us that the first politician we put on air on independent radio in Ireland was a member of the only political party that had completely shunned us throughout our pirate days. Needs must. It would have more serious implications.

After the Berkeley Court breakfast, Burke and Capital director Mike Hogan arrived at our Portakabins. Hogan was whey-faced. He took me aside and asked, “What the f*** is going on here?” They had heard the news en route in the ministerial car and, apparently, the minister was not happy about our story regarding planning corruption in Dublin.

But as he greeted colleagues in our news Portakabin, he was charming. He asked for a word with me. We stepped outside, where he announced with heat: “Don’t you know that one of the reasons we are setting up these stations is because of those f***ers?”

I didn’t, but I knew what he was talking about. The disproportionate influence of the Workers’ Party in RTÉ was common knowledge. I had a choice: to drop the Dublin story or allow it a normal news life. It wasn’t really a choice, however: the idea that the first news story on the first news bulletin of the first independent radio station in Ireland would be dropped because it upset a minister was unthinkable. It was a case of continue and be damned. We were.

‘Totally illegal’

Prior to our going on air, there had been much interest in other media about how we would meet the 20 per cent news requirement. In this newspaper on July 12th, I explained we were being allowed a derogation for a month.

Interviewed on RTÉ Radio One after he had left us that morning, Burke was appalled. “It would be totally illegal for the IRTC to give such a derogation,” he said. Consternation once again at Capital.

Our immediate problem was how to fill that requirement for July 20th itself. We did so by three of us sitting around a microphone that night for 2½ hours talking about radio. A few weeks later, at a press conference to launch Century Radio, I interviewed Burke again.

Afterwards he said to me “I was listening to you guys that night,” referring to our marathon chat-in of July 20th. He appeared to be smiling.

FLYING THE JOLLY ROGERPIRATES OF THE AIRWAVES 

Until July 20th, 1989, the only legal radio in Ireland was controlled by RTÉ. However, a plethora of pirate stations came on air in the late 1970s and early 1980s and soon attracted loyal listeners. By the late 1980s there were an estimated 74 of these in the State.

In Dublin they included Radio Galaxy, Radio Dublin, Ard, Big D, Southside Radio, Radio Leinster, Radio City, and TTTR. There was ERI and South Coast Radio in Cork and Radio Carousel in Dundalk. In fact, there was hardly an urban centre in Ireland that didn’t have a pirate station.

The arrival in Dublin in the early 1980s of “super-pirates” Sunshine and Nova brought the issue of independent radio to a head. They had powerful FM transmitters and advertisers liked their “clutter-free” format. They were hugely popular with young people. The demand was evident.

By the end of February 1989, the Independent Radio and Television Commission had awarded 25 local radio licences and one national licence.


Capital Radio station page


Radio Retro: archiving Irish Radio broadcasts since 2002
Capital Radio recordings courtesy of Rodney Neill


CAPITAL RADIO July 22nd 1989

This is a recording of John O’Hara from 6pm on day three on air for Capital Radio, the first licensed independent commercial station in Ireland.

Still on air today as FM104, the Dublin station opened on July 20th 1989.

Capital Radio station page


Radio Retro: archiving Irish Radio broadcasts since 2002
Capital Radio recordings courtesy of Rodney Neill


CAPITAL RADIO July 23rd 1989

This is a recording of Jason Maine from 11pm on day four on air for Capital Radio, the first licensed independent commercial station in Ireland.

Still on air today as FM104, the Dublin station opened on July 20th 1989.

Capital Radio station page


Radio Retro: archiving Irish Radio broadcasts since 2002
Capital Radio recordings courtesy of Rodney Neill


CAPITAL RADIO July 25th 1989

Capital Radio Dublin

This is a recording of Gerry Stevens from 10.13pm on day six on the air for Capital Radio in Dublin, the first licensed independent commercial station in Ireland.

Still on air today as FM104, the Dublin station opened on July 20th 1989.

Capital Radio station page


Radio Retro: archiving Irish Radio broadcasts since 2002
Capital Radio recordings courtesy of Rodney Neill


CAPITAL RADIO July 29th 1989

Capital Radio Dublin

This is a recording of Weekend Breakfast with Ross Allen from 7.32am on day ten on the air for Capital Radio in Dublin, the first licensed independent commercial station in Ireland.

Still on air today as FM104, the Dublin station opened on July 20th 1989.

Capital Radio station page


Radio Retro: archiving Irish Radio broadcasts since 2002
Capital Radio recordings courtesy of Rodney Neill


CAPITAL RADIO July 30th 1989

Capital Radio Dublin

This is a recording of Scott Williams on Bee Bop Sunday on day eleven on the air for Capital Radio in Dublin, the first licensed independent commercial station in Ireland.

Still on air today as FM104, the Dublin station opened on July 20th 1989.

Capital Radio station page


Radio Retro: archiving Irish Radio broadcasts since 2002
Capital Radio recordings courtesy of Rodney Neill


CAPITAL RADIO August 1st 1989

Capital Radio Dublin

This is a recording of Liam Coburn in the early hours of day thirteen on the air for Capital Radio in Dublin, the first licensed independent commercial station in Ireland.

Still on air today as FM104, the Dublin station opened on July 20th 1989.

Capital Radio station page


Radio Retro: archiving Irish Radio broadcasts since 2002
Capital Radio recordings courtesy of Rodney Neill


ATLANTIC 252 September 1st 1989

Gary King launching Atlantic 22

This is a full recording of the first day on the air from Atlantic 252.
It was made off 254kHz long wave and starts with test transmissions from 7.05am leading up to the launch with Gary King from 8am and then the full day’s programming through to closedown at 7pm.
Also on air that first day were Henry Owens, Tony West, Dusty Rhodes, Charlie Wolf. And on news was Andrew Turner and Mary Ellen O’Brien.

Test transmissions from 7.05am


Launch from 8am with Gary King


Henry Owens from 9am


Tony West from midday


Dusty Rhodes from 2pm


Charlie Wolf from 4pm


If you’d prefer an airchecked version, here’s the full day…

CENTURY RADIO September 1st 1989

September 1st test transmissions from the new independent national station Century Radio, which was due to launch on the 4th.

RADIO DUBLIN September 1st 1989

Dave Felton on air for Radio Dublin (International!) on the afternoon of September 1st 1989. Recorded off 101.2MHz (with the station also broadcasting on 1188kHz and 6910kHz), we join Dave’s show at 2.16pm.

LMFM RADIO September 3rd 1989

LMFM Radio’s first hour on air from 1pm on September 3rd 1989. LMFM are the licensed service for the Louth / Meath franchise area.

Radio Retro: archiving Irish radio broadcasts since 2002
This recording is with huge thanks to Chris Murray

CENTURY RADIO September 4th 1989

Marty Whelan on the first show for Century
Marty Whelan on the first show for Century

This is a recording of the launch of the new national licensed service Century Radio from 8am on September 4th 1989. Marty Whelan and his Breakfast Crew guide then listener through the first two hours on air.

Listen exactly as it was broadcast…

Listen with the music edited out…

WLR FM September 8th 1989

Eight months after ceasing broadcasts as a pirate, WLR returned to air in Waterford with a licence. This is a recording of their launch from midday on September 8th 1989.

Eight months after ceasing broadcasts as a pirate, WLR returned to air in Waterford with a licence. This is a recording of their launch from midday on September 8th 1989.

This recording is by kind courtesy of Shay Searson
Radio Retro: archiving Irish radio broadcasts since 2002

CLARE FM September 10th 1989

Ger Sweeney with President Hillery in the Clare FM studio on the day of launch
Ger Sweeney with President Hillery in the Clare FM studio on the day of launch

This is a recording of the launch of Clare FM, one of the new licensed services in the post-pirate era.
The date is September 10th 1989 and Ger Sweeney introduced listeners to the new station.

Launching Clare FM

Last year to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the launch, Ger Sweeney published a hugely-recommended book called “Launching Clare FM” which told the stories of all that were there on day one.
It’s a historical record of a unique event and will be of interest to anyone interested in Irish radio.
Here’s a chance to read the book that accompanies the Radio Retro recording!!!
Copies of the book, which Ger will sign if requested, can be ordered by writing to launchingclarefm@gmail.com or via PayPal to the same address.

This Radio Retro recording is by kind courtesy of Ger Sweeney

Classic Hits 98FM

The final minutes of test broadcasts and then the launch of a new rock music station in Dublin. Classic Hits was the second of the new stations for Dublin, arriving on air 10 months after the closure of the nation’s pirates.
This recording, which is presented exactly as it went out on 98.1MHz, starts at 11.48pm with the station due to launch at midnight.

If you have any old cassettes or digitised recordings that we can add here, please get in touch – radiowavesfm@radioanoraks.com or use wetransfer to the same address.

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