THE CITY BROADCASTING SERVICE
The City Broadcasting Service (CBS) was a Limerick pirate radio station which was on air from February – October 1935 on 520m. Operated by Jim O’Carroll, the station became known in Limerick as ‘The Pirate’.
Jim had crudely constructed the transmitter with thanks to his college education in electrical engineering and his own spare-time studies in electronics. He became obsessed with broadcasting to Limerick and whilst conducting experiments with oscillators he quickly realised it would be possible by modulation, and the addition of an amplifier and an aerial. When he managed to produce a carrier wave he needed a microphone in order to give the wave something to broadcast. Today, a short trip to an electronics shop and one could be purchased immediately. In 1935 it had to be ordered and then a long wait ensued until delivery. Once Jim had a mic in his possession he fed it into the amplifier.
In order to find out how far the signal was travelling, Jim attached an alarm clock to the microphone and cycled around the city, delighted to hear the clock wherever he could tune a receiver to his frequency!
Jim now needed a location to broadcast from. His friend, Charlie O’Connor, lived in a large house with his family which had one unoccupied floor and so Jim’s station moved into an empty room at 84 Henry Street.
Jim called himself Billy Dynamite on air, usually joined by Charlie (Al Dubbin) for their regular broadcast hours of 7-11pm.
Programming consisted of music played from Jim’s own collection. At other times concerts, news and comedy shows from the United States were sourced from a shortwave receiver and relayed to CBS listeners. Australian radio was also regularly relayed.
Each evening Charlie would cycle to the railway station in order to pick up the Dublin newspapers as they arrived. This enabled CBS to broadcast the news from the papers probably before most people had even purchased their own copy.
In ‘What’s On Tonight’ Jim gave a round up of all the local attractions, especially what was on in the cinemas. They even went as far as broadcasting swimming lessons!
As the station was proving to be a success Jim took the next step of seeking out advertising. His first foray led him to the owner of the Wolfe Tone Dairy. Jim told the man that he knew who was running ‘The Pirate’ and could arrange to have his ice cream mentioned on the air. After just a few nights, the ice cream company was ordering in new machinery to satisfy the growing demand for his product. This was the first ever paid commercial on Irish radio.
This led to other advertisers seeking contact with the station and CBS was now operating as a real local service for the people of Limerick.
The station eventually moved to 25 Wolfe Tone Street after Jim and Charlie let another friend of theirs, Mikey Madden, in on the secret. Mikey had loaned Jim batteries and, unaware of their exact use, was putting on pressure to have them returned. It was only when he discovered that they were being used to help put CBS on air that he realised.
The station was finally raided on October 31st while Mikey was on the air. Ironically, it was through the Dublin newspapers that Jim learned that the game was up. He was in Dublin for a few days and seen the story in the Irish Press.
At the subsequent court case in February 1936, Mikey Madden was fined £5 (an average two weeks wages at that time) and the transmitter was confiscated. This was the first ever conviction under the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1926.