Radiowaves Special Feature: The Radio 4U Story


Chapter Seventeen

The final part of my consideration was the uncertain future of unlicensed radio. I never liked Radio 4U to be called a pirate radio station. Radio was not illegal in Ireland but unlicensed.
In early February the papers, and a lot of people, especially my jockeys, started to panic about new proposals. At that time I just laughed and demanded to be told another joke. But almost three months later, by the end of April, you had to be a fool to ignore the warning bells from Dublin.

That was the time when I decided to cut my losses and look for a new venture. I examined a great opportunity to set up a Big FM in France. However my prime target was to develop this Fully Automated Disc Jockey System.

I wanted to get out of Radio 4U and so I started looking for a potential buyer. Radio North’s owner had the same intuition, and with the proposed legislation in sight his station was to change hands. NWCR had the second strongest signal in the City and they were so well established that their interest in a Radio 4U close down would not have met my demands.

Of course, the local Radio Nova would have loved to see the back of me, but then again you don’t sell your baby to the devil, Even though Nova was strongly supported by the Railway Tavern night club, which belonged to the same outfit, their bank balance was deep in the red.

For the past months they’d done everything to get in my bad books anyway. Not only were they claiming to be broadcasting in stereo (not a single stereo receiver in the world would have supported this claim), but they were blunt enough to rebroadcast whole sections of Radio 4U programmes, obviously omitting our station ID.
So, finally, I went down to Nova and blew my top. That solved the initial problem but behind my back the programme controller called me ‘Little Hitler’ – so be it, what did I care?
Later it was discovered that this ‘new’ transmitter had, in fact, been stolen from WABC.

Now, I have not mentioned WABC yet.
They were a black soul and dance music station where the music never stopped. No announcement was to be made over dead air, and back in the early days they even banned news programmes. WABC was the station to tune in to if you like music radio, pure.

WABC had started five months after Radio 4U and was the second one in crystal clear FM stereo. They were based in Greencastle and served Coleraine, Ballycastle, Portrush, Portsteward, and all along the north coast reaching as far as the outskirts of Glasgow, but Derry was screened by mountains. Even though you could pick up WABC in some parts of the City the signal was fifty times weaker than Radio 4U`s 97.6 FM original studio link.

I assumed that WABC might be interested in expanding their activities to Derry. One Sunday afternoon I drove out to the Lenamore relay and measured WABC’s signal strength there. It was just about suitable to relay the complete stereo FM multiplex signal. The next step was to get the station`s telephone number. It was quite funny: the DJ organised a phone-in but it took me two cups of tea until he finally announced the telephone number.

That same evening I left a message for Paul, WABC’s owner. My idea seemed to work and when Paul returned my call he showed immediate interest. The following week we met twice. When John and Frances learned that I was seriously thinking of packing it in they also entered the negotiations with a staff buy out proposal. I would have loved to see my own people succeed with Radio 4U but eventually WABC`s offer turned out to be the more favourable one for me.