We were getting crucified, to be honest. Everybody was listening to Radio Nova.
Tom Hardy talking about his time at Sunshine Radio
Listen to a jingle
September arrived and Radio Nova was still, essentially, in the test broadcast stage, although the average listener wouldn’t have known the difference. With the Bay Area now rocking to the great new sound of a radio station the like of which they hadn’t ever aurally witnessed, things were about to get very serious indeed.
On the evening of September 11th, Radio Nova launched its medium wave transmissions – emanating from a beast of an aerial at the Green Acres Complex in Rathfarnham. Whilst the FM broadcasts had wowed the local audience, Nova’s 10kw of 846kHz MW power very quickly wowed a vast listening audience not only in much of Ireland but in a great deal of Britain too.
The new signal was a signal of intent. Nova was here to stay and Irish radio would never be the same again. In October they very briefly flirted with 891kHz (‘The Mighty 890’) but returned to 846kHz.
With the increase in listeners came an increase in listenership. The pirates, and Nova and Sunshine in particular, were now making serious inroads on market research surveys that were documenting radio listening habits – especially amongst the lucrative teens to mid 30s age group, the very people that advertisers adore. And they responded. By November Radio Nova were fully booked up to the end of the year. The new breed of professional radio management was reaping its rewards.
Which hadn’t gone unnoticed just down the road in government circles. The annual announcement sounding the death-knell for the unlicensed stations came at the start of December and this time their plan was to do away with competition for RTÉ altogether by introducing community-style stations with very little commercial interest.
Chris Cary reacted to the announcement with a metaphorical shrug of his shoulders – he knew that the day would come eventually.
It would never come soon enough for RTÉ. Rather than wait (futilely as it turned out) for the government to do away with their opposition, they decided to take matters into their own hands. June 29th 1982 was the day Radio Nova chose to celebrate the completion of one year of broadcasting. It should have been a day of celebration. The state broadcaster had other ideas, though.
They hijacked the celebrations by hijacking Nova’s signal, unwrapping a birthday present consisting of a high-pitched tone for their arch-enemy with the intention of jamming it off the air. It was a deliberate act of vandalism that demonstrated just how threatened RTÉ were now feeling by the continued existence of Radio Nova, who they considered to be outright illegal and stealing their advertising income, ultimately threatening their jobs. The question was begged but never really asked. How would they cope if/when a properly organised ‘legal’ network of commercial stations operated throughout the State.
Radio Nova’s transmissions were very sophisticated. Their studios were based in 19 Herbert St, in the heart of Dublin city. The transmitter was based in Rathfarnham. The connection between the studio and Rathfarnham was made via a microlink.
It was this microlink frequency that was hijacked by a loud, screeching noise for close to half an hour from around 4.30pm on Monday, June 28th, 1982.
On the following day, the signal was again interfered with from just after midday. This time the jamming forced Nova off the air for over three hours, until they managed to set up an alternative link. Nova’s engineers, including station boss Chris Cary, traced the source of the jamming to a mast on top of a building in Rathmines. This building was in the direct path between Herbert Street and Rathfarnham. The building belonged to RTÉ who denied the allegations made by Nova that they were the source of the jamming signal. As evidence goes though, the case against RTÉ could at the very least be described as ‘stacked’. The jamming stopped after they were rumbled.
Listen to a jingle
The government were again announcing that the pirate stations’ days were numbered (and this time they meant it!!!). On this recording from December 3rd 1981 Terry Riley reacts to the news – Tony Fenton is the show’s presenter…
Radio Nova were the subject of an excellent feature article in the Evening Herald on December 8th. Tap on the image to read…
Hazardous weather conditions blighted Ireland for a period in January 1982 bringing the country to a standstill. Pirate radio stations, and Radio Nova in particular, were praised in many quarters for offering a fantastic around the clock service to the community. RTÉ however were criticised for not being on air 24 hours per day during the crisis and for not having their phonelines manned to help out people in distress. It is probably fair to say that it was this period in which the value of the local radio stations became apparent to everyone.
Also in this month Nova were inundated with applicants after advertising for a newsreader.
This recording with Colm Hayes is a great example of the service Radio Nova offered during the adverse weather conditions.
I remember it well! No power, no school, busted boiler and 6ft snowdrifts in Kilberry, Navan…but who is bothered about that when you got The Boy Jase on your radio or Colm Hayes!