Radio Nova: Part 1 – Chapter 09

I honestly feel that the public reaction would be massive if the government suddenly wiped out the pirates.

Bob Gallico (March 1983)

Listen to a jingle

By 1983 Radio Nova was the undisputed number one station in Dublin. If there was anybody who’d never heard it they’d certainly heard of it. Cary had no intentions of resting on his laurels. It was just not in his nature.

With Dublin already conquered, expansion plans for a new high-powered station aimed specifically at Britain but based in Ireland were going ahead with the mast being erected at Nova Park. A 50kW transmitter had been procured specifically for this purpose and Cary was delightfully revealing his plans to anybody who cared to listen. Along with the long-mooted ambitious plans for Nova TV, many felt it was this, and more, that led to the seismic events of May 18th & 19th.

May 18th was a routine enough Wednesday morning – “…a day like any other day,” as described by Declan Meehan. Declan and Bob Gallico were on air as usual at Nova’s studios in 19 Herbert Street. In the same building, Mike Moran was entertaining listeners to sister station Kiss FM. As the time approached 9.30am, officials of the Department of Posts & Telegraphs, accompanied by uniformed members of An Garda Síochána – the official title of the Irish police force which translates to ‘Guardians of the Peace’ – arrived outside Radio Nova’s studios. Their intentions were far from peaceful on this particular morning. After a few minutes delay, they were allowed entry and immediately requested for both stations to cease transmission. This request was refused – the warrants were for the transmitter site in Rathfarnham. The apologetic officials (they were radio listeners too, after all) asked for the keys to the transmitter site, which was in Rathfarnham.

Live over the air Declan Meehan was heard calling for Chris Cary to come to Herbert Street. This was the first indication to the average listener that there was something going on.
The call for Cary followed an airing of Les Reed’s ‘Man of Action’, which is usually a good indicator to radio enthusiasts that something serious is going on behind the scenes.

For one serious radio listener, however, the signs were spotted even earlier, Gerard Roe recalls listening in that morning…

Being a proud, sad anorak, I noticed something was up before Man of Action played out. I was in work, with Nova playing out across the office, as it always did.

Chris Cary once described Nova as ‘Hamburger Radio’… think McDonald’s – you always know exactly what you are going to get, no surprises, everything within your expected taste and comfort zone. So much so, that even without realising it, you fell into the Nova groove while listening and every link and jingle had a time and place.

I first suspected something was up when Declan missed a link and a few jingles were played out of the expected context. In the days before mobile phones, he was desperately trying to attract the attention of those who would know that the Nova groove was not right.

After another few links missed, and more random jingles, I mentioned to some colleagues that something was up. They hadn’t noticed, but once Declan put out his call for Chris to contact the station and Man of Action was played, I knew it was serious.

The following hour or so was compulsive listening and word spread like wildfire around Dublin (and far beyond) that Nova was being raided. Little did any of us know at that time, that far more was to come.

The professional instincts of Declan Meehan and Bob Gallico came to the fore as they composed themselves and entertained the listeners, whilst also alerting them to the fact that the station would go off the air at any moment. Their programme had been due to finish at 10am; meanwhile, Tom Hardy, who had been preparing for his show at 10am when the knock on the door came, was at this point escorting the P&T officials to the transmitter site.

Eventually, both Radio Nova and Kiss FM fell silent and the otherwise very ordinary ‘Rip It Up’ by Orange Juice has become an anorak classic as it was interrupted mid-song (probably the only merciful moment of the event) as Radio Nova was switched off, promising to return as soon as possible.

Radio Nova shut by PO raid
The front page of the Evening Herald

In Rathfarnham, the officials earned a full day’s pay – it took that long to dismantle and remove everything. ‘Everything’ included the shiny new 50kW transmitter.

Meanwhile, over at the second biggest station, Robbie Robinson, fearing that dark clouds might arrive to block out Sunshine Radio, fretted about whether to close his station to safeguard the equipment.

He was one of those who was convinced that Cary’s activities were responsible for the actions and that the raid on Nova was a one-off but the nagging doubt at the back of his mind that this might just be the start of a clampdown, the beginning of the end, led him to call as many of his in-the-know contacts as he could.

He was obviously reassured by what he heard because he was back on air the following morning as usual, or as close to as usual as was possible given the uncertainty which permeated his mind.

We’ve all had cause to say it at least once in our lives, the lucky ones just once: “I should’ve trusted my gut instincts.” Robinson must’ve said it many times in the aftermath of the visit which his station received, forcing it off the air that morning, the morning of May 19th. It was beginning to look like it was the beginning of the end after all, and the second raid, in particular, sent shockwaves across Ireland’s radio waves.

Hitting Radio Nova was huge in itself. Hitting Sunshine Radio as well was an indicator that the unthinkable was happening – Ireland’s blossoming radio stations were being forced off the air, the long-feared clampdown had arrived and nobody was safe.

Many of the country’s stations closed down voluntarily in the aftermath of Sunshine’s closure. Whilst the possible fines were paltry and represented no deterrent, the threat of the loss of very valuable equipment was enough for many of the stations to shut up shop.

Sunshine’s raid demonstrated that perhaps Cary wasn’t to blame after all. Speaking of Cary, Radio Nova had returned in the early hours of that morning, albeit on much-reduced power and using a borrowed transmitter. Indeed, it was back on air in time to report the raid on Sunshine Radio, which led to their closure at around 9.45am!

At a lunchtime meeting of the senior staff the previous day, Nova had decided to return to say a proper goodbye to their listeners. To the listener, it was another normal morning, programming-wise. Declan & Bob had great fun during their morning newspaper review slots where, for once, they themselves were the News.
Tom Hardy was in time for his show this particular morning and every few minutes listeners were urged to sign a petition to keep Nova on the air.

Declan Meehan during the final hour on May 19th
Declan Meehan during the final hour on May 19th (Thanks to Joseph King)

Although not unforeseen it still came as something of a shock when at 1.25pm an announcement was made which would, in its wake, lead to one of the most iconic and amazing days in Irish broadcast history, or “a day of complete rabble-rousing,” as Tom Hardy later described it.

Radio Nova announced that they were to officially cease broadcasts at 6pm that evening. The station, which had already been closed down and stripped of all of its assets the day before, had come back on air and were now going to close down under their own terms. Chris Cary’s terms. It seemed that the tail was wagging the dog somewhat.

Was everyone right to blame Cary?:-

Was Chris Cary to blame for the raid on Sunshine Radio on May 19th 1983? At the time, in the aftermath, and even to this day, it is widely accepted that his actions were solely responsible. But were they?
The case against him has always been his publicly-stated plans to put the 50kW transmitter on the air, planning to broadcast into Britain on high power. Thrown into the mix is usually the fact that he had mentioned a desire to put a television station on the air. That would go some way to explain why the authorities targetted Nova and Kiss. But Sunshine?
Robbie Robinson was particularly vocal in the aftermath in condemning Cary, laying the blame squarely on his shoulders. Which sounds a little like passing the buck. Sunshine Radio were, after all, also operating without a licence.
Many within the radio industry also put the blame firmly on Cary’s doorstep. A number of these had themselves been raided in the past, and would be in the future. So, again, stones and glasshouses.
The usual argument put forward for the raid on Sunshine is that they couldn’t be seen to take [the guilty] one off the air without hitting the other, but that is extremely arbitrary and doesn’t stand up to even the slightest of scrutiny.
If they were taking Nova off the air for the reasons given – the 50kW and the TV plans – then hitting Sunshine as well only sent out a confusing message. If it was to teach Cary a ‘lesson’ it wasn’t very successful. Nova TV launched a few months later and a year on Cary was targeting the north-west of England, Scotland and Wales, going as far as setting up an office in Liverpool.
Anyway, why should Sunshine be served up as ‘the other’ if ‘one’ is hit? There were lots of other stations on the air in Dublin at the time. So was it their ‘superpirate’ status that classed Sunshine as ‘the other’ that had to be seen to be hit if Nova was raided?
That might seem reasonable but then you could just as easily argue that they couldn’t (or shouldn’t) have hit those two without hitting the other large commercial stations operating around the country.
And who knows what might have happened later on the 19th, or on Friday 20th, if the rest of the stations had stayed on the air. There is strong evidence that Radio Leinster was due to be hit on the afternoon Sunshine was taken off and Westside Radio had received a strong tip-off that they would be hit if they were still on the air the following Monday.
From whatever angle you view the events, blaming Cary for what happened to Sunshine seems – to these eyes – to be an exercise in self-serving.
In court, the reasons given for the raids were allegations of interference. These allegations came from many sources spread across both Ireland and Britain. And both Radio Nova and Sunshine were named as the sources of the cases of interference.
I’ll repeat that. Not just Radio Nova but Sunshine as well. So the official reason for the raids fell on the heads of both stations, not just on Cary’s. There may have been allegations of interference against other stations too but as no other station was raided, we’ll never know.
Éamonn Cooke in his station news on the Sunday following the raids named Sunshine as a long-running source of interference on an emergency runway at Dublin Airport.
There is little doubt that Chris Cary’s plans probably acted as the catalyst for the raid on Nova and Kiss, but that does not make them the cause of the raid on Sunshine Radio.
And very few station owners had the courage of their convictions that Cary was to blame on May 19th when they feared they too would be raided and closed their stations.

‘Opinion’ – John Fleming

Nobody listening to Radio Nova on May 19th will ever forget it. It was the greatest call to arms, or perhaps call to horns, ever broadcast on Irish radio. Listeners were bombarded with pleas to contact their elected representatives; were informed that they could show support by attending a march at a later date; were all invited to Herbert Street for the 6pm closedown; and urged to blow their car horns to serve as an orchestral cacophonous backdrop to the final moments.

Perhaps they had planned to invite the Herbert Street invitees inside but they could not have had any idea of what was to follow as thousands of people, on a workday remember, followed their hearts and their ears and ended up as close to the iconic building as they possibly could; and with Dublin’s city centre brought to a standstill thanks to the crowds that had descended on Herbert Street, as close as possible was still a distance away for many.

Tom Hardy at Radio Nova
Tom Hardy answers the phones during the chaotic final broadcast. Behind him in conversation is Chris Cary and Paul Cotter (the station engineer, sitting) (Thanks to Joseph King)

Throughout the afternoon, the two station’s (Nova and Kiss) impressive rollcall of presenters doubled up to present half-hour long programmes to say their farewells. And to play their part in whipping Dublin into a frenzy.

It is the most memorable few hours of radio ever to radiate from a transmitter based on Irish soil and by the time 6pm came – all too quickly – the people in power who had sanctioned the attacks on the nation’s stations must have seriously wondered how they’d judged the mood of the people so badly wrong as they were forced to place their fingers in their ears to block out the racket from car horns all over Dublin city and county…and beyond.

Radio Nova raid
Chris Cary and Robbie Robinson look out at the crowds from the balcony of 19 Herbert St (Thanks to Joseph King)

Whilst us Irish love a revolution, you’re still more likely to find us placated by a few creamy pints of Guinness, an anaesthesia for a nation. It takes something special to get the locals to rise up, en masse. That something special had been created by Chris Cary, aided and abetted by anyone who’d ever taken to the airwaves to entertain listeners in the name of Radio Nova.

If, with the raids, politicians had misjudged those whom they serve, one wonders if the situation was misjudged – or at least mismanaged – by Cary. Whilst all of those present in body, and in spirit via their radios, at Herbert Street on Thursday would’ve been delighted on being able to tune in again to their favourite station when it returned the following Saturday evening – just two days later – in retrospect the decision to return to air might have been an opportunity lost to apply some serious pressure on the government to once and for all sort out the radio situation. That might seem quite hindsightful, but anyone who bore witness to the events in Dublin city at 6pm on May 19th 1983 would’ve realised that the issue of radio was a very important one – and most of the attendees were of voting age after all.*

The mooted march in support of local radio took place the following Friday, following close to a week of uninterrupted programming from Radio Nova. 15,000 people demanded the right to have a choice of radio stations.
15,000 people.
On a Friday.

Meanwhile, Radio Nova’s new low-powered transmissions meant that they were now announcing that they were “broadcasting TO Dublin” and no longer “FROM Dublin” at the top of each hour. Subtle, but again testament to Cary’s eye for detail.

The frenzied closedown of May 19th did have some effect – there were unofficial noises emanating from government sources suggesting that pirates would be left alone – interference notwithstanding – until such time as legislation was in place. Amazingly, even in a country as laid-back as Ireland – think Netherlands without the dope, apart from the one in power of course – it was another five years before legislation was introduced.

Meanwhile, Cary had already had a couple of court cases challenging the raid adjourned and he eventually got his equipment back. As did Sunshine Radio, who had remained off the air until they felt it was safe to return.

When Radio Nova returned Kiss FM was sacrificed. John Clarke reveals that Cary wanted to keep the Nova brand at the forefront.

So instead, Radio Nova operated a split schedule on FM and AM between 7pm and 11pm each night from June 8th. Super Nova aired on 88FM and ‘normal’ Nova on 828kHz.
On Super Nova, specialist programmes like Dennis Murray’s Rock Show blasted out nightly in stereo.
Kiss FM did return much later in the year.

It wasn’t long before everything was back to relative normality.
It wasn’t surprising, perhaps, that the nation’s biggest pirate was itself pirated, with a relay of Radio Nova appearing elsewhere on the MW band which was identifying as ‘Nova Southside’.

And, it wasn’t believable that Radio Nova found itself being jammed again. The 828kHz outlet was targeted early in August 1983 by persons unknown, and no, this wasn’t the name of a clandestine group within RTÉ. Nova jumped between 828kHz and 819kHz over the course of a day and once the jamming had stopped, Nova settled on 819kHz.

In June, Radio Nova had introduced a new three-in-a-row competition, going one grand better than the Kiss FM one in March. This time £6,000 was up for stakes to the fiftieth caller*.

Play the promo

As if that wasn’t enough splashing the cash, the budget of a small country was spent on a glossy two-page full colour advertisement reminding the public how much Radio Nova had done for the country in terms of giving employment and paying taxes…

A personal insight on the Radio Nova / Sunshine raids by Ronan Segrave

The raids by the P&T on the superpirates Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio in 1983 came, as far as the Irish public were concerned, as a total bolt from the blue. Raids on Irish pirate radio stations had decreased significantly since the Radio Dublin/ARD/Big D era in 1977-79 and by 1983 were largely confined to very small operations using poor equipment where there was obvious inference with emergency services.

Irish pirate radio changed dramatically in 1980 with the arrival from England of former Radio Caroline DJs and businessmen, Robbie Robinson and Chris Cary. Seeing a benign tolerance that now seemed to be in place from the Irish government with totally outdated legislation and the fact that the best of the then pirates, such as Big D, had largely stagnated in terms of professionalism, money was definitely there to be made. Both men, seeing an opportunity to make serious money, set up Sunshine Radio based out of a portacabin at the Sands Hotel in Portmarnock.
What happened next is well-known – Robbie wanted a UK IBA-style station like Radio Piccadilly in Manchester; Chris wanted a slick US-style station based on stations like KIISFM and K-Earth 101 in Los Angeles. Robbie launched Sunshine on AM/MW; Chris was obsessed with FM Stereo. The men parted ways with Chris bought out of Sunshine – but as we know, once Chris Cary left, he was repeatedly contacted by Brian McKenzie of Bay Studios in Herbert Street advising him that he had missed out on a huge money-making opportunity.

Tempted back to Dublin in 1981, Chris put his ideas into full fruition and launched Radio Nova, based out of Herbert Street with a microwave link to transmitters based at Green Acres, Rathfarnham.
US West Coast-style radio suddenly arrived in Dublin on crystal clear FM Stereo with the deliberate selection of 88FM as the frequency – the one intended for Sunshine!
Aided by hiring experienced jocks such as John Clarke, experienced UK hands such as Andy Archer, Mike Edgar and Tony Allan, with a deliberate policy not to take ads in the first few weeks, Nova was an immediate hit. The station’s music policy was a mix of selected current and possible radio-friendly hits combined with ‘favourites’ –mainly US records from the likes of Steely Dan perfectly recorded to sound sharp on an FM stereo station.

Soon Nova was taking Ads – lots of them – as listenership exploded to such an extent that, in 1982, a sister station Kiss FM was established.

Chris Cary was also an outstanding picker of on-air talent – John Clarke, Declan Meehan, Colm Hayes, Scott Williams, Gareth O’Callaghan, Greg Gaughran, Sybil Fennell, Tom Hardy, Hugh O’Brien, Jason Maine and so on – an incredible roster of talent.
The hiring of Bob Gallico, a former American actor, as a newsreader was another great hire – Bob was paired with Declan Meehan for the first two-hander radio breakfast show in Ireland which is still fondly remembered today.

Nova, by early 1983, was making serious money for that time – a turnover of IR£1-2 million with profits in excess of 200,000.

Nova was now also on AM with a 10kw rig, with a powerful 5kw rig on FM. It was using broadcast equipment such as optimods (audio processors) that was way superior to RTÉ.
Billboard campaigns, big cash giveaways, politicians and RTÉ personalities doing voiceovers, the public largely forgot Nova was illegal. Yet, by early 1983, the die had been cast for a raid…

Based on private conversations with former Fine Gael cabinet ministers and officials, who are now long passed, it is my personal view that the 1983 raids had nothing to do with largely baseless claims of Nova/Kiss interfering with emergency services frequencies, or were in any way intended as some sort of national clampdown on pirates (which never happened), but were directly targeted at Chris Cary in the hope he would be frightened enough to shut down Nova and Kiss and return to England. If that is true, why then was Sunshine Radio also raided? Possible reasons were deflection – to make it look politically that some kind of national clampdown was coming which was never the intent – and also political revenge by Fine Gael who never forgave Sunshine’s newspaper ads in the February 1982 election urging its listeners to vote for Fianna Fail.

So these are my personal views on the May 1983 raids:-
1: Chris Cary’s expanding ambitions.
By early 1983 Chris Cary was the king of Irish radio. Radio Nova was making serious profits with a massive listenership in Dublin and neighbouring counties, Kiss FM was also in profit. But the ever-restless Chris was still not content. As other members of the Nova management team such as Mike Hogan have attested (also reported in Magill and Phoenix magazines), Chris held meetings with both Tony O’Reilly of Independent Newspapers and the Eamon Andrews Organization (which went bust in ’84) on what was described as furthering Nova’s business and media interests. The meeting with Tony O’Reilly, in particular, spooked the government. O’Reilly was no fan of RTÉ, which he considered to be dominated by hard-left anti-business types, and possibly saw an opportunity to team up with Cary to create an integrated independent media offering including both radio and TV. Independent Newspapers were heavy advertisers on Nova – the hourly ads for the Evening Herald small ads at the top of every hour for starters. For Chris Cary, O’Reilly offered legitimacy and a passport to a licence and expansion. O’Reilly ultimately backed off, presumably assuming that a tie-up with a pirate station would be more negative than positive for his business interests. The government were, however, shocked and alarmed that O’Reilly had even contemplated an alliance with Cary. Undeterred, Chris continued with expansion plans focusing on launching yet another station aimed at the UK on Long Wave and imported a 50kw transmitter combined with advertisements which appeared in the UK press for “Radio Exidy”. Chris also explored various options for a transmitter site including at Mosney. My sources told me that this had come to the attention of the UK authorities who made representations directly urging the Irish government to deal with “their pirate problem”. For the Irish government, it was embarrassing and led to a view by the relevant Ministers, Ted Nealon and Jim Mitchell, that Cary’s ambitions needed to be reigned in and it might be for the best if Cary departed Ireland entirely.
2: Constant complaints from RTÉ.
Through 1982, and into 1983 there were constant statements and representations to the government from the board and senior management of RTÉ urging the closure of pirates, and Nova in particular. RTÉ was posting losses while Nova was making considerable profits. The government faced pressure for a more significant increase in licence fees to offset the loss in advertising revenue. There is no doubt the Nova was taking a large chunk of advertising revenue from RTÉ where things had got so paranoid that Radio Nova car stickers were banned from RTÉ’s Montrose car parks. While sympathy for RTÉ was limited in Fine Gael, there was also no desire to have a funding crisis at RTÉ added to the vast range of economic problems the government was grappling with in 1983. The closure of Radio Nova and Chris Cary’s departure from Ireland would make this go away.
3. As difficult as this is to contemplate in 2021, back in 1983 things were different and the fact that a brash English, Thatcherite businessman like Chris Cary was now dominating the Dublin and neighbouring counties radio market was both a source of embarrassment and real anger in certain government circles. RTÉ was being exposed for what it was -outdated and out of touch with a younger demographic. RTÉ Radio 2 (now RTÉ 2FM) was still playing lots of country music and seemed much more geared to a rural market – Nova tapped into a more sophisticated Dublin market costing RTE millions… “should Irish radio stations not be run by Irish people?” was muttered in certain political circles. Similar noises were made by trade unions, particularly to Fine Gael’s then coalition partners, Labour. While Cary had allowed newsreaders to join the NUJ (which came back to haunt him) and he himself was a member of Equity, Cary’s employees were not on contracts and there were stories about his temperament, instant firings and moods…for the Labour Party Chris Cary was the anthesis of what they stood for and they wanted a more ‘public service’ local radio broadcasting model – not necessarily RTÉ-run given the Workers Party union influence there – the ‘stickies’ – but one heavily regulated and unionised….therefore Labour had no issue with the raid and wanted Cary gone from Ireland.
4. ‘Interference with emergency services’. This old favourite was trotted out as the official reason for the raids without any actual evidence being provided and I believe this had nothing to do with the raids. Nova/Kiss was using frequencies allocated to Ireland, its equipment was superior to RTÉ’s and if this really was the case and such a serious issue, why then was Nova allowed to continue to broadcast for nearly two years prior to the raid? It doesn’t make any sense and was another smokescreen.

*See also Appendix II

Listen to a jingle

April 1983

In an interview with the Irish Press on how licensed radio may develop, Chris Cary admits he would not be qualified to run a speech-based radio station such as RTÉ Radio 1 or BBC Radio 4, which he professes to dislike.
“If you want talk you can hear it from the wife!” he says.
He also dismisses Sunshine Radio as “all lost dogs and family programmes”.

Read the interview by tapping on the image

An article in the Irish Management Institute’s journal reveals that Radio Nova hope to reach a £2m turnover for 1983.

A row erupts when an RTÉ News report likens pirate radio stations to highly illegal and morally questionable practices such as prostitution, drug dealing and illegal gambling. Indeed, in the aforementioned IMI journal, RTÉ’s Head of Press and Information refers to the stations as “illegal and immoral”.
A Radio Nova spokesman counters by saying that they run their business like any ordinary company and pay all their taxes.

Sister station Kiss FM run tests on 88.5MHz as they fear the 102.7MHz might be interfering with emergency service channels in England.

The Mosney project, which may have been called Radio Exidy if it went to air, is no more thanks to new management at the coastal site. Instead, the mast is erected at the back of Nova Park.

John Lewis leaves Radio Nova. Lawrence John joins and works the overnight shift.

Peter Madison (pictured) returns to Radio Nova to tutor a Broadcasting School project along with Brian and Jean McKenzie. Tony Allan had previously been involved before leaving to work in Cork.

Peter Madison (pictured) returns to Radio Nova to tutor a Broadcasting School project along with Brian and Jean McKenzie. Tony Allan had previously been involved before leaving to work in Cork.
Courtesy of Richie Wild

May 1983

A sales team is now in place specifically for Kiss FM. A 1kW medium wave outlet is also planned.

May 14th: The second year of Operation Novacare again raises funds for a charitable cause.

Sybil Fennell and Declan Meehan at the Novacare charity event
Sybil Fennell and Declan Meehan at the Novacare charity event (Thanks to Joseph King)

May 18th: Massive shockwaves are sent through the radio world when Radio Nova and Kiss FM are raided on the morning of May 18th 1983. This is the start of an astonishing few days in the radio world and the full story is told in this Radiowaves Special…

Massive shockwaves are sent through the radio world when Radio Nova and Kiss FM are raided on the morning of May 18th 1983. This is the start of an astonishing few days in the radio world and the full story is told in this Radiowaves Special...
Tap here

May 19th: Radio Nova return and announce they will cease broadcasting at 6pm.

See also Appendix I

John Clarke during his final show on the day of closedown.
John Clarke during his show on the day of closedown (Thanks to Joseph King)

May 21st: Radio Nova return! A ministerial announcement confirms that stations like Nova will never receive a licence so they decide they’ve nothing to lose by returning.

May 27th: A march in support of the pirate stations takes place in Dublin city centre.

Enjoyed all that. I love the way Declan Meehan played the Sunshine Radio close down song on Nova just after Sunshine ceased broadcasting.

Seán O’Reilly

It brings a thrill to see that newspaper clipping and think back to how big the news was!

Kevin Branigan

Even the most diehard FG supporter would have to admit that the 83 raids were a political disaster in every respect. What led to them is still unclear – most likely Chris’s Radio Exidy project – the importation of the 50KW transmitter and ads for Exidy in the British trade press and probable complaints from the British government. Sunshine was probably just a political casualty having urged voters to vote FF. Chris Cary was the target to reign him in. The proper closedown (Cary was warned of another raid) and the public anger both enraged and frightened the government – a misjudgment as to how deeply unpopular the raids were which had little or no public support. The biggest humiliation for the government was the courts returning Nova’s equipment including the 50KW transmitter and the judge lambasting the government for failing to update the law. The end result was no more raids on established stations until the law changed….

Ronan Segrave

June 1983

Radio Nova are now on 828kHz on medium wave and remain on reduced power following last month’s raid.

A new top of the hour incorporates the frequency change but, perhaps more importantly, it announces that the station are now broadcasting TO Dublin. Previously it was FROM Dublin.

In court Radio Nova’s injunction failed and the case will now be heard in October. A representative for the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs states that the sophistication and power of a number of pirate stations, including Nova, was a cause of increasing concern because of the dangerous interference resulting from them. Chris Cary contends however, that the raid on the station was intended to protect the monopoly of the State broadcaster.

Denis Murray, Tony Gareth, Scott Williams & Dave Harvey outside the High Court
Denis Murray, Tony Gareth, Scott Williams & Dave Harvey outside the High Court

Jim Mitchell, Minister for Posts & Telegraphs, indicates that pirate stations will be allowed stay on air until licensed radio is introduced, unless there are complaints of interference. It was hoped that a framework would be in place by the end of the year but the FF Bill is defeated in the Dáil.

Nova splits evening broadcasts with the normal programming airing on medium wave and ‘Super Nova’, usually Denis Murray’s Rock Show or other specialist programmes, airing on FM.

Radio Nova’s weekday line-up:-
Midnight – Lawrence John
6am – Declan Meehan & Bob Gallico
9am – Tom Hardy
Midday – John Clarke
3pm – Greg Gaughran
6pm – Colm Hayes
9pm – Jason Maine

Tony Gareth leaves Radio Nova to join Sunshine Radio, who finally return to air on June 12th.

Phoenix Magazine reports that Chris Cary has left 3 tapes in the Nova on-air studio marked “for raid only”.
On one, Linda Conway asks: “Why do you listen to Radio Nova?”
Answer: “Because they play the best music!”
Linda: “Congratulations, can you lend us a tenner for the court case?”
Answer: I’ll lend you twenty if you like…”
On another tape, Linda asks again: “Why do you listen to Radio Nova?”
Answer: “Because it’s illegal!”
And on the final tape the question is asked of Chris himself and he replies: “Because they do the best closedowns.”

Radio Nova launch a listener competition worth £6,000 similar to the Kiss FM one earlier in the year. Below is how it is advertised in the Sunday World.

Radio Nova launch a listener competition worth £6,000 similar to the Kiss FM one earlier in the year. Below is how it is advertised in the Sunday World.

July 1983

Chris Cary and Robbie Robinson appear on RTÉ TV to discuss the future of local radio.

The 4 hour shifts for presenters return at the height of the holiday season.

Believing that the lifetime for the station is around a year before they would be forced to close with the introduction of licensed radio, Chris Cary counts the cost of the raid on Radio Nova in May. £190,000 in lost equipment; £10,000 in legal costs challenging the raid. He also adds £100,000 of lost advertising revenue. However, with the station running smoothly again he claims that advertising is fully booked out up to Christmas.

Radio Nova spend around £40,000 on a full-colour newspaper advertising campaign highlighting the fact that they employ 53 people who are contributing to the exchequer with tax and PRSI payments. The campaign is aimed at legitimising the station in the eyes of the public and the government, even though Chris Cary does not believe they will receive a licence when the time comes.

Chris Cary reluctantly invites the National Union of Jourmalists to open talks with him as a result of pressure from Union members within the station.

Higher power is still being promised, as is the return of Kiss FM.

Nova Roadshows appear not only around Ireland but also in the Isle of Man, where Bob Gallico ends up stranded due to fog.

Nova Southside reappears on a different frequency of 684kHz. The previous 999kHz had to be discontinued owing to the launch of Red Rose Radio across the water.

Mike Moran sits in for Lawrence John on the overnight show. Lawrence was unfortunately involved in a car accident.

A memo is sent out to P&T staff asking them not to display ‘Support Radio Nova’ stickers on official vans as they are causing an “obvious embarrassment”.

August 1983

August 7th sees Radio Nova’s 828kHz transmission jammed by persons unknown, traced to Shankill, Co Dublin. The jamming recommenced on the 9th so Nova moved back to 819kHz but the jamming followed. There then followed a cat-and-mouse chase back and forth from 828kHz to 819kHz with Nova eventually staying on 819kHz from the 10th when the jamming ceased.

Broadcast Minister Ted Nealon unveils plans for around 30 new commercial radio stations spread around the country to be up and running by June, next year. Stations operating in more profitable areas would be expected to support stations based in less populous areas. RTÉ are to be given an option of up to 25% control of the bigger stations and excess profits may have to be handed back to a newly formed radio authority. Pirate stations would be expected to vacate the airwaves two months before the new stations are announced. Chris Cary welcomed the proposals and said that Radio Nova had “enjoyed being the flagship for Ireland in the private radio experiment” and would be applying for a licence.

During an episode of Dublin Today, Chris Cary gives his opinion on the role of unions.

On August 30th, Dolores Carney from Trim Co Meath finds herself £6,000 richer when she is the 50th caller to Radio Nova after they play the three songs in a row during Declan Meehan’s programme.

5,000 pounds winner

See Appendix II

Tony Allan leaves Radio Nova once more.

September 1983

Tony Gareth is welcomed back to Radio Nova following a spell with Sunshine Radio and Radio Caroline. He returns on September 30th filling in for Tom Hardy.

102.7MHz springs to life in the middle of the month with a carrier and test broadcasts are also heard on the frequency at times. Kiss FM finally makes its long-awaited return on September 30th, but with a MOR format.

With Nova running weekly roadshows on the Isle of Man, the station are now so popular on the island that Manx Radio expresses concern about the effect on their advertising revenue.

October 1983

The court case relating to the raid in May results in a guilty verdict. As a result Chris Cary is forced to hand over the sum of £25. The equipment which was seized is returned to the station.

Cary immediately puts the 10kW transmitter back on 819kHz (still announcing 828kHz).

A survey conducted by Lansdowne Market Research from September 6th-24th shows that 60 (sixty) per cent of Dubliners aged 15-34 listened to Radio Nova at some point during the day. This compares with 25 per cent for Radio 1, 24 per cent for Radio 2, 16 per cent for Radio Dublin and 15 per cent for Sunshine Radio.
In the 15-24 age group the reach for Radio Nova rises to an astonishing 69 per cent,
The News at One is where listenership peaks; Declan Meehan is Nova’s most popular presenter

Most popular, Declan Meehan

November 1983

This is the present Radio Nova line-up:
Midnight – Lawrence John
6am Declan Meehan & Bob Gallico
10am Tom Hardy
2pm Greg Gaughran
7pm Dublin Today
7.30pm Jason Maine
Weekends include Mike Moran, Tony Gareth & Hugh O’Brien

The line-up on Kiss FM includes John Clarke, Denis Murray, Chris Barry, Colm Hayes & Scott Williams.

Newsreader Brian Dobson has left Radio Nova to work with BBC Radio Ulster.

Éamon Cooke believes that Radio Nova will close next March as they have only taken advertisement contracts up to that point.

Present newsreaders are Sybil Fennell, Bob Gallico, Dave Malone, Ken Hammond & Dave Harvey.

A competition starts on Kiss FM offering £100 per day to the tenth caller after a particular record is played.

This is one of the station’s syndicated US programmes – Soundtrack of the 60s with Gary Owens as broadcast on November 19th. Dave Malone (pictured below) reads the News.

Courtesy of DX Archive

December 1983

On December 3rd a test card for NTV appears on UHF channel 60-66. Test transmissions commence on the 4th with Sybil Fennell in-vision. A major backlash leads to the plug being pulled the next day but, despite that, NTV is raided on Friday 9th and equipment is removed. Chris Cary admits that he “went too far”.

Unions in RTÉ make lots of noises threatening the government that if they don’t act to take the pirates off the air that they themselves will take “whatever means and actions necessary” to shut the stations who they see as a threat to their jobs. They will even go as far as to shut down their own operations altogether. Also amongst the threats are to blacklist government ministers and also to drop advertisers who appear on the pirates.
Radio Nova, in particular, is singled out and a spokesman for the group says that “it’s now a question of who goes – Nova or RTÉ. The country is too small for the both of us. Nothing short of the total shutdown of Radio Nova will satisfy the trade unions.”

On the morning of December 22nd RTÉ get into the festive spirit by jamming Radio Nova (and Kiss FM) transmissions again. They admit that it’s a deliberate act of sabotage in order to protect their festive advertising income.
Chris Cary accuses RTÉ of playing ‘silly games’ and says that Radio Nova are now jumping from one frequency to another to counteract the interference.

RTÉ’s jamming of Radio Nova is the subject of complaints from emergency services who say they are suffering from interference on their established channels.
Cary says that “RTÉ have caused the problem by trying to be too clever”.

Tony Fenton returns to Radio Nova.
Bernie Jameson debuts on the Newsteam.

Joe Jackson’s Nova Southside, off the air at the moment, was joined by Nova Northside on December 16th, run by Dr Don. The idea is exactly the same. They rebroadcast Radio Nova and insert their own advertisements when break time comes around. They also run their own programming at certain times. Nova General Manager Mike Hogan says that they could jam them out of existence but that was not their style.

From Christmas Day in the afternoon this is Greg Gaughran whose programme includes Bob Gallico’s Review of the Year

Meet the Team

Part 1 Chapter 08: Meet the Team

Ad Break

Part 1 Chapter 10: Interlude [Equipment]