Radio Nova: Part 2 – Chapter 05

July 4th 1987. It’s a Saturday evening and at just after 9pm, Energy 103 play three songs in a row which triggers a competition which gives listeners a chance to win £10,000 if they are the 60th caller to the station.

Callers to the station, however, were confusingly told that the songs had not been played. In fact, the station that they were listening to was not actually Energy 103.

So, what was going on?
Well, the exciter from Energy 103’s FM transmitter had been stolen. This transmitter also linked to the 738AM transmitter. At this point, opportunists started broadcasting a spoof version of Energy on 103.0MHz, which got picked up by the 738MW, and they began by playing the three songs in a row.
Kevin Branigan remembers it well. He was on the phone to Energy’s presenter Mike Mahon who was on air when it happened:
“I was asking Mike all the news and he said hold on a minute and I could hear him playing the ads and then the top of the hour up to 9pm, then it all went quiet in the background. Mike came back and asked me to check the radio. So I went into the kitchen and went back and told him that 103 was off the air.”
They hung up as Mike then needed to find out what was going on. When Kevin heard what was going out on 738 a few minutes later he rang back. Mike checked for himself and realised he needed to contact Tony McKenzie.

Michael Mahon on Energy 103

Mike (pictured) takes up the story…
“I was on air that Saturday night when the off-air return signal suddenly disappeared. The studio desk was still working and the power was still on, so I knew it must be a fault outside the building. Then we heard a strange spoof version of Energy being broadcast on our frequency complete with various idents, promos and commercials. I phoned Tony MacKenzie and he and John Power set off for the transmission site in the Dublin mountains. I kept the output going from Leeson Street ready for when the station was back on air.

The MW signal was restored after a couple of hours of the alternative Energy 103. We all listened to the recording of it on the Monday morning and had a great laugh.”

Energy (the real one) managed to get a weak FM signal back on at around 1am. 738 was still a carrier at this point. Liam Coburn was the overnight presenter. He managed to do a link at around 2am but Energy went off the air again. They eventually managed to get a signal on FM at around 5am with medium wave returning later that morning.

Meanwhile, sitting in a hotel room in Dublin, fresh over from the UK to take up a position on Energy 103, was Cassidy Jones who was tuned to 738kHz on that Saturday night. He later told Enda Caldwell that as he sat listening to what was going out on air he wondered what the f**k he’d got himself in to!

Problems continued over the next few days with blank carriers noted at times and low audio at other times. On the overnight show on Thursday morning (9th) the new boy, Cassidy Jones, was heard to play a game he called ‘The PPM Game’. This game was meant for just one single listener though, a listener by the name of ‘Tony’. He broadcast messages at different times. These were along the lines of “a message for Tony, the PPMs are between 3 and 4”, and “another message for Tony, the PPMs are now at 4”. The ‘game’ ended with Cassidy saying “Another Message for Tony, perhaps you should head back to the studio now and come down off that windy old hill.” The ‘Tony’ in question was obviously Tony McKenzie and they were monitoring levels in the studio due to changes McKenzie was making at the transmitter site.

Meanwhile, the person(s) who stole the exciter left it back outside the door of 144 Upper Leeson Street a few days later.

Those responsible for the rogue broadcast insisted at the time that they were not responsible for the theft. Here’s their side of the story with anonymity preserved…

The idea to jam the station had come about several weeks beforehand when it was realised that 738am was being fed from FM.   

A fake show was produced with the intention of jamming the radio station from a portable location near the AM site .. they were ‘prepared to sacrifice a Walkman’ for the cause along with a small little 1w transmitter.  The jammers had been responsible for the jamming of Q102 as ‘the ghost of Nova’ using similar methods a year beforehand.   

One afternoon while hanging out and listening to Energy 103 they suddenly heard the 103FM transmitter cut out.  They retuned to 738AM and realised that this would be their golden moment.   

Someone ran down the road to get the pre-recorded Energy show and shortly afterwards they started broadcasting.   

They never expected the takeover to continue as long as it did; they presumed it was a short outage from Energy and that they’d be quickly bounced off 738kHz once normal transmissions resumed on 103.  As a result they actually ran out of stuff to play, hence they were repeating the pre-recorded show. 

Energy 103 started phoning around every station in Dublin trying to find out who knew what was going on.  One of the people they called was not directly involved in the jamming but was fully aware of who it was.  Once the word got out that the Energy transmission site had been robbed the jammers began to panic in case they got the blame for the theft – but couldn’t switch off the jammer straight after the phone call because it would be too obvious who the culprits were!  They left it on for another while and then switched off.   

Thanks to Mike Mahon we can listen to the rogue broadcast as it played out. Quality is variable but worth sticking to…

July 1987

A new addition to the station is Cassidy Jones (below).

Cassidy Jones on Energy 103

On Saturday evening, July 4th, jammers hijack the Energy 103 signal and broadcast prerecorded material mimicking the station’s output. Although it caused chaos for the Energy team on the night they had a laugh about it when listening back to the recording on Monday morning.

A new black sign is erected at 144 Upper Leeson Street with the words Energy Power 103FM in red, shadowed in white.

The present line up is
Midnight Liam Coburn / Cassidy Jones
6am Pat Courtenay
9.30am Brian Clarke
2pm Tony McKenzie
7pm John O’Hara (except Friday Mike Mahon)

Liam Coburn

Rightly or wrongly I always felt that the spoof Energy’s arrival on air and the FM going off air on a Saturday evening was more than a little coincidental.
As an aside the FM would go off for short periods over the following days….a number of ‘stations’ would quickly retune their transmitter to 103.0, very often ending up on 738am as well – these short lived relays were music only afair.

Tom Colgan

Not sure about the jammers having anything to do with the people who stole the exciter but it sure was very coincidental. They claim they had already recorded the tape for the laugh and then they heard the mw go off and decided to try jump in. They were on 738 within ten minutes of the 103 going off.. And Walkinstown and surrounds were a hot bed of teenage pirate activity around that time; I can think of several people who’d have been itching to try get in on the mighty 738 over the following days .. and no doubt there were more attempts

Kevin Branigan

August 1987

The medium wave transmitter has been moved to a new site in Dublin 12 which seems to have resulted in new complications which sees the station’s signal wiped out for short periods as a result of mobile transmissions being picked up.

Gareth O’Callaghan makes a return and does his show as if he’d never been away with the usual array of characters.

September – October 1987

Just as Gareth O’Callaghan was settling back into the afternoon groove at Energy 103 he departs to join Q102.

Energy 103 run an outside broadcast in the Stillorgan Shopping Centre towards the end of October.

Ian Scott (below) is a new addition.

All images on this page are courtesy of Mike Mahon
Leeson Street Mainly

Part 2 Chapter 04: Leeson Street Mainly

Feeling the Energy

Part 2 Chapter 06: Feeling the Energy