Radio Nova: Part 3 – Chapter 01

The sudden, publicly inexplicable, loss of Energy left a definite void in the Dublin radio landscape. For the first time in eight years Chris Cary, or a station he’d played a big part in establishing, was not involved. This was further exacerbated when Q102 joined Sunshine 101 in running the Hot Hits format – a format which took the listener in to unimaginable new dimensions of personality-free radio. Despite being clutter free (in name for the most part) Cary’s stations were always filled with personality presenters and there was always something going on.

So, with legislation to introduce new local independent stations extremely imminent, why did Chris Cary pick March 11th to suddenly pull the plug on Energy 103? Anybody paying attention to the newspapers at the time of the Nova/Energy merger in November 1987 would have been given a major clue. At that time Cary revealed plans to launch Radio Nova as a satellite station, boasting that this time the authorities wouldn’t be able to shut him down. So why did he launch Radio Nova terrestrially in Dublin at that time and then merge it with Energy, which was ticking along quite nicely at that point? Obviously, the ultimate plan was to apply for a licence, but where did the satellite station fit in? Many of those answers would be revealed over the following months but one wonders did he plan to launch the satellite service and have it enhance Nova Power 103 in some way. We will never know. If the Nova receiver had not objected to the use of the Radio Nova name a few weeks following the merge we may have found out.

Chris Cary was an innovative man, always way ahead of others not just in having ideas but carrying them out. His first inkling that a satellite radio service would be a station of the future, with developmental possibilities that weren’t possible via a local FM service, came at the start of 1987. At that point he applied for transponder space on one of the new satellite media services whose main purpose was to feed television pictures to cable headends all over Europe. Cable TV was a huge industry in most European countries, allowing access as it did to television signals from neighbouring countries without the need of a huge antenna. In Ireland, of course, the lure of receiving the British channels meant that there was almost saturation subscription whereever the cable for the cable company bypassed. Most cable companies also carried radio services and it was this that Cary hoped to tap into. The one possible downfall in that plan was that the major cable service in Dublin was ran by RTÉ – the old enemy.

Energy 103 became a shadow of itself as 1988 began. The station never really recovered from the confusion caused by the merge with Radio Nova. It appeared, too, that Cary had very much lost interest when he was prevented from using the Nova name locally, the irony being that a court later decided that the receiver had no legal case in stopping the use of the name. Timing is everything though. In March, Cary finally received the go-ahead to utilise transponder space and he immediately shut down Energy 103, selling off most of the station’s assets to Q102.

As Energy was biting the dust, work started on new, high-tech studios in Camberley, Surrey, where the new Radio Nova would be located. The aim was to launch on May 1st and become the first commercial radio station based in Britain to broadcast over satellite.

The following is the text of a Press Release from April 19th 1988:-
Radio Nova International – Britain’s first-ever commercial radio station to broadcast via satellite – will launch on May 1st.
The station will broadcast from a hi-tech studio complex located in Camberley, Surrey, which incorporates state-of-the-art equipment (and thinking….).

Radio Nova International will play much more music, less talk (24 hours per day of the hottest hits) available in stereo to audiences throughout Europe. The potential European cable audience exceeds 30 million.
Nova also hopes to be re-broadcast in most major markets in Europe via terrestrial radio stations.
Target age group 15-39.

Radio Nova International is the brainchild of Chris Cary – a name synonymous with innovations in the broadcast field – whose career to date includes the position of station manager with Radio Luxembourg. Chris Cary also founded and ran the hugely successful Radio Nova in Ireland.

Radio Nova International will broadcast via Intelsat VA F11 with programmes beamed from transponder 63 on sub-carrier frequencies 7.38 and 7.56MHz.
Radio Nova International will make extensive use of computerised music programming – an entire software package has been commissioned to format the station’s music output. Music will be played on compact disc.
Nova brings together old friends and new faces in a line-up of international on-air talent. Radio Nova International announced today that the following well-known names will be joining their DJ line-up from the launch date on May 1st:
Tony Blackburn
Paul Burnett
Timmy Mallett
Mark Wesley
Radio Nova International will be officially opened by Timothy Renton MP, Minister of State for Broadcasting, on Wednesday 4th May 1988.

April 1988

The concept of Radio Nova International first came to Chris Cary early in 1987. He applied for the use of satellite transponder space but it wasn’t until March 1988 that he was granted permission. Once granted the task of building new state-of-the-art studios commenced.

The newspapers from April 26th gave their spin on the news…

Irish Press – tap to read
Irish Independent – tap to read

At 2.50pm on April 29th, Radio Nova International commenced test broadcasts with the first voice heard being Cary himself. Tim Kelly hosted the first programme.

Liam Quigley was added to the starting line-up.

An estimated £1m was invested in the station.

The first advertising client was Teledisc.

I was there in very early days mid week. Never really got started because of the Dublin relay. I had started on RTÉ Millennium Friday, Saturday and Sunday. First place I met Liam Quigley

Declan Meehan

Great Summer, took me 3 hours to drive there in peak London Traffic at 4pm, 1 hour back. Made some great acquaintances.

Liam Quigley

May 1988

Radio Nova International launches on May 1st and then is officially launched on May 4th by Timothy Renton MP, the Minister of State for Broadcasting.
Listen by tapping here…

Almost four years after leaving Radio Nova in Dublin, Declan Meehan makes his debut on the satellite service on May 24th. Listen here, first to Chris Cary, and then Declan…

Dubliners will also recognise the names of Tim Kelly, Cassidy Jones and Liam Quigley.

Cablelink have not ruled out carrying Radio Nova International on their service.

June 1988

Following a decade of threats and procrastination the government finally manage to get a Broadcasting Bill passed through all stages. In effect it means that all pirate stations must vacate the airwaves by midnight on December 31st or face possible imprisonment and/or the risk of new hefty fines upwards to £20,000.
Once the airwaves are cleared the process of licensing new independent stations throughout Ireland will begin. Any pirate broadcasters who remain on the air beyond the deadline will automatically be ruled out of a chance of receiving one of the new licences.

Coast Hot Hits in Galway are carrying Radio Nova International’s overnight sustaining service, the ‘Nova Night Network’.

A £10.000 giveaway is introduced, similar to the three songs in a row competitions which previously ran on the Dublin Nova and Energy. This time around the three songs are: ‘King of Rock and Roll’ by Prefab Sprout, ‘Another Weekend’ by Five Star and ‘Loads of Money’ by Harry Enfield.

Leeson Street Mainly

Part 2 Chapter 08: No Time for Goodbyes

Feeling the Energy

Part 3 Chapter 02: From 26,000 Miles in the Sky