Part 5: STATIONS PANIC
SHOCK, NOT AWE
The raid on Sunshine Radio sent shockwaves through the radio community in Ireland. Frantic phone calls were being made and emergency meetings were being called in radio offices the length and breadth of the country.
Within an hour of the raid on Sunshine Radio, South Coast Radio in Cork had ceased transmissions for fear of being raided. They were in close contact with their Dublin colleagues and believed that they were going to be hit. The photo shows their studio stripped of equipment as a precaution.
In a statement, South Coast Radio said they would await the outcome of the Radio Nova court case, scheduled for next week, before deciding their next course of action.
Another major Cork station, ERI, also switched off mid-morning. Paul Graham, who was the temporary station manager at the time, made the call to close the station. However, this was just to allow him to get the equipment removed to prevent it from being taken. He intended to get the station back on air quickly but ERI said they would comply with any future court decision on illegal broadcasting.
Not long afterwards Cork City Local Radio had also ceased voluntarily.
Back in Dublin it was time for the main lunchtime news on Radio Nova…
RADIO LEINSTER JUMP
As an example of the speed that decisions were being acted upon, this is Al Dunne on Radio Leinster in the lead up to the News at 1pm.
During the news bulletin newsreader Anna Craig mentioned the raid on Sunshine but there was no indication of the situation at Radio Leinster.
The station’s head of advertising, Justin James, later said: “There’s no use waiting around to be raided.”
Radio Leinster never returned.
ANNOUNCEMENT FROM NOVA
Although Bob and Sybil’s sign off at the end of the Nova News at One gave a hint of what was about to happen, neither the listeners, or the crowds that were starting to gather outside 19 Herbert Street, were prepared for the announcement to come…
THE GREAT RADIO EXPERIMENT TO END
This led to what is still widely regarded as the most memorable and perfectly orchestrated afternoon of radio ever to broadcast in Ireland and is worth listening to in full.
The format was simple. A pair of the two station’s (Nova and Kiss) presenters would each go on air for half an hour to say their goodbyes.
By the end of the day’s broadcast most of Dublin – quite literally – had been heard on the station.
FM has been used on these recordings where available. Much of the material has been converted from cassette tapes or mp3s donated by Gary Hogg of DX Archive from recordings made in the north-west of England. There are occasional jumps from MW to FM and back again to fill in any gaps and to give the best possible quality.
The afternoon newspapers were hitting the stands
To open a newspaper tap on the + icon. To close tap the coloured bar.
To read a page tap on it, then tap on it again in the new window that opens
GETTING THEIR FILL
At Radio Nova, the studios were slowly filling up, as was the street outside. There was now just three hours to go…
WON’T STOP THE CAROUSEL
BBC Radio Ulster were also featuring the story and they decided to get the views of Radio Carousel’s station manager, the very-colourful Hugh Hardy.
HOW TO MAKE GREAT RADIO – FOR DUMMIES
Meanwhile, back in Dublin 2, what could turn out to be the final two hours of a radio station killed in its prime was about to play out…
60 MINUTES TO GO
Unbelievably, we were now approaching the final hour. Radio Nova hadn’t quite made it to their second birthday (one month short) but their impact had been such that it felt like it had been around forever.
We’d all sometimes taken it for granted. None of us had ever conceived that a day like this would come. That would explain some of the tears that flowed from the many eyes (yes, mine too) belonging to the many bodies who were destined to play their part in the epic drama that was about to unfold in this picturesque location in Dublin’s city centre.
Thanks to the throngs that had gathered outside Radio Nova’s studios Dublin city centre was pretty much at a standstill. Gardaí were being deployed to redirect traffic, sometimes straight into another jam.
The scene at 19 Herbert Street was chaotic; the famous door was swinging open and people were freely coming and going, not all of them Nova/Kiss people. It appeared to be an open house for those lucky enough to be close enough to the building.
A pair of speakers had been placed above the door and every now and again somebody from the station would appear at the second-floor balcony to huge cheers. If people might not have recognised them before now, those faces were likely to become instantly recognisable in the days to come, judging by the number of cameras, both video and photographic, on the go.
Tom Hardy (seated) with Greg Gaughren next to him and Stevie Dunne (red top)
All Herbert St photos by kind courtesy of DX Archive
In the newsroom, an emotional Sybil Fennell was about to deliver her final bulletin on Radio Nova. Her voice had become synonymous with the station and her professionalism in running the news division had brought unlicensed delivery of news in Ireland to a whole new level.
THE KING IS DEAD
So a whirlwind couple of days had seen Dublin’s, possibly the country’s (always disputed of course), two biggest stations off the air.
As Nova’s transmitter was switched off with car horns still blaring for miles around, plus a rendition of Auld Lang Syne complete, Chris Cary and Robbie Robinson of Sunshine Radio stood on the first floor balcony taking in the scene below them and shook hands, to roars of approval from the masses looking on.
In the days and weeks that followed Robinson was to bitterly lay the blame for the raids firmly at the feet of Cary, in particular his plans for expansion to broadcast into Britain with a powerful transmitter based on Ireland’s east coast. Robbie will have been well aware of those plans. Chris Cary had seen that as the ultimate ambition for Sunshine Radio when the two first arrived in Ireland.
However, nobody ever seemed to remind Robinson that Sunshine were also broadcasting illegally…
For many people it had not yet sunk in that Radio Nova and Sunshine Radio were gone, possibly for good. And with other stations closing, announcing closures, or already closed, the situation was looking bleak for anybody planning to turn on their radio the next day.
There was a real sense of revolution on the streets of Dublin that Thursday evening. As the crowds dispersed with ears still ringing from active car horns, some migrated towards the Dáil, others headed off towards the Sunshine offices in Baggot Street, many sought a pub – any pub, talk of marches and protests were rife. Had there ever been a time when a government in power had alienated so many people in such a short space of time?
THE BROADCAST SITUATION ELSEWHERE
ABC Radio’s ‘technical adjustments’ consisted of removing the more expensive equipment from their transmitter base to safeguard it and keeping the bare essentials needed on site to continue broadcasting. They were off for a few hours and came back on much-reduced power.
In Cork, ERI had resumed transmissions quite quickly. Radio Caroline Cork had kept on broadcasting.
In Limerick, Big L remained defiant and carried on with their usual programming whilst others around them closed. Station owner Mike Richardson had finished his breakfast show when phone calls started coming in about the situation in Dublin. He advised staff to ride it out and that they would not be closing.
In Wicklow, Bray Local Broadcasting announced that they would close at midnight “due to circumstances beyond our control”.
Radio West in Mullingar had been off the air earlier in the day for ‘technical adjustments’ but as the evening kicked in, the station made this announcement:
In Dublin’s city centre one of the last remaining local stations, ABC Radio on 963kHz, were taking phone calls.
As midnight approached, Kieran Murray rang in to Radio West to give an update on the situation at the Radio Carousel network.
A HOOLEY BECKONS
Broadcasting since August 1979, BLB were now about to enter their final hour with Mark Quinn presenting. The Wicklow-based station was widely regarded as the perfect model for a community type service and they hoped that would be recognised when the new licences were eventually advertised. It was hard to imagine the P&T turning up on their doorstep but station management were taking no chances.
Mullingar-based Radio West had now entered into their final hour of broadcasting. Closing voluntarily ‘in solidarity with Radio Nova’ station personnel defiantly promised that they’d be back.
A LONG DAY COMES TO A CLOSE
In Kerry, WRKY and the other stations in the county remained on the air.
In Tipperary, CBC in Clonmel stayed on air; as did Tipperary Community Radio who considered themselves immune to a raid because they were a ‘community’ type service.
Castle Radio in Mayo closed down voluntarily.
Boyneside Radio in Co Louth remained on air, albeit “on high alert”.
In Wicklow, Arklow Community Radio and Wicklow Local Radio both switched off.
Also off the air this evening were Community Radio Fingal, based in north Co Dublin.
Dessie Hogan was on air for Westside Radio on 390m from Co Mulhuddart in Dublin as midnight approached…
Jim Smith heading towards midnight for Dublin Country & Irish music station Treble TR on 317m…
Although Radio Dublin Channel 2 had closed, the main channel had no intentions of switching off. Radio Dublin owner Éamonn Cooke had rebellious bones running through his body, it would have taken an army to get him off the airwaves – and he expected one.
He said he’d broadcast from the top of a tree if necessary.
Here’s a snippet from Radio Dublin from around midnight with Valerie Coffey on the air.
Whether by accident or design, the tactic of hitting the biggest hoping that the rest would come crumbling down appeared to have worked – to some degree anyway. Most of the bigger stations took, at the very least, precautions, whilst many others simply stopped broadcasting for fear of losing valuable equipment.