On Sunday, January 11th one of Dublin’s more unique stations closed down, hopefully not for the last time. The 90s Network was granted a temporary licence by the BCI to broadcast over thirty days. The station chose to break this up into fifteen weekends to prolong their presence on air.
The 90s Network focused on the 1990s with the strapline ‘A Decade in Rewind’. They added to the feel of the decade by filling their news broadcasts with stories from the 90s. They have carried on streaming from their website the90snetwork.com and they plan to keep the website updated with ’90s-related video, trivia and station photos.
Radiowaves News caught up with station chief Mike O’Brien following the station’s closedown and posed a few questions.
Tell us a little about The 90s Network from conception through to launch?
The original concept came from an unlicensed station which I operated in 2003 called Breeze FM. It was a small station but received great feedback so I knew there was a market for a station playing something other than the top 40.
In November 2007 I pitched the idea of operating a temp station to a good friend of mine, Paul Duffy. The original idea was to have the station as an automated one called Splash FM but as we met with Ralph McGarry, whom we worked with on Freedom 92FM, we decided to go all out and have presenters on air.
Ralph did most of the paperwork that is involved with an application for a temp licence and the date was set for a launch of 4th October 2008!
How did it feel to broadcast ‘legally’ considering your unlicensed past?
The feeling was fantastic. The work that goes into the preparation for a temp is huge, far more than I had anticipated. The organising of the presenters, the special themed weekends, the news bulletins right down to getting the logger tapes in order is hugely time-consuming but worth it. That feeling of when the tx goes on for the first time is a huge sense of achievement.
What was the listener response like? Did many listeners discover you?
Listener response for the first few weekends was quite small but as the weeks went by we steadily grew our listener base through our text line and also through our website.
We also set up a Facebook page which has over 70 fans from all parts of the world.
Did you get much response from outside Dublin’s confines (overspill/net)?
We got a huge response from our website and the online feed.
We got 67 hits from the feed from New York for some strange reason and about 20 odd hits from Australia.
As for response outside Dublin we got some response from the commuter towns around Dublin.
You chose to split up your 30 day term into weekends. Do you feel this was the right decision considering listeners had to ‘remember’ to retune each weekend? Or would a straight 30 days have finished far too soon and seen you out of the public consciousness too quickly?
Yes, we do feel it was the right decision to have it spread over 15 weekends, we felt that the market we were aiming at would love to listen to the songs they grew up with at the weekend.
On reflection and possibly for our next licence run we would spread it over ten weekends.
Your policy was to focus on the ’90s. Why choose the 90s? Would this change if you’re still around in – say – ten years?
We chose the 90s because we felt that the 80s was done to death and now was the time to move up a decade and tap in to the generation that grew up with Sonic the Hedgehog and Green Buses!
I don’t think we would change from the 90s in ten years IF we were still about because it was a fun decade and one that is not catered for on the Dublin radio dial.
Do you think such a station would be viable on a full-time basis? Are you, or have you applied for, another licence and if so what are the indications?
As for a full-time service of 90s I personally would love to see it happen but at the moment we are quite happy to apply again for a temp licence. Our intention is to apply again, with finances permitting, over a ten-week period sometime this year.
Where was your studio and mast situated? Tell us a little about the studio set-up?
Our studio was based in a purpose-built studio in Donaghmede with a link being used to our mountain site on Three Rock in Rathfarnham. We employed the services of Stephen Foley to service our transmission setup. The studio contained an Airmate desk, 2 PCs, Denon CD decks, 2 minidisc players, 2 Rode Broadcast mics.
Unlike other ‘oldies’ stations and/or programmes, your station went beyond the usual 30 or 40 records from a particular era. If you had two records in front of you and one was a well-played classic that gives 99% listener satisfaction, and the other was a rarely-heard obscurity to 99% of listeners, which would you choose to play? Was this a general station policy? Was there a playlist? How much input did the jocks have?
We gave our presenters full control over their own output for the simple reason that we felt that our presenters were experienced enough to rotate their music so that it wasn’t repetitive but we did have a ‘Music clock’ in the studio to guide the presenters and to give the station some conformity. We did encourage the presenters to play the more unheard of stuff though.
As for playing the 2 records I would play both!!! For the simple reason that the listeners pay your bills but if a presenter is allowed to play the more unheard of stuff it makes him enjoy his gig more and that comes out on air.
Any amusing anecdotes from the few weeks of live broadcast?
Apart from electrocuting myself on the first weekend or letting in the presenters to the studio in my underwear??? Not really, I have enjoyed teaming up with old pals with this venture and have loved every minute of it. It was an experience to say the least! I hope the anoraks enjoyed the station and we hope to be back this year sometime.