The Museum of Commercial Radio
WAS WRITTEN BY MILES JOHNSTON, THE FOUNDER OF KISS FM, MONAGHAN
103.7 / AM 1008 / 1413 / 927 - KISS was to be the Last
For over ten years Dublin and the rest of Ireland
had their Superstations, and a myriad of smaller stations of
every variety. But Belfast just had the same old dull boring
Downtown Radio, and it was not even 24 hours.
Miles Johnston, a BBC Engineer, had been supplying transmitters,
and writing about the Irish Era of pirate stations for many years.
The connection with an E.T. wave in the early 1970s sparked the
start of the Irish Pirates, with Radio Dublin, and that is
"KISS 103 Craigavon was Ulster's first commercial pirate,
running only 100 watts from Portadown in 1984. It was raided in
March 85. The name KISS-FM was being used to mark the jamming of
the big Dublin Superpirates in the early 80s, using RTE staff and
equipment, with a nod and a lot more from the BBC. There was
another agenda running, involving the utmost secrecy, and I got a
"go" from a member of the BBC Board of Directors, who
had been in Dublin studying what was going on. THAT is another
story! KISS FM 102.7 was the casualty of the jamming.
"KISS Craigavon was a flag waving exercise, and they
came and raided. This created ZEE-103, which came out of Omeath,
using a 2.5 KW Italian transmitter into eight 6-element yagii.
The late Frank McCarthy eventually built the station, after a
year or more of politics, where I had to take a back seat. This
let me fully concentrate on raising finance for a massive border-blaster,
so that we could get the kind of fantastic radio that Dublin had
enjoyed for over 6 years.
"My colleague Jeff Camblin, friend Steff Callister
and I got the finance. This involved prominent business interests
from Armagh, Gribben, Stevenson and Flynn. Another prominent
Ulster businessman, Jim Stafford took high level steps to get the
station crushed from day one, this resulted in me being FIRED
from the BBC, in October 87. The "E.T.s" had acted, and
I was full time on the project.
"We needed two sites, an AM, and FM site. Studios
were to be located in a plush building in the centre of Monaghan
Town, but this fell through, and we used a unit in Old Cross
During the winter of '87, with impending legislation always just
around the corner, studios, and both transmitter sites were made
ready. A CCA 5KW AM was commissioned for 1008 kHz, and was on air
in January 88. This ran test tapes for a long time, as the
studios took forever to get ready. Severe sporadic interference
from sparking ESB power lines delayed us getting a link from site
The FM site had been running a frequency-keeping transmitter
since October. Shortly before launch, the 160 ft. lattice mast
came down in severe gales, and delayed the FM launch for 2 months.
- Station Manager KISS FM
"I insisted on a hot crew, and we got NOVA
veteran Tom Hardy, who came over from England from a
"respectable" job in ILR, to re-join the Irish
Pirates. Tom brought in co-Caroline veterans Susan
Charles and Nick Richards. Susan brought a great voice
and larger than life everything, from Canada. Nick
Richards was to do the AM Drive, followed by Tom, himself.
Owen Barry did the afternoons, and Nova/Sunshine veteran
John Friday (Lawrence John) who was the only Belfast jock
to get to air, did the evening, and finished with the
Good Night Kiss format. Local DJs were used as spinners
for the overnight. (No Raduga then.)
|Zee 103 veterans Owen Barry & Jeff
Camblin, and then Big D and NOVA veterans Roland Burke,
Pat Cunnane and Denis Murray came from Dublin to finish
the team. We carried Scott Shannon and Gary Owens
syndicated programming at the weekend. There was one
occasion when Downtown got our Scott Shannon, and we got
their Rick Dees!
The station aired in April '88, with a 500 KW signal on
FM into Belfast, and 5 KW on 1008 kHz AM. The AM channel
was selected because Hilversum 3 shut down quite early in
the evening, which gave us a huge night time spread, and
we sounded like a 50 KW, once we got "clear channel".
Charles - KISS FM
Richards and Owen Barry - KISS FM
|THE STUDIOS: -
"We had three. Main Self-Op: - Had 2 BE
triple stack carts, London Lab turntables, 2 Denon CDs (only
domestics), and Sountec desk. DJ ran into a catscradled
Beside this, through the window, was the announcers'
studio, which also fed the commercial production studio.
This had a 24 channel Soundcraft desk, which fed ½"
OTARI 8-track Reel machine. Two PR99s were used upstream,
along with another London Lab.
Processing was with a cranked up Inovonics 3 bander (new
at the time). This was aggressively set up by Hardy, and
ex-Voice of Peace part-timer Brian Robinson. Brian had
also served time on Sunshine and NOVA, but was then in
the civil service.
|"All in all, a great team of great people.
We gave Ulster the best it has ever heard, and has yet to
be heard. KISS was the first 24-hour music station in
Ulster. Such was its effect everyone wanted to hire KISS-Jocks
if only to talk to people from the station, but alas the
KISS-Jocks did not want them!
The station format was an aggressive Top 40 Clutter-Free
style, with JAM Jingles KISS-FM, and the great Charlie
Van Dyke, whom I personally approached to give us the
best IDs any station could wish for.
"AM 1008 <ten O eight> - FM 103.7 - We Are
KISS FM - Monaghan Town".
The Station output, went via a jackfield into two SBS UHF
links, so that AM and FM could be run separately. The
board vetoed an approach from Hugh Hardy (no relation) to
run KISS Country, but KISS could have run two stations if
Friday aka Lawrence John and Team - KISS FM
"The FM site, at Lough More, had a 3KW Bauer,
upgraded to its full rating of 5 KW, using two 5CX1500Bs. This
fed 12 six-element TCL Yagii, giving an e.r.p. of 500 KW. The rig
was run at full power of 6 KW, but power fluctuations meant we
had to keep this at about 5.5 KW. Big D and NOVA engineer Paul
Kotter was brought in for the switch on and tune up night (and
yes, the intell men had his number too!)
The AM site had a brand new Optimod 9100B, which fed the two CCA
and Bauer transmitters at Boylan's abandoned Pipe Factory, near
Monaghan town. Peter Gibney, from Sunshine Radio was brought in,
as he had the AM Bridges and set up gear, to configure the 200 ft.
mast, and ATU. The addition of a second frequency, and the change
of frequency meant we had him back a couple of times.
Meanwhile having designed it all, I kept it going, for the full
Next we had the Office, where Tom and Miss Monaghan, Kay Lamb,
worked, on the new Amstrad PCs... in 1988!
News was next, and was in true pirate style, Four radios, and
cassette machines, and Teletext TV. Susan Charles was head of
News, and local, ex-Downtown producer, Con McConville did
mornings. Con was to be invaluable, with his music industry
contacts, along with the rest of the team.
John at B96 Belfast Pirate Radio Aug 1989
Local Pub landlord Seami McKenna, had a
superb Blues collection, and a superb deep Irish brogue,
and he had his shows recorded, and produced by Roland
Burke. Belfast man, Terry Hooley, who owned the Good
Vibrations label, (e.g. Understones), ran his Saturday
Reggae Show. Terry had broadcast in Belfast from Miles
Johnston's flat, on B-96 Belfast Pirate Radio. B96 kept
the flag flying in the dark days before KISS-FM
"Meantime archrival, Frank McCarthy got his station
on air, K.I.T.S. FM 100. This also broadcast from Monaghan town.
K.I.T.S. was a friendly station with a typical "pirate"
feel, and spawned a large loyal listenership in Mid Ulster. Its
signal also drifted into Belfast using 800 watts into an 8 x 4-Element
yagii. K.I.T.S. also went AM later on in the year. But KISS
needed every one of its 1.2 million watts, to get up that aerial
for a chip shop signal, which reached Scotland. It did however
have three side lobes that got to parts of Derry, Dublin, and the
Caroline, ARD, Big D and NOVA veteran Tony Allen had asked to
join the station, but regretably, Tom thought the better of it.
|Summer came, and Ray Burke (Minister of
Communications) announced his Bill to kill off the
pirates. The date was set, we all had until the year's
A complaint from Downtown radio, forced us to move from
1008. Which in hindsight we should not have. (Let them
raid... we only had 6 months left anyway!)
We channel-hopped, and also brought in a good old 1958
Bauer 1kW. During the summer, we had the FM mast cut down.
Years later, a certain person was to admit to Jeff
Camblin, that he had the job done. Well, we just came
back with even more power: - One Point Two Million Watts!
That's where we stayed, until closedown.
Jeff and Miles had a UFO event, one week before close.
This plus the "intell" men, and strange going's
on, were all to reveal more after KISS-FM.
Closes KISS FM 103.7
KISS FM Mast
Miles at KISS FM 103.7 Mast, Lough More,
Co Monaghan, 300 yards from Northern Ireland.
Full power output of the stack
was 1,180,000 Watts. (1.2 Megawatts, or a million watts
in old money).
This sent a directional beam
into Belfast, and had 3 large side and rear lobes of
around 15KW. This provided substantial coverage in the
Irish Republic, due SE to Dublin, and into the North West,
into and over parts of Derry.
Engineer, and creator of the
station Miles is in the picture.
FM 103.7, (1.2 MW),
and 1413 (5 KW) closed down at 18.00 Hrs Dec. 30th 1988.
The rest of the stations bowed out during the day, and
night. Some, like K.I.T.S., closed during the 31st.
However, Eamon Cooke, of Radio Dublin took Burke to court.
The Supreme Court gave him a case to answer... Burke's
Law was unconstitutional!
Two stations stayed on: Radio Dublin, and Radio Star
Country, both still broadcasting today, over TWELVE years
later. And what of Burke and his boss Haughey? Just keep
reading the Irish Times.
In September 1996, Lawrence John asked me to restart KISS
FM. I did. It's now called ENERGY 106.6, and has been on
air for over 3 years. Nothing like its former sister...
buts it's early days. And yes, the E.T's abducted
Lawrence, just beside the KISS FM transmitter site, and
yes, the "intell" men are still about."
contribution was written and pictures supplied by Miles
Johnston, the creator and engineer of both stations, and
our thanks go out to him for permission to use them on
air - Energy 106.6
The Irish Tourist
Board Admire the Energy Tower!
- visit the Energy 106 and Magic 105 websites here :
© Miles Johnston 2000. Kindly donated.
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