The history of Dublin’s Freedom 92 fm - by Ralph McGarry
The Beginning: March 1995 to March 1996.
On Sunday 22nd January, 1995 I noticed a new radio signal on the Dublin
airwaves. It was a station called Freedom FM and it was broadcasting on
107.2 FM. I don’t think it lasted long.
At 6.30pm on Thursday, 2nd March 1995, Andy Walker rang me to tell me he
had just put a 30-watt tone on 103.0 FM, and he wanted me to give him a
reception report from my house near Tallaght village. I rang him back
twenty minutes later telling him I could indeed hear the signal. He then
began to tell me of, what turned out to be, the successful launch of
Freedom FM. Himself and Simon Davis were so prepared that they even had
a mobile phone number with which their listeners could contact them. The
phone was actually Andy’s, and it turns out that he was the first
teenager I knew who had a mobile phone. Remember, this was the days when
mobile phones were the size of a shoebox and confined solely to the
possession of businessmen and drug pushers. Andy was neither. I was
The following day Freedom commenced test broadcasts on 103 FM.
I marked in my diary that Freedom FM officially launched at 7pm on
Monday 6th March, 1995. I think Andy and Simon were quite happy with
that achievement, as they managed to go on air around 2 weeks before
Pulse FM, adjacent to the frequency they were planning to use, and a
week before the planned launch of HOT 107.
I presented a once off ambient music programme from Simon Davis’s
bedroom on Sunday 16th April 1995. Andy had asked me to join the
station, but as I was going to Israel for the summer, I could only
commit to a number of shows in May of that year.
Whilst in Israel, Andy kept me abreast of the pirate situation at home,
and when I returned, offered me the post of Head of Programming and
Promotion. One of the first things I set about doing was to get some
press coverage, and later that September, both Hot Press and Tallaght’s
Echo newspaper covered Freedom. Simon and Andy also wanted me to put
some structure to the station. It was already beginning to sound like a
pop/chart music station. We introduced a play clock to nurture this type
of music format. We devised the tag line “Dublin’s Premier Chart Music
Station” (a derivative of which is still used today!) and we introduced
specialist programmes, featured artist weekends, and a comedy programme.
The now infamous Alternative Crew also made their debut during this
period. Those early days of Freedom FM were the most raw, yet creative
time in the station’s history. The problem was if you lived outside the
postal codes of Dublin 12 or 6W, you weren’t going to hear any of it.
Something needed to be done about this situation.
During the summer of ’95, Freedom FM had to move to 102.9 FM due to the
establishment of Pulse FM on 103.2 FM. Even with this separation,
Pulse’s mighty power output was killing Freedom’s weak signal. In early
1996, I suggested that Simon and Andy re-position the station to 92.4
FM, for two reasons. Firstly, Q95 were linking on 92.0 FM and hadn’t had
any problems being so close to 2FM, and secondly, I could see the IRTC
allocating the frequencies at the higher end of the band to licensed
stations, forcing the established pirates off the air (Which is what
subsequently happened). I argued that being down so close to RTE, no-one
was going to interfere with our signal, and we were assured of a long
tenure on that spot on the dial.
I remember Simon being very much against the idea. And I could
understand why. He had spent much time and effort in trying to establish
a station on 102.9 FM, and felt all his work, which was beginning to
bear fruit, would be washed down the tubes. He also felt that we would
be isolated down the other end of the band. In early 1996, the main tx’s
of pirates were at the upper end of the FM band, with the lower end
being used for just link transmitters. Freedom would be the first pirate
in a very long time to pin all it’s hopes on a frequency below 99 FM.
Simon finally gave in, and the decision was made to move Freedom FM to
92.4 FM. DJ Power was so excited of this new beginning that he produced
hundreds of flyers and placed them on windscreens of cars in the Square
shopping centre. At 9.24 am, on Monday 4th March, 1996, 3 days before
Freedom’s first Birthday, the station switched on it’s transmitter on
92.4 FM. Myself, Simon and Andy were present at the launch. Within days,
we got a call from Cablelink asking us to move as they had received a
complaint our signal was interfering with their relay of BBC Radio 3 on
92.3 FM. At the same time, for some strange reason, Q95 moved their link
from 92.0 FM. How fortuitous!
Freedom slotted nicely into that spot and
has remained there ever since!