Although UK Radio did not begin official programmes until January 24th 1978 the stations history dates back to 1977 when the first test transmissions began and this is where we begin the story.
In the summer of 1977 Paul Johnson and a former member of the station Doug Neilson began experiments with several transmitter designs available at that time with a view to starting a local hit music station in the Wolverhampton area. Most of the experiments and circuit designs proved to be totally unsuitable because of either a lack of range, instability or poor modulation or in some cases all three. However, despite these drawbacks and many hours of soldering & re-soldering, scrapping one circuit and testing another, eventually towards the end of 1977 some success was achieved and in November of that year the first test transmissions commenced one evening on 225 metres medium wave, 1332 kHz. The first tests were just continuous music put out so that Paul Johnson and Doug Neilson could go out and test the coverage of the new transmitter. Several adjustments were made to the basic transmitter design over the next couple of months aimed at improving the range of the signal and tests were carried out nightly from 7 till 10pm. By December it was found that a signal having a range of approx 1 mile had been achieved and so it-was decided at that point to set up the first studio and set about getting the station on the air with proper programming and so with that thought 1977 drew to a close.
In January 1978 the first studio was set up using an old Rigonda record deck and very crude mixer put together by Paul Johnson and Doug Neilson. Following this the Studio was connected to the transmitter and the first announced tests took place under the name of UK Radio 225. It was decided to eventually commence programming on a nightly basis on 24th January 1978 and this was indeed what happened.
On the night the station began broadcasting it was a very exiting feeling as we felt that we were starting something very unique and original, those early days were great fun and I still have them among my fondest memories. So at 7pm on the 24th January we opened the station with the first record being played, Uptown Top Ranking by Althia and Donna and then Native New Yorker by Odyssey. The first announcement made was, “welcome to UK Radio 225 on 225 metres on the medium wave band my names Paul Johnson and its great to be here with some great music”.
Paul Johnson was 17 at the time so we will leave you to work that one out for yourself. Following him at 8pm was David Jarvis who presented regular programmes on the station until 1985. Then finally on that first day between 9 and 10pm was Pete Winfield who left the station later on in the same year 1978.
Following the first day of programmes a schedule was drawn up with Paul Johnson as station manager, presenter, and assistant engineer, David Jarvis, presenter, Pete Winfield, presenter and Doug Neilson as chief engineer. Doug Neilson left the station in 1980 and Paul Johnson became chief engineer. Programmes continued on a nightly basis and had a range of a few streets at that time. The programmes went out between 7 and 10pm Monday to Thursday and 7 till 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Some of the early programmes on UK were the UK Top 20 on Tuesday and Friday nights with David Jarvis, the Steady Pogo Show every Thursday night, which used to feature an hour of the then trendy latest Punk Rock music. Also there was the Disco Inferno show on Saturday nights and the B-side show on Sundays. The station continued to broadcast in this way every day without many breaks throughout most of 1978 and although the range of the station was short it did build up an audience because of its regular operation in the neighbourhood.
In October 1978 Pete Winfield left to pursue catering and Paul Johnson and Doug Neilson set about getting the station on VHF FM. This was decided because our signal on medium wave was not very strong and therefore suffered somewhat from interference from foreign stations on the same frequency after dark, which reduced our coverage further and at times caused a heterodyne (whistle) which could be heard alongside our programmes. This had become more noticeable as autumn approached so work began our first FM transmitter. The frequency at that time decided upon was 104 MHz and after a month a carrier was put out on that frequency using a low power rig fed into a quarter wave telescopic aerial and 2, 9 Volt batteries connected in series. Tests on FM commenced in late November 1978 and it was found both the range and quality of the signal was improved to what we were using on medium wave. Therefore it was decided to operate the station on medium wave as before and also on 104 MHz FM at the same time which would give us a range of about 2 miles.
January 1979 saw the station open up our new FM service and Doug Neilson also began presenting regular shows including the oldies show, which was the first one on UK Radio. In March we were also joined by 2 new presenters. Jack Jones, and another member who only made a brief appearance before disappearing as quickly as he came.
The station soon settled down to a regular schedule and because of our appearance on FM we did pull in a few more listeners. Also in 1979 work began on a new studio, which was completed in June and went into service in September. However unfortunately, the station was about to enter a period of turmoil caused by some members of the station leaving over disagreements between Doug Neilson and David Jarvis. These disagreements persisted for several months and basically consisted of Doug stating that he would not present programmes if David remained a member of the station. Because of this Doug took the FM transmitter from us and we had to close down until a new FM transmitter could be built. So in September 1979 UK Radio closed down and this could well have been the end of the story but it was not.
During the last 3 months of 1979 although UK Radio was off the air it did give Paul Johnson more time to experiment on his own with the remaining Medium Wave transmitter and by the turn of the decade a booster was built which was found to increase the power on medium wave from the original 3 Watts to 10 Watts.
In January 1980 a new quarter wave long wire aerial was erected and tests began on 225 metres 1332 kHz medium wave using the new power amplifier. The tests concluded that the signal on medium wave was much better than before. Transmitting from Wolverhampton the signal was heard as far away as Longbridge in South Birmingham and one person thought we were an offshore station about to open up.
In February 1980 UK Radio recommenced programmes using the new improved medium wave transmitter every evening from 7 till 10pm on 225 metres medium wave only. At this point only Paul Johnson and David Jarvis were running the station but unfortunately Doug Neilson did not want the station to continue without him and during March and April 1980 he made several attempts to put the station off the air by damaging our aerial. In May the final conclusion was reached when he deliberately shorted our aerial down to ground while we were on the air one night which caused our transmitter to literally set on fire rendering it irreparable. After this the station was off the air and he was kicked out of the station and told never to come back. Following this no further attempts were made to get the station back on the air that year and so UK Radio remained silent for the rest of 1980.
However by some coincidence just a month later in June Paul Johnson met some members of another free radio station called Radio Free Birmingham at a CB club. This station had begun broadcasting in September 1979 on 242 metres MW and had recently suffered a raid by the GPO. Some members of the station had heard of UK Radio and Paul Johnson was invited to join the station as it was looking for some new members to get it back on the air again. Therefore at Steve Merrick’s request, both Paul Johnson and David Jarvis joined Radio Free Birmingham and did regular programmes on there for several months.
In conclusion, 1980 was the year that a lot of new stations began to spring up in the West Midlands but it’s sad that most of them are no more. So the year ended with UK Radio down but not out as 1981 was to see a complete turnaround and a new look.
In February 1981 Paul Johnson and David Jarvis decided to leave Radio Free Birmingham as they felt that their services were no longer needed. Also a new person came on the scene named Nigel Gordon who was interested in putting UK back on the air.
Therefore in February 81 it was decided to revive the station and so a new, more powerful VHF FM transmitter was acquired giving an output power of 20 Watts on 94.2 FM. Programmes began on this frequency every other Sunday evening, fortnightly between 7 and 11pm. Another new member of staff joined us in March named Adam Logan and the station achieved more success than ever before because we had a much clearer signal covering the whole of Wolverhampton and much of the West Midlands including out into Shropshire.
The letters came flooding in from as far as 50 miles away to our mailing address, which at that time was PO Box 35, Telford, Shropshire. Also we received many phone calls for our Sunday evening broadcasts which all seemed very encouraging. UK Radio continued to broadcast on Sunday evenings throughout 1981 with few breaks. Adam Logan left the station in the same year as he joined and at the end of the year the main three members of the station were Paul Johnson, David Jarvis and Nigel Gordon.
UK Radio put out extended programmes over Christmas 1981 and into the New Year of 1982. The station continued to broadcast its Sunday evening programmes into the New Year fairly uninterrupted. The station changed its mailing address also in this year to PO Box 144 Wolverhampton.
Some of the programmes being aired on UK around this time included Paul Johnson’s Goldmine, which was basically an oldies programme and zany programmes with Nigel Gordon including the Acne Show, which included such mad features as the 1981-1982 Acne Awards to the most famous people of the time who were nominated as having the worst spots. Another feature was zit squashing and Monty Python comedy clips plus the latest rock news and rock music. Also in 1982 David Jarvis used to play all the latest records by the new romantic groups such as Soft Cell, Japan, Spandau Ballet and ABC among others, many of which sank without trace.
On not such a good note though there was worse to come. In 1982 the station’s on-air telephone line was raided, or at least visited by a member of the DTI who at the time was not very friendly and who stated that he had heard the station for a few years and intended busting the station that same night in June. As it turned out it would be another 3 years before he would get the opportunity to do so.
In October 1982 a new studio was built and this improved the audio quality considerably over previous years and several comments were made referring to this. Over Christmas 1982 the station put out extended programmes as usual and it was at this time that we started Wulfrun Sound, which was to become our main concern during the early part of 1983.
Finally 1982 also saw us in May, our first ever appearance on Short Wave. The station decided to begin operations on SW as an extension of the output being broadcast on FM locally. Our SW broadcasts met with good response from all over Europe from such countries as West Germany, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France and Belgium to name just a few. The frequency utilised was 7359 kHz in the 41-metre band and the response was and still is overwhelming. The station operated on SW on Sunday mornings between 9am and 1pm using a 15 Watt SW transmitter fed into a quarter-wave dipole for 41 metres.
1982 was also the year that we got together and formed an alliance with another brand-new free radio station called Phoenix Radio, who with our help obtained their own transmitter for 94.4 MHz. We got together because UK Radio was operating on a 2-weekly basis on a Sunday evening, and we came to an arrangement whereby they operated on the Sundays that UK was off. This meant that on the same frequency one week one could listen to UK Radio and the next week Phoenix Radio, so that there was a station on between us every week. We allowed them the use of our studio to record programmes, and in return they helped us out in transporting our heavy equipment to the various transmission sites we used to use around the West Midlands at the time. This agreement worked very well for several months, however in the end Phoenix Radio turned out to be nothing more than a fad dreamed up by its 3 members Steve Young, Gary Lewis and John Johnson. It lasted less than a year.
January saw us involved in another new station, which was a temporary spin-off UK Radio. This new station was called Wulfrun Sound, which began fortnightly programmes on a Sunday afternoon between 2 and 6pm. Because of this, UK changed its operation from Sunday evenings to Saturday evenings between 7 and 10pm. Some new programmes were introduced, such as the record review of the week’s new releases, but by June we realised that the Saturday evening schedule was not as successful as Sundays, presumably because more people go out on Saturday nights. We continued to operate on Sunday mornings on the 41 metres band Short Wave, and this was still proving successful with letters coming in from Italy and Czechoslovakia. Wulfun Sound on Medium Wave and FM proved to be very successful and its programme line-up was 2pm Mike Johns, 3pm Andy Scott, 4pm The Wulfrun local sales chart with David Jarvis, and 5pm Paul Johnson till closedown. We also introduced a news service on the hour and live phone-ins, but unfortunately in June Mike Johns, a student at Wolverhampton Polytechnic had to leave the area and the station closed down at the end of June. A very sad day indeed.
Following Wulfrun’s demise, by some strange coincidence the following week being the first week in July saw us joining forces with County Radio, which had been operating weekly on 94.4 FM from Birmingham. We stayed with County for a few months and we felt that we did a lot to improve the station’s output following some of their staff leaving the same week as Wulfrun Sound closed down. It was during the latter half of 1983 that we met some new people who would later break away from County and join UK.
UK Radio itself despite the pressures of being involved with County at this time did continue its Saturday night schedule, but response from listeners was appalling, and so at the end of September it was decided to temporarily cease broadcasting. By this time County Radio had been occupying our frequency every Sunday night for nearly a year, so we realised that if we were to return to Sunday operations, which had previously given us more listeners, we would have to change our wavelength to an unused frequency.
Therefore work began on a new transmitter for 103.5 MHz, and at the end of December we decided to break away from County Radio and reopen UK on a new wavelength.
Test transmissions began at the end of January following many painstaking hours of tuning and building a new transmitter. The new frequency was to be 103.5 FM, at that time a totally clear frequency. Initially we had teething problems with the new rig, but following much perseverance in the end all seemed to be working well, so it was decided to begin programmes once again on Easter Sunday 1984.
Easter Sunday came and the station took to the airwaves on its new spot on the dial. Everything went well and so we decided to continue every Sunday. By June 1984 we were joined by Rod Lucas, who had been involved in County Radio. During 1983 he had left County with a few other members such as Kelvin Scott because they were fed up with the antics of a certain Mr Steve Merrick who used to run the station mostly under the influence of alcohol. We changed our mailing address slightly also in 1984 from PO Box 144 in Wolverhampton to PO Box 143 Wolverhampton. This was because our previous address closed.
In August we were also joined by another new member to UK Radio who was to stay for many years, namely Mad Mike Harris. He did his first programme on the first Sunday of September 1984, and it was from this point that the station began to broadcast every week.
Another development in September 1984 was the publication of our first quarterly newsletter, which many listeners subscribed to. This newsletter prompted some people to write letters in support of the station and free radio in general to the local press. Many of these letters began appearing in the letters column of the Express & Star newspaper during October, and by the end of the year a letter was appearing concerning the subject of free or community radio almost nightly. This was very encouraging but we feel it could have had something to do with the attention the authorities began to pay us in the New Year. December 1984 was a very successful month because we completed a power booster just in time for our Christmas programmes and we were able to broadcast daily all over the holiday period right up to New Year’s Day with a much improved signal. This was due to the fact that we were able to increase power from 20 to 50 Watts on our FM frequency.
Following the success of our Christmas and New Year programmes, January got off to a slow start caused by bad weather. However by the end of the month we were back on our usual Sunday schedule on a weekly basis. All went well until the 23rd of February, when at approx. 5.30pm on the Sunday afternoon during one of our broadcasts, an unmarked Austin Maestro was spotted crawling at dead slow speed up and down the road near our transmission site. It was decided to switch off immediately, and it was just as well we did as we later confirmed that it was the Department of Trade and Industry tracking us down, so on this occasion we were lucky and foiled their attempts to silence us. The following week we decided to switch transmission sites, and all went well for about another 4 weeks, but in March at another location the DTI turned up once again. This time they came on foot and attempted to gain access to the site we were using. Luckily though, they could not get in as they came without a search warrant, so we turned them away and once again they were foiled.
UK Radio continued every Sunday despite these two near misses and we began to increase our listeners. The main two presenters at this time were Mike Harris and Paul Johnson, with David Jarvis also making the odd appearance from time to time. It is believed by ourselves that the DTI were making a determined effort during 1985 to put us off the air, but despite this, UK Radio managed to avoid the powers-that-be throughout the rest of March, April, May and June even though the station was on air every week. In the end we even began to believe that perhaps the DTI had stopped chasing us, as we had not seen anything of them since mid-March. However the first week of July proved us wrong.
It was Sunday 7th July 1985 that turned out to become the day we always dreaded. The station went on air as usual, and had been on for about 3 hours when an unmarked car was spotted again looking suspicious, driving at very slow speed up and down a side road which was visible from the transmission site used on that day. After some consultation we all came to the conclusion that it was someone learning to drive. As it turned out, this proved to be our fatal mistake, as there was more to follow. Eventually the car disappeared from view and was soon forgotten. About an hour later we noticed someone messing around with the transmitter, which was situated in a nearby wood. Immediately we acted upon this, thinking that someone was trying to vandalise or steal our equipment. As it turned out we were right, it was not being carried out by any ordinary person but a representative of the DTI and a 10-year-old accomplice. As we arrived on the site, the man tore the aerial clean out of a tree bringing one of its branches down with it. “Is this your transmitter?” was the demand made by the DTI man. We made out that we didn’t know anything about it, but demanded to see some identification. This he later produced, much to our annoyance, after he had put his foot on our equipment and confiscated (stole) it.
On that day we lost several hundred pounds worth of gear. It must be said that the DTI were very nasty to us, almost to the point of being abusive. Following this, he threatened to make an arrest on us, but as the DTI have no power of arrest and no police officers were present, we resisted this and stated to him that we ought to arrest him for vandalism and theft and well as using threatening behaviour. This he did not find very funny, but took our equipment to a local police station, which we never claimed back.
Despite the effects of the raid, UK Radio returned to the air just over a month later at the August Bank Holiday with a 12 hour extended operation on both the Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday with 50 Watts using a new transmitter.
December 1985 saw UK back on the air again with extended programmes, but these Christmas and New Year programmes were to be the last ones to be broadcast on 103.5, because by this time another free radio station had begun 7-day operation on our frequency.
After the New Years Day programmes, UK Radio took a break and the transmitter was altered to operate on 105 MHz FM. The station carried out several test transmissions during February on the new frequency, but unfortunately problems were encountered with some new equipment, which in the end proved to be totally unsuitable. Therefore the station did not make a comeback at this point, and it was decided to shelve plans for the station until more suitable equipment could be found.
Also during February 1986 a new project was about to become a reality, run jointly with a new encounter named Mike Wilson, who had the previous year and still was at the time involved with County Radio on FM mentioned earlier. This new project was a 7-day Short Wave station, which we decided to call Radio Orion. The station was set up on February 19th 1986 when test transmissions were carried out, and the following morning, February 20th, the station took to the air at 10am until 12 midday. The frequency was 6240 kHz in the 48-metre band. This was the frequency to be used 6 days a week from Monday to Saturday inclusive, with 6266 kHz being used on Sundays. Everything kicked off smoothly, and as of February 19th 1986, Radio Orion became the first ever 7-day Short Wave free radio station, running 2 hours a day Monday to Friday, and 3 hours or more on Saturdays and Sundays. Letters began to pour in to our initial mailing address from all over Europe, and Radio Orion also began to relay several European free radio stations, including Radio Rainbow from Germany and Radio Discoline.
Because of our involvement in Radio Orion, much time was spent during 1986 recording and presenting programmes, which meant that UK Radio took a back seat and was not a major priority because technical problems had arisen earlier in the year. UK’s next appearance was over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend on 105 MHz FM and also relayed on Short Wave via the Radio Orion transmitter after 1pm. UK was also active at the May Day Holiday, Whitsun Holiday, August Bank Holiday and finally Christmas and New Year. All of these were live broadcasts, which meant that we did not encounter the same problems as when we had attempted to put out pre-recorded shows earlier in the year. Despite UK’s lay-off during 1986, we were far from idle because Radio Orion continued to go from strength to strength, which meant more of our time was taken up with this than had been by UK Radio before Orion’s inception. The main presenters on Radio Orion in 1986 were Mike Wilson, Paul Johnson, Alan Davies, Mike Harris, David Jarvis, Rod Lucas and Andy Scott. The engineering was, and still is, undertaken by Paul Johnson, with Mike Wilson as station manager. Alan Davies presented the German and French programmes every weekend, which met with good response. Early in 1987 Alan Davies left Orion to join the Voice of Peace, which is an offshore station anchored off the coast of Tel Aviv in Israel.
Orion suffered only about 3 technical faults to its transmitter during 1986, which meant that apart from about 7 days all toll the station did in fact operate a 7-day schedule on Short Wave throughout 1986. This we feel was quite an achievement, and what’s more, despite its daily appearance, there was no trouble from the DTI.
The station operated on 6240 kHz for 6 days of the week until October, when it was decided to switch to 6200 kHz. Unfortunately this frequency proved to be no better, so in late November another frequency change was made to 6280 kHz, which seemed to be better. So at the end of 1986, Radio Orion was on air daily, Monday to Saturday inclusive, on 6280 kHz, and on Sundays on 6266 kHz, both in the 48-metre band.
Finally to round off 1986, in September Orion began nightly tests on 3463 kHZ in the 86 metre band, to see if there was sufficient response to warrant starting up an international evening service. These tests continued nightly from 8 till 9pm from September until the end of December when it was decided to abandon it because only a few letters were received. 1986 ended with both Orion and UK on FM putting out extended programmes all over Christmas from Christmas Eve until New Years Day everything seemed to be going better than ever.
1987 got off to a good start with Radio Orion still going strong 7 days a week on Short wave. In January UK Radio also returned to the air with what was to be a return from the dead. At the end of January some new equipment was obtained and tested and thankfully it was found to be suitable for use on FM. Therefore it was decided to re-launch UK Radio with a new regular schedule, every Sunday evening from 9 till 12 Midnight. From Mid-February until Mid-July this schedule had not changed and the station had been active most Sunday evenings. Also we had relayed some programmes Mid-week from 4FWS and it seemed that the station had slowly built up a new audience. On a bad note things were not so good for the other operation that took all the limelight during 1986.
Radio Orion continued its 7-day operation and everything was going well until the 24th February 1987 when about an hour after the station opened up 7 members of the DTI turned up at Radio Orion’s transmission site fully armed with a search warrant. They also brought a police constable along with them and carried out a full-scale raid on the station. They confiscated (stole) the transmitter, tape decks letters and although it played no part in the stations operation they also took a £300 communications receiver. This item was worth more than the rest of the equipment put together.
Despite the raid Orion returned to the air just 4 days later on Saturday 28th February from a new transmission site and using a new transmitter. Since the raid however the station had not been broadcasting 7 days a week but every Saturday and Sunday. Despite the cutback in operation however Radio Orion continued to be the most regular and active Short Wave free radio station. Radio Orion could now be heard on 6290 kHz on Saturdays and 6266 kHz on Sundays.
In September 1987 Mike Wilson appeared at Sutton Coldfield magistrate’s court along with Paul Johnson and was fined £350 for operating Radio Orion on Short wave.
Meanwhile UK Radio continued broadcasting at weekends on a Sunday evening on 105 MHz until the end of 1987. October 1987 saw the launch of the UK Roadshow, which made several appearances in the Wolverhampton area with Paul Johnson and Mike Harris. Unfortunately towards the end of 1987 Paul Johnson’s health began to suffer but at this stage not seriously enough to stop broadcasting. UK was on air over Christmas 1987 and New Year 1988 on 105 MHz FM with 100 Watts of power.
UK Radio was on air during January 1988 every Sunday evening on 105 FM and on January 24th celebrated 10 years of existence. Unfortunately however this was very nearly UK Radios last ever broadcast because on February 3rd 1988 Paul Johnson became seriously ill and had to be taken to hospital following a severe mental and nervous breakdown.
On leaving Hospital he moved to a new 6th floor flat in Wolverhampton, which meant the station now had a permanent place from which to broadcast. The station returned on the 17th of July on a new frequency and waveband of 1413 kHz, 212 metres medium wave. UK did several Sunday broadcasts throughout the rest of 1988. Over Christmas 1988 and New Year 1989 the station returned on 105.5 MHz FM as well as medium wave. Many of these broadcasts were also relayed on short wave by Radio Orion. In December of 1988 the station was also joined by 3 new presenters Gary Edwards, Dave Kilner and Steve Marshall.
Throughout 1989 UK Radio was on air several times mainly on Sundays, but also on several occasions during the week on medium wave and FM. Unfortunately Paul Johnson’s health, although getting better during 1989, was still suffering and seemed to be left with a permanent psychological mental and nervous problem which sometimes made broadcasting difficult.
In January of 1989 Gary Edwards, Dave Kilner and Steve Marshall started their own station, Centre Radio. When Centre were not putting out their own programmes they would sometimes relay UK on their frequency of 99.2 FM. There were times in 1989 when UK could be heard on 5 frequencies at the same time. 2 FM, 1 medium wave and 2 short wave!
Also, an organisation called The Wolverhampton Community Radio Association was planning to get a licence to operate a community radio station in Wolverhampton in the future. An unsuccessful bid was made by the WCRA in January 1989, as the IBA decided to grant the licence to Coventry instead of Wolverhampton.
On January 15th 1989, a meeting took place at Wolverhampton Polytechnic to discuss the future of community radio in Wolverhampton. Representatives from the IBA were in attendance, as well as people from UK Radio and Beacon Radio, and the relatively recently formed Skyline Radio.
The association set up an office in Wolverhampton town centre and WCRA made a debut broadcast on June 2nd and 3rd 1989 at Wolverhampton’s open weekend at West Park, Wolverhampton on 196 metres Medium Wave, 1530 kHz, AM.
UK Radio members as of July 1989 were Paul Johnson Station Manager, Mike Harris, Rod Lucas, Mike Wilson, Gary Edwards, Steve Marshall, Dave Green, Bob Barton (ex Sounds Alternative), Tony Stevens, Paul Fraser (The Ghoul) and Andy Scot (ex Wulfrun Sound) as well as the syndicated show GRQ hard rockin’ with Mark Tyme.
In November 1989 UK obtained a new FM transmitter on a new frequency of 99.6. This new frequency was needed as the 105 area of the band was now very crowded! There were also plans to run to separate services in 1990 with “pop hits” on FM and “rock classics” on AM. Tests started just before Christmas on 1323 kHz using the names Orion, Overdrive and Laser.
During 1990 UK Radio continued to operate as a free radio station on 212m in the Medium Wave band, that’s 1413 kHz AM, using 20 Watts of power, and also on 99.6 MHz FM in mono, from the 6th floor of a high rise block of flats on Sundays only. Programmes were broadcast most weekends throughout 1990 until the end of the year. This was partly because UK had the opportunity to use another broadcast site. This meant they could swap sites each week, making the station more difficult to track.
As well as the FM service, further tests took place from this new site for the proposed medium wave rock classics service. Unfortunately this new service never got beyond testing, as during an FM broadcast from the new site in November the station was raided. Luckily, no one ended up in court as a result, but that site was never used for FM broadcasts again. Only a few more tests on 1323 kHz were heard.
Following the raid and the passing of the 1990 broadcasting act at the end of the year, UK Radio remained silent in the hope of one day being able to raise enough funds to apply for a restricted service licence, which would allow us to broadcast up to 28 days at a time “LEGALLY”. Also at this time we were joined by new DJ Mickey Whitt.
During 1991 UK Radio was silent until November and then did a 5-day broadcast over Christmas and New year on 99.2 FM.
During 1992 the station set up a 30ft aerial mast and did several broadcasts on Short Wave with some success. In September 1992 the station returned again briefly on FM, but in October a strong gale broke the wooden mast in three places and so the station went off air.
1993 saw the station off air although our newest presenter Mickey Whitt did some Christmas shows that year. In May UK Radio suffered a break-in at its studio, and several hundred pounds worth of electrical equipment including speakers, mixer and CDs were stolen. New equipment was purchased, including a nine-channel mixer.
Following the burglary we moved to new premises and whilst it was a nicer location, it was only on the 2nd floor. This meant it wasn’t as high up for FM broadcasts and there was not as much space for medium or short wave aerials. Several tests were put out on FM, but the signal was very poor. Therefore it was decided to abandon FM until a new transmitter could be found.
1995 – 1997
September saw the station return on 6266 kHz 48 metres SW with a new phone number and mailing address. The station began operating at weekends and was met with good response. The station continued to broadcast on SW throughout 1996 and 1997, with response from listeners all over Europe, and many telephone calls. Also in March 1997 a new 20-Watt stereo FM transmitter was acquired, and the station returned on 99.3 FM, in stereo for the first time and with a much-improved signal thanks to our 40ft mast on the roof.
1997 also saw the start of Mickey Whitt’s new dance show “The Chill Out Zone” which went out every Sunday afternoon.
1998 – 1999
Two new presenters joined the station in 1998, Simon Owens and Marc James.
A new service was introduced on 15.060 kHz in the 19-metre band with 50 Watts.
Power was increased on 6266 kHz 48 metres from 30 Watts to 120 Watts.
Transmissions were also planned on 1404 kHz MW with 30 Watts, mainly during the summer months, with FM in use during the autumn and winter. Power was increased on FM to 100 Watts output on 99.3 MHz and could be heard in the Midlands some weekends and Bank Holidays throughout 1998 and 1999.
The station also looked at funding so it could go on air for 28 days at a time with a Restricted Service Licence. In order to do this, the station needed to raise at least £6,000 to cover all the licences including PPL and PRS. Attempts at securing funding for a licence were not successful. Two applications to the National Lottery Charities Board were rejected. Obviously they didn’t consider UK Radio to be a good cause.
UK then looked to other charitable organisations who may have given us the funding we needed for a Restricted Service License. Should UK Radio have obtained funding for an RSL, all pirate activity would’ve ceased in favour of going legal. Anyone who could’ve helped us could’ve written to us at this address: – UK Radio, PO Box 53, Bilston WV14 6YS.
Paul Johnson’s views in 1999:
Some people ask me, why have you stuck with UK Radio for 21 years despite all the ups and downs? Well the reason I think is because we have always strived to bring some enjoyment and free entertainment to the people of the West Midlands and beyond on shortwave. I will admit that there have been times when I have felt like closing the station down, especially following the raids of July 1985 and November 1990, but I think as long as there are people who believe in UK Radio and want it to continue, then I’ll be there to see that it does. Some people who are close to me have said that they think I have wasted my life by setting up UK Radio because they don’t see any future in it. But over the years I have made many friends through the radio station, and one day I would like to see the station legalised on FM or MW. Whether this will ever become a reality depends on if we can get the finance to pay for a Restricted Service Licence, a fee of around £6,000 for 28 days.
I don’t know how many programmes I have presented since 1978 but I should think it must be over a thousand, all on pirate stations, none on legal radio ironically although I will admit to sending out a couple of hundred demo tapes in a vain attempt to get a job on a legal station.
I think now that I’m nearly 40 I’m a bit too old to be playing the latest chart sounds, that’s why I launched my Goldmine programme in November 1997. I can now play music that means something to me, and hopefully our older listeners. The most recent Goldmine programme I have ever done is 1992. I won’t be featuring music more recent than this.
“Many thanks to all the people who have helped us over the past 21 years without whom, UK RADIO would not be possible and to free radio people everywhere.”
November 1999 Update
The station continued to broadcast using a mixture of medium wave, FM and short wave all live from the same location. The same location they had used for many years. Maybe that was a bit too cheeky.
UK Radio was raided by the authorities in November 1999. The raid happened at 8 minutes past 2 on the afternoon of Sunday 28th November. The DTI broke down the door and took away approx £1,500 worth of equipment. This included 2 stereo FM transmitters, 1 medium wave transmitter and a 120-Watt SW transmitter for 6266 kHz. They also took much of the UK Radio studio, such as a nine-channel mixer, 3 twin cassette decks and 2 CD players. The DTI asked Paul Johnson if any vinyl was used, and Paul said no, so they left just a couple of turntables. They also took 25 CDs and 88 programme tapes of various DJs including Mickey Whitt, Dave Green, Bogus Jobseeker, Mike Harris and Paul Johnson. They also took a communications receiver that was not used in the broadcast.
Following the raid, a few members of the station left and deserted Paul Johnson in his worst hour of need….
With the help of Tony Stevens, UK returned to the air on short wave on Saturday 5th February and on Sunday 6th February from a new location on 6275 kHz during February and March. Paul Johnson appeared in court on Monday 3rd April 2000 following the raid of November 1999. There was some press coverage on BBC CEEFAX on April 3rd, and in the Express & Star local newspaper. Paul Johnson was given a 12-month conditional discharge and was ordered by the court to pay costs of £250.
UK Radio continued to broadcast throughout 2000 on short wave only.
In December 2001 the station conducted engineering test transmissions on the Internet via Live365. The first live programme was aired on Sunday 16th December 2001 with the first live announcement made by Paul Johnson at 8.12pm.
On Sunday 13th January 2002 at 8pm, UK Radio commenced regular broadcasts on the Internet via Live365 and its website. UK Radio continued to broadcast every Sunday from 8pm until midnight UK time, with Paul Johnson, the founder member and only remaining DJ, presenting programmes. If these broadcasts were successful this would mean UK Radio would be legal and immune from any further raids, so we kept our fingers crossed that this would be a success.
In June 2002 we extended our programmes on our Internet service. UK Radio International broadcast every Saturday and Sunday from 9am on the Internet via Live365
UK Radio was broadcasting every Sunday from 9am till midnight during July, and some Saturdays depending on having enough programming available without having to repeat too often. Also whether we broadcast on a Saturday depended on the amount of listeners we got on the Internet for our Sunday broadcasts. The response to our Saturday and Sunday programmes was very disappointing with a maximum listenership of 5 people. This would have to have increased substantially if we were to extend our hours of transmission. Meanwhile our SW service continued most Sundays on 6266 kHz. No further FM broadcasts were planned due to a lack of support and because the DTI took all of the FM equipment in the raid of November 1999.
Paul Johnson would like to thank all the people who have stood by the station during the 3 years since the big raid in November 1999, without whose help and co-operation the station would not have been able to continue namely Glyn, Mr Armadillo, The Bogus Jobseeker and Norman Bates.
Anyone interested in advertising on the station could’ve written to our mailing address. We could’ve advertised your business or company for as little as £3.00 per week. For this your advert would’ve been heard 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via Live365, reaching a potential worldwide audience.
We needed some more presenters! You needed to be able to record your own shows so you needed your own studio equipment. Anyone interested in becoming a DJ on UK Radio should’ve recorded a 2-hour show on two sides of a C120 cassette and sent it off to our postal address: UK Radio, PO Box 53, Bilston, Wolverhampton, West Midlands WV14 6YS. If your 2-hour demo tape came up to the required standard, we would’ve invited you to record further programmes, and they would’ve been broadcast every Sunday morning on short wave, and also on our Internet service.
November 2002 Update
Our SW service was suspended due to complaints of interference from a neighbour. Glyn told us he could no longer come on the air until the interference problem had been resolved. Meanwhile our Internet service continued and from the beginning of November we began broadcasting in Stereo via live 365. We hoped to have some Christmas shows going out over Christmas and the New Year. UK broadcast an automated service 24 hrs a day 7 days a week and live every Sunday from 10 am in the morning until about 12 midnight. We were hoping to recruit more presenters so we could extend our live output but that also depended on how many listeners we got. Obviously the more listeners we got the more live output we would broadcast.
Sadly, the UK Radio story came to an end during the early hours of Wednesday 23rd April 2003 when the stations founder, Paul Johnson, sadly passed away aged just 42. His funeral was attended by many from the free radio world, many of whom had travelled many miles to pay their respects. A fitting tribute to a pirate radio legend and a very nice man.