I don’t keep recordings, picture or memorials of things long gone. So, I have nothing to remind me of the year long 1992 to 1993 satellite radio station that was ‘Euronet’.
However, I do believe it was a brilliant example of talk’n’music radio at its best. Yes, it was 20 years ago, and the world has changed fantastically since then, but it was real fun radio.
It followed on as a programming concept from my community-access pirate station some 13 years beforehand (read about Radio AMY amongst other commentary here), and was another ‘moment in time’ not to be repeated.
Indeed, neither AMY nor Euronet would ‘work’ if ever tried again.
Euronet was back in the days before Electronic Programme Guides and Sky ‘Digital’, so nobody ‘normal’ knew it was there. It ‘piggybacked’ as one of the additional audio ‘sub-carriers’ available to Sky Sports. So, people had to watch Sky Sports, fiddle with their remote or the satellite receiver and the accompanying audio would change to become us. See? Nobody ‘normal’ would do that!
Now, it has to be admitted that we had no real money. We cobbled enough together to set up a fairly acceptable studio, and that was it. Initially the intention was to ‘sell’ programming hours to programme providers, acting as brokers to get people on the air who wanted to be on the air, but not enough to set-up their own complete radio station. This of course is a very faulty business model that just doesn’t work and will never work. The only people who wanted to get on the air in this way were people with even less money than we had!
So, with no money for marketing, it fell to me to try to create an output that would have its own momentum and create its own audience and publicity. I reasoned that the broadcasts would have an overall station sound and continuity, but would be sub-divided into smaller semi-specialist interest programmes. The whole station output lasted for 8 hours each day, repeated twice, so it was ideal for satellite tv consumers.
Having said that, satellite tv consumers wouldn’t have a clue we were there. Well, apart from the ‘radio anoraks’, of course. So, ‘radio anoraks’ were the starting point. How best to wind up anoraks to fever pitch and keep them hanging on the station’s every word? Well, get DJs in from the then recently defunct north-sea broadcaster Radio Caroline that anoraks were waiting to rise from the ashes, occasionally play the signature Radio Caroline ‘bell’ and assert that we were test transmissions and would soon be changing our name, but couldn’t yet say what it would be.
Yep, hundreds of anoraks were avidly listening and assuming we would soon be Radio Caroline. Those that weren’t listening were being told by the old land-support team to Radio Caroline that we weren’t Radio Caroline but they were. This, of course, helped spread even more awareness of our existence. We were on the radar and it had cost nothing.
Next, it was important to get into bed with the magazines that satellite tv ‘anoraks’ were buying. In those days there were quite a few publications with a reasonable circulation. Satellite tv was in its infancy, there was no world wide web yet, and the early adopters would all buy the accompanying literature. The writers for those magazines were usually radio anoraks, and so I offered them radio programmes. Naturally, Euronet would be written about favourably, and would get the publicity it needed into the world outside of Radio Caroline anoraks, plus it would broadcast some pretty good technology and gadget shows put together by the same people who were writing about the same stuff for the magazines.
The third piece of the secret formula wasn’t mine, but the work of a brilliant fellow called Ian. In the early 1990s, one of the biggest things on satellite telly was (American) Wrestling. At the time it was the WWF (now WWE), and to a lesser extent on other non-Sky channels, the other companies providing wrestling entertainment. Wrestling was big. It was huge. Ian already provided a UK news service covering all the American ‘federations’ (to have concentrated on just the WWF may well have had copyright issues) and so developed this into a quick-fire daily radio show targeted at wrestling fans. He was able to pull people across from his news service, and very quickly the wrestling ‘anorak’ community was on board with the station as well. The amount of mail his radio show pulled in was massive.
In a way, these three main elements kept the station ‘virally’ publicising itself and keeping itself in the satellite tv ‘public eye’. The structure of the output was such that there appeared to be individual programmes, yet there was an overall sound and continuity, so no matter what time any newbie tuned in they’d realise it was ‘different’ and addictive radio.
I then threw it open to the listeners asking anybody who wanted to do a programme to step forward and let me know. A young 14 year old jingle freak from near Blackpool started sending in cassettes of ‘shows’ he’d recorded at home, and they went on the air. After another appeal for contributors, teenagers (notably wrestling fans) came forward to put together a show I called ‘Free Period’, which was exactly that, a period during which they could do whatever they wanted as long as it had a mixture of speech and music.
Euronet had its own identity. Maybe it wasn’t ideal to listen to for the entire 8 hours of programming, but it was possible. It worked for those who did, and it worked for those who dipped in for specific sections. The station clearly had a huge audience, we just had no idea how to make it pay its way.
The more serious ‘radio industry’ magazines of the day panned it of course, but they were listening and they were writing about it. Job done.
Once we realised that we had no idea how to make money to run the station and that we’d soon be faced with huge bills, and, inevitably, that a few of us at the sharp end were squabbling, we just had fun until one day we had to take a midnight flit with all the equipment and it was all over.
All the best radio is fun for those who make it and for those who listen. Once radio takes itself too seriously, it has lost the plot. Euronet was bloody good fun.