SCOTTISH PIRATE RADIO - RADIO FREEDOM INTERNATIONAL
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Radio Freedom International – The Story Until 2004


Radio Freedom International first appeared on the airwaves in September 1973, with experimental transmissions in the 49-metre band. These early broadcasts were primarily used to test equipment and designs for one of the medium wave stations broadcasting at this time and were carried out by Radio Freedom's founding engineer, “Geronimo”. Encouraged by Alan Kidd a veteran broadcaster from the medium wave pirate stations which were operating in and around Edinburgh in the late 60`s and early 70`s regular program began at 9.00 hrs GMT on Sunday August 4 1974 The first transmissions lasted one hour and were broadcast on 6220 KHz Short-wave, with the power of 40 watts fed into a 1/4 wave inverted L aerial. Things went well and as the popularity of the station grew broadcast times were extended with transmissions every Sunday morning. Within a few weeks RFI was receiving an average of 50 letters a week from all over Western Europe
 



Many thanks to Mike Barraclough for the early 1974 QSL Card (above) and letter (below) from Radio Freedom
(Click individual image for full size)





April 1975. During the spring of this year the Radio Freedom engineers had been setting up a 200 watt medium wave pirate radio station in Edinburgh called Radio Lothian which proved such a great success that following Freedom's regular Sunday Morning programming, it relayed the live programs from this new station, Radio Lothian' s programs were also transmitted Friday & Saturday evenings between 23:30 & 03:00 hrs. Excellent reception was reported from most of Europe and the signal was especially strong in Switzerland and Italy for those nighttime broadcasts.

May 1975. Yet another increase in transmission times, 08.00 to 18.00 hrs. This included the afternoon broadcast being relayed from Radio Lothian. With the extended broadcasting times several new staff joined Radio freedom. Jonathan Wright and Julie King filled out the morning programs from Radio Freedom and Gerry Hogan and Tommy Johnston worked from Radio Lothian.

May 1975. Saw RFI raided by police and post office officials. Charges were brought on five of the station's DJs and engineers. Each was later find 50.00, and all equipment confiscated. There were no more transmissions from RFI until July 1980.





Information Sheets as sent out by the station during 1974 and 1975. The 3rd sheet informs listeners that the station had been raided during May 1975.
(Click on individual image to view in full size)


July 1980. Despite endless enthusiasm there were problems. Testing was tried inside the official 49 meters broadcast band which proved unpractical and eventually the frequency was changed back 6220 KHz. Again the station was beset with problems. Heavy SSB/utility signals jammed Freedom's weak signal and in November of 1980 RFI suspended transmissions.

August 1982. Radio Freedom International was born again, this time with a new radio engineer, new DJ, Barry Kent and also a change in music format. In the 1970's Freedom's format was Top 40, featuring up to date new releases and exclusives. Now in the 80's the music format was to be retrospective with music mostly from the 1960`s and 1970's. To help things along a brand new 120.watt transmitter was built, but unfortunately because of location difficulties the transmitter was ran on half power. Radio Freedom had seldom gone in for running up hills and setting up transmitters in woods as one of the few times we did this we were raided and most of the broadcasts over the years have been from fixed sights in and around central Scotland which has many advantages but one of the few disadvantages is that you have to be very aware of causing interference. Over the many years Radio Freedom broadcast we can proudly say we have never caused any problems of this nature. By the last Sunday of October 1982 all the teething troubles inherent in a totally new broadcasting system were ironed out, the new transmitter was behaving itself and the new studios were a pleasure to work with, and so Radio Freedom began weekly programs on 6230 KHz between 09:00 and 12:00 hrs GMT with DJ's Barry Kent and Allan Kidd.





January 1983. With everything going so well it was decided to issue a new design of QSL card. Depicted on the new QSL was the symbolic design of "a birds release to Freedom.' The new year also saw a changes in broadcast times from weekly to the first and third Sundays of each month.

March 1983. Bob Scott joined the station presenting a monthly DX program entitled "Offshore connections." On the third Sunday in March, alterations were made to the 20-watt VHF transmitter for stereo output and RFI also began parallel transmissions on 31.6 meters, 9420 KHz. with a power of 25 watts. April 1983 and disaster struck. After 6 months of flawless operation the 49 meter band transmitter broke down. As Barry Kent had moved on to other personal commitments the 49 meter outlet, which was his project, was destined to stay off air for a couple of months until he could give it his full attention. However, transmissions continued with weekly programmes on 9420 KHz & VHF. In July of 1983, a new design of aerial was constructed for 31 metres, which greatly improved reception in countries further a field. July also saw the return of the 49-meter band transmitter with improved filtering this was now running at 100 watts

August 1983. And the 31-meter band also increase to 150 watts, creating impressive reception reports from Eastern Europe, Italy and behind the “Iron Curtain”. September 1983 and Freedom celebrates 10 years since the first RFI transmitter went on air. Colour photographs of the studio were issued for the first time due to listener demand and interest.

September 1983. The 31-meter band outlet changed to 19 meters, 15040 KHz and after a few weeks, made and final change to 15050 KHz. The nineteen meters transmissions certainly exceeded all expectations with dozens of reports from Florida, Texas and Boston etc. in the USA. Transmissions were also to reach the far reaches of Europe, where our 49-meter signal was weaker and to Islands in the Indian Ocean and Australia. We were delighted by the quality of reception reports and tape recordings sent to us from the many far away countries. Our programmes continued throughout 1983 with transmissions twice monthly on all three frequencies, even though several raid took place on short-wave station during this period in Scotland.





The Radio Freedom International Studio in 1983
(Many thanks to Alan Kidd for the photo)
(Click image for full size image)

March 1984. The impending Government Telecom bill was upon us (or so we thought at the time). There were many rumours about the contents of the bill and the nasty things that could happen to people operating the stations and those providing help with mailing addresses etc. The Government was also waving a carrot suggesting that if the pirates radio stations went off air, this would help in obtaining a licence for the new 'Community' radio stations that were to come shortly.' (Well the licences didn't and neither did the stations, but that's another story). Due to encouraging correspondence with the DTI the decision was made for Radio Freedom to cease broadcasting so as not to spoil and future application for licensed status and so plans were put into action to re-commission a 500 watt medium wave transmitter, and to convert it for short-wave operations for our last programs on 6235 KHz but time beat us, the conversion was not completed. So on Sunday, 25th March 1984 RFI's last programme was transmitted at the normal time and the last programme for the foreseeable future was broadcast on Saturday 31st March 1984 between 20.00 to 23.00 hrs GMT. Although 6235 & FM did closedown, the engineer responsible for the 19 Metre transmitter continued until May of that year. Even though Radio Freedom International remained silent we were still receiving publicity from Radio Netherlands media programme, coverage in various free radio magazines and also a listing in the 'Pirate Radio Then & Now' written by Stuart Hendry & Mike von Joel. In fact we continued to be featured strongly in many publications for a long time to come. So all that was left was memories and one that springs to mind in particular was a New Year greetings to us in the winter of 1974 from everyone on board Caroline's ship 'Mi Amigo'.



1984_01_02_freedom_scotland_alankidd.mp3 Much appreciation goes to Alan Kidd for this recording from January 1984. 30MB
RadioFreedomInternational-97.5-Fife-AlanKidd-19-2-84.mp3 This recording of Alan Kidd is by kind courtesy of The Pirate Archive 63MB
1984_03_25_sun_freedom_scotland_last_sunday_transmission_alankidd.mp3 Thanks go to Alan Kidd for this recording of the last Sunday transmission in March 1984. 29MB


June 1989. After being let down badly by the licensing authorities who we, perhaps naively, believed were genuinely interested in setting up true local community radio the decision was made to return to the air. Our main reason for staying off air had been so as not to ruin our chances of operating a legal community radio station but after all the postponements and changes to the original community radio ideals and the ever decreasing prospect of ever having the opportunities setting up and operating a true community radio station in our part of Scotland so some of the original crew at RFI decided it was not going to happen and Radio Freedom return to the airwaves on June 4th 1989 on 6250khz. The power was only around 10 watts and the program was a three-hour test transmission made from 08.00 hrs GMT. Unfortunately that particular Sunday short-wave conditions were terrible. A poor restart to the station but much to our surprise we received many reports, but from only the UK, welcoming us back.

July 1st 1989. Additional tests were carried out on 6250 to enable essential work to be carried out on the transmitter. New output valves replaced the old ones, which had seen their fair share of airtime and were well past their best. A broadcast compressor was fitted to the audio line and a completely new studio commandeered with professional turntables as well as digital tape players. Several different aerials were also being tested. Although conditions were quite favourable because of all the work being carried out not much music was broadcast but on this day. September 1989. Saw the start of regular test transmissions twice a month using the old 120-watt TX once again running at 60 watts owing to location problems. Test programs were broadcast for these three-month due to shortage people able to commit to producing regular programs a situation that happily resolved itself by December when full programming commenced

December 1989. Radio Freedom International started night time broadcasts on 6205 from 22.00 – 01.00hrs GMT. Night time programs were also broadcast on the Thursday following our regular bi-monthly Sunday These programs continued until March 1990 when these broadcasts were moved to the forth Saturday night of each month from 21.00 until 02.00hrs, Sunday morning.



1989_12_17_sun_freedom_scotland_6205sw_1030-1130-gh723.mp3 The signal on this recording from 6205kHz was received near Blackpool and the time is thought to be around 1030 to 1130 on a Sunday morning. Some test music is played before the station signs on.  The recording lasts around 70 minutes. 63MB


October 1999. After another long silence Radio Freedom was once more back on the air. The team responsible for the FM transmissions for the last 16 years were joined by Barry Kent and Test transmissions were broadcast, in mono, every Sunday to East Central Scotland (Edinburgh area). By November these Transmissions were in stereo and plans are in hand to start Local Community Radio in the New Millennium. During November Barry Kent was admitted to hospital and it wasn't until February of 2000 that he was able to devote time to putting Radio Freedom back on the air. A few Sunday tests were carried out but the new VHF transmitter failed and parts had to be sent for.

May 2000. Radio Freedom FM. Is fully up and running. Due to the high profile and ease of detection that accompany local VHF transmissions the station cannot broadcast regularly and must move location for each transmission. Several special broadcasts have been sponsored by local groups and we can only hope more local events can be enhanced with our help, we can only wait and see.

September 2001. Radio Freedom FM is still broadcasting in and around Edinburgh with special interest program for local groups. Of Radio Freedom International's shortwave broadcasts? Our engineers have started work on “something special”. Plans for a return to the airwaves, on shortwave, for Radio Freedom have already begun. It was decided that if Radio Freedom International was to return to the airwaves it had to be a premier project that would return Radio Freedom to her place as Scotland's biggest and best, in fact only, international free radio station. Equipment is being collected from various locations where it had been stored for many years and new, up to date, equipment is being built so that when Radio Freedom International returns it will be, as her reputation dictated, “the biggest and best in free radio in Scotland” and something special.

Sept 2003. Finding a team with enough available time and enough commitment is never easy no matter what the project is. Over the last 30 years Radio Freedom International has drawn on the expertise of over 20 volunteers all of whom have helped to make the station one of the best loved and remembered short wave pirates. Progress to breath life back into RFI has been slow over the last couple of years. As things stand we are starting FM programs to East Central Scotland leading to a buildup to next year (2004) when we hope to launch the return of Radio Freedom International on shortwave with full transmissions and we look forward to great things to come.

Many thanks to Alan Kidd for allowing us to use his detailed history of Radio Freedom International.

 

A selection of QSL Cards from the 1980's
(Click QSL to display full size image)

 

 

 

 


SCOTTISH PIRATE RADIO INDEX