29th November 1991
Radio station Contact 94 went off the air
After just over three years on air, Anglo-French radio station Contact FM silenced its mics on 29 November 1991. Broadcasting to Normandy and the Channel Islands from studios in Lessay, it had been transmitting on a variety of frequencies between 93FM and 95FM.
Like many radio stations, Contact FM had decided to launch with its breakfast slot. It was 5 September 1988; Kevin Turner was in the hot seat and Phil Collins’ Groovy Kind of Love was at the top of the British charts.
The first words broadcast were, “good morning. It’s six o’clock in the Channel Islands; seven o’clock in France. Welcome to the start of regular programmes from Contact 94.”
This was immediately followed by the first track on the playlist: The Beatles’ Good Day Sunshine, which led into the weather forecast. Unfortunately, this didn’t match the spirit of the song: the day was overcast and foggy and patches of heavy rain were predicted. The fog was expected to clear by lunchtime, but the maximum temperature would still only be 19 degrees and the wind would be blowing at force four to five.
Kevin Turner was followed, at 9am, by Steve Ryan, who handed over to John Tyler at lunchtime. Neil McCleod handled the drive time slot from 4pm; Danielle Berrou took over at 8pm, and ceded control to Paul Easton at 11pm. All of the output was in English except for Danielle Berrou’s 8pm – 11pm slot, which was in French.
There was just one problem: the French authorities weren’t sure whether Contact 94 was broadcasting legally or not, and after a raid by the police, its equipment was confiscated.
Events leading up to the confiscation were detailed in the minutes of the 28 February 1989 meeting of the States of Jersey. The president of the island’s Broadcasting Committee said that a company, which remained unnamed, had asked for permission to set up a local radio station on Jersey. This had been denied because BBC Radio Jersey was then still relatively new. The company accepted this. However, it applied to both the Home Office and Consul de France for permission to broadcast to the Channel Islands from France.
The Home Office told the company that it would insist that the French authorities not allow a station to be set up there with the specific aim of broadcasting to the Channel Islands. The president concluded,
The French authorities took the action they decided was appropriate in each case. The French authorities have not banned Radio Force 7, but the power of its transmitter has been reduced; Contact 94 was found by the French authorities to be illegal.
At no point did the president state that Contact 94 had been the unnamed company to which he was referring.
Contact 94 only disappeared temporarily. Its equipment was later returned on appeal and it resumed broadcasting.
However, when the UK Radio Authority advertised the availability of independent licences for both Guernsey and Jersey, Contact 94 decided to apply for the right to broadcast in Jersey. As part of that process, it switched off on 29 November 1991.
It was unsuccessful in its application, with the Jersey licence instead being awarded to Channel 103. Channel 103 was later bought by Tindal Radio Group to be run alongside Guernsey’s Island FM.