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Initially its highest frequency transmitter was at 100.3 MHz, with all others sitting in the 98 MHz band. E.g. Limerick was 98.4 MHz at 50 watts and Cork 98.8 MHz at 500 watts (effective radiated power). Within the first year the frequencies were eventually changed, ranging from 100.0 to 101.8 MHz, matching what Today FM is now broadcasting on. Century also broadcast on 1143 kHz AM in Dublin and Cork. These two AM transmitters were introduced some weeks after the station launched.
Founded on 4 September 1989, Century were intended to be the first licensed alternative to RTÉ Radio 1. The licence was issued in an attempt to kill the pirate radio tradition in Ireland. Full coverage of Ireland was achieved in early 1990. The station closed in November 1991, having lost £7 million (Punt), a huge amount for an Irish business at the time.
Dogged by problems from the start, it has recently been revealed that Century's licence was issued illegally, as the then Minister for Communications, Ray Burke received a bribe in the region of IR£100,000 to issue the licence. Its investors, who included Terry Wogan and Chris de Burgh were anxious to secure a quick return on their money, and were unwilling to wait to see would the station's fortunes turn around. Oddly, its major competitor, RTÉ broadcast Century over their transmitter masts without claiming their fee, which they repeatedly reduced in the hope of actually receiving the cash.
A £400,000 advertising campaign for the station was doomed to failure, due to the confusion over its frequencies – those living outside of Dublin would not find the station even close to 100–102, if they could even find it at all, thanks to the poor coverage.
The station may be remembered for its variety of mainstream hits from the 70s and 80s along with slick production and its punchy jingles from JAM Creative Productions in Dallas. A daily 10-minute show Captain Kremmen from Kenny Everett is still fondly remembered. Unsuccessful attempts to acquire "big names" also made problems for the station. After their IR£1 million offer for Gay Byrne to move to them was turned down they tried unsuccessfully to poach several other RTÉ personalities, though they did secure the services of leading Radio 2 DJ Marty Whelan.
Century's sports service did earn many listeners, with Capital Gold's live football commentaries relayed on "Ireland's Scoreboard" on Saturday afternoons. Capital's two main commentators at the time, Jonathan Pearce and Steve Wilson, were to later feature on Match of the Day. Other notable sports coverage included live commentaries of Dundalk F.C.'s 1991-92 European Cup campaign, and in a major coup, Century were first to announce the starting line-ups for the 1990 All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals.
The State did a number of things to assist Century, including Ray Burke's imposition of a cap on the maximum amount of advertising RTÉ could carry. However, this just made it harder for Century to exist, as it reduced the rates RTÉ charged to carry advertising, which had the knock-on effect of reducing how much Century could charge. The Cap was not abolished until the Labour/Fine Gael Government came to power in the mid-1990s.
When Century finally closed, its franchise was left idle for 6 years, and then re-issued to Radio Ireland, who were allocated frequencies in the 100–102 MHz band from the start (except 105.5 in the North East of Ireland).
Presenters (from launch 1989)
- Marty Whelan
- Emer Woodful
- Liam Quigley
- Declan Meehan
- Mark Byrne
- Jim O' Neill
- Terry Wogan
- Flo Mc Sweeney
- PJ Curtis
- Sandy Harris
- Mahon Tribunal (Corrupt payments to obtain broadcasting license)