The History of Atlantic 252

The story of Atlantic 252 began in August 1986 when Irish State broadcaster RTÉ announced plans to use their allocated Long Wave channel for a new pop music station. Partnering with Radio Luxembourg, they formed Radio Tara, the trading name for Atlantic 252.

Despite protests from farmers and residents, RTÉ built a 1000ft broadcast mast in Clarkestown, County Meath, two years later. Studios were established in Mornington House, in the nearby village of Trim. The setup cost £6 million and allowed the station to broadcast to most of the UK and Ireland, reaching an audience of over 47 million people.

On September 1st, 1989, Gary King became the first voice heard on Atlantic 252. He introduced the presenter lineup, which included former Laser 558 presenters such as Charlie Wolf, MaryEllen O’Brien, and Andrew Turner. At that time, there were no national commercial radio stations in the UK.

Initially, Atlantic 252 broadcasted until 7 pm, advising listeners to switch to its sister station, Radio Luxembourg, after that time. Eventually, overnight programming was introduced. Before the days of automation, the station employed “SPINNERS” or Technical Operators to play songs and adverts without presenting. These operators continued to “babysit” the automation systems once they were introduced.

The station’s music format consisted of high-rotation mainstream pop and rock music, heavily influenced by American radio. It quickly became popular, especially in the mid-nineties, drawing in over four million listeners at its peak.

Both Commercial Radio and the BBC initially objected to Atlantic 252, viewing it as a commercial pirate. However, as UK commercial radio developed and more stations launched due to deregulation, similar formats appeared on FM, offering superior audio quality. This led to a decline in Atlantic 252’s audience. Repositioning attempts followed, including a phase branded as “Real Music Real Radio,” targeting Radio 1’s “new music” format.

In 1999, new studios were established at 74 Newman Street, London, in the basement of CLT UK Radio Sales’ offices. These studios included one on-air studio and two production suites, initially used for the Mark Brow breakfast show and other specialist programming, which was then sent to Trim for later broadcast.

After the station’s relaunch as The New Atlantic 252, the London studio remained empty for a few months until Drivetime Presenter Simon Hardwick moved in April 2000. A digital line connected the London and Ireland studios, allowing real-time monitoring of the station’s output, as the longwave signal was not receivable in Central London!

A brief resurgence occurred in early 2000 when the station was repositioned to play rhythmic hits under John O’Hara’s direction, temporarily halting its decline. However, the station’s fate was sealed as CLT (now RTL), which owned 80% of Atlantic 252, decided to exit the UK Radio market. Eventually, the station was sold.

Team Talk 252, run by the operators of a sports news website of the same name, replaced Atlantic 252. However, this venture was short-lived, and after a few months, the frequency was handed back to RTÉ.

This is just a brief history of Atlantic 252. There are many more stories to tell. Can you help? Use our contribution page to add your side of the story, and check back soon for updates.