Radio Jackie offices and Studios in Tolworth
After an absence of 18 years Radio Jackie has returned to the airwaves. The event being well publicised in the local press in South West London and Surrey. Before the enforced closure on May 5th 1985 the station was petitioning for a license, Jackie also being unable to secure the franchise for SW London in 1996 losing out to Thames Radio.
Earlier this year Radio Investments the previous owners of Thames FM the original franchise holder for SW London, sold the station to Dynavision owned by Kevin Stewart (DJ Tony Bond) for a nominal sum, the new company also, taking on Thames Radios considerable debts. Over the last six months much effort has been put into revitalising the station output, extending links with the local community, reducing costs and improving advertising sales.
The station sound (as Thames FM) has improved beyond all recognition since the take-over 6 months ago.
Visiting the station on 13th September 2003 Jackie presenter Geoff Rogers put me on the spot and asked me to describe the format “Bright, happy and reasonably fast paced” was my reply and I fortunately got this right.
Under the direction of Dave Owen (ex Radio Jackie / Radio Atlantis / Radio Caroline) the playlist has been dramatically overhauled by:
On my initial visit, Geoff Rogers was on air with Saturday Sport and Vanessa was producing news. The office was busy with the sports editor and a trainee working together and Lin Summers was updating community information. This is put onto cards and goes on a box next to the DJ. He/she then reads out about four an hour. The staff gave a good professional impression. Meanwhile, the studio walls had not been finished off, the floors were bare and there was also a lot of other work to do in preparation for the re-launch of Radio Jackie.
DJ Steve Mowbray
During the summer all number of presentation changes occurred, familiar names re-appearing such as Mike Knight, Pat Edison etc. For further information listen in or look at www.radiojackie.com. Following the re-launch this has settled down. Former Susy Radio man Steve Mowbray has receiving the 10am to 12 midday slot. Steve is a tall man “head and shoulders” above the rest and he said he’ll pinch that line from me! I understand that from a list of applicants for 10am to 2pm slot he and Angie were selected and job share (she follows from 12 midday) and presumably they share the money as well. Programme Controller Dave Owen runs drive-time and, as finances improve, presumably Steve or Angie would take-over this slot.
The new management has acted swiftly to reduce the stations high operational costs a relic of the original owners by moving the studio from Hampton (a really expensive area) to The Old Post Office 110-112 Tolworth Broadway, Tolworth. The studio move occurring in one weekend. Various favours were called and these also reduced both the cost of the move and installation. As the transmitter is literally across the road another major outlay has been axed.
The transmitter is mounted on top of the Tolworth Tower and you might be surprised to learn from discussion with Tony Collis the aerial is mounted on just a 6ft pole due to local authority restrictions. Jackie has applied for this to be substantially raised and await a response from the planning authorities.
The station was given permission by the Radio Authority to increase power from 80w vertical / 20w horizontal polarisation to100w vertical and horizontal polarisation effectively a 100% increase in power. The main and secondary service area is now very much improved Tony Collis advising “A far less patchy signal in the east” and also the south. One benefit of the increased field strength is having the bonus of reducing “splatter” from adjacent pirate stations.
At the time of the launch Geoff Rogers advised that, as an experiment, the audio processing varies – punchier at breakfast and drive-time. When it’s being driven hard this can sound harsh and may be further looked at and perhaps softened.
With approval for a name change received from the Radio Authority a date was pencilled in for the re-launch on Sunday 19th October. The last morning of Thames was a low key affair and around 11.49 am the Jackie theme started to play, followed by Dusty Springfield’s Going Back being the last track played on Radio Jackie 227 in 1985. Dave Owen who made the last announcement had the pleasure of re-opening the station.
Visiting the studio on Mondays’ Open Day I was greeted by Stuart Vaughn (ex DJ Mark Ellis). In discussion he advised the re-mastered and digitally cleaned up Jackie jingles, sweepers and theme were delivered at 7pm on the Friday evening and “this was cutting it a bit fine.” Trying to tell who was a current employee and who was an old hand was very difficult staff wore casual wear or suits and others wore clothing with new RJ logos on.
According to information provided, during the last six months the new management have tripled the audience and quadrupled the hours people spent listening. The station has a lot of commercials but one does wonder how many are at a discounted rate bearing in mind the previous state of Thames FM.
I spoke to Tony Collis and asked is resurrecting Radio Jackie a good idea? Re-launching a brand after five or even ten years maybe, but after eighteen? This solicited a precise response being that listeners from late seventies / early eighties would then have been aged from around fifteen to mid-thirties. These would be aged between 35 and 55 now and are the main target audience - so it’s all down to listener demographics.
I hit Peter Streems with a couple of awkward questions too. He has given up his job at Sky and is exclusively devoted to Radio Jackie in his new rôle. I enquired as to how they would keep Jackie in public view, as some stations such as Mean Country have a very low media profile Peter adding also the now gone Liberty Radio. Peter advised that Radio Jackie aims to work within the community and believes they can gain a lot of free publicity this way. They also have a deal sponsoring AFC Wimbledon. Asking, if they had any alternative strategies to get the message across for example advertising on buses or the Croydon Tramway Peter stated the latter was outside the service area but they might look at local buses. Thoughtfully posing the question that Jackie’s main problem was the frequency at the top of the band and it could be hard to get people to tune above 106.2 Peter considered that the hardest job was they were in the most competitive market in the UK.
On the open day a number of high profile guests were visiting the station including three local mayors. From the radio world I had a brief chat with the distinctive voice of David Jacobs (still producing programmes for BBC Radio 2). He retains the role of Company Chairman which he held with Thames Radio and asking him what his rôle entailed quote “Coming to events such as this”. A very pleasant man to talk to but I reckon he actually had me sussed. An astute man I am told. Pete Murray also arrived producing a trail in support of the station whilst I was there. Lastly Mike Hayes (Susy Radio and original ’69 Jackie crew) also made an appearance.
It is a pleasure to have “The sound of south west London” returning and wish Radio Jackie good luck on 107.8 FM
This article is a slightly revised version of the November 2003 edition
of the SAS Home Pages.
Chairman David Jacobs