An unusual Talkshop article, we have readers around the world. There is a twist at the end, get bored of me, skip to the end.
“Radio Jackie is South West London’s original pirate radio station. The first broadcast was in March 1969 from a studio in Sutton and lasted for just 30 minutes. Within a short while Radio Jackie was on the air every Sunday giving a growing band of listeners their first taste of truly local radio. On 7 March 1972 a cassette recording of Radio Jackie was played in Parliament, during the committee stage of the Sound Broadcasting Bill, as an example of what local radio could be like.”
The end: Studio after radio regulatory authorities raid in 1985.
“Sadly, Radio Jackie was forced to close in February 1985 following a series of much publicised raids by the radio regulatory authorities. Hundreds of people filled the Radio Jackie studios and offices in Worcester Park for the emotional final programme. The station vowed then to continue campaigning for a local radio licence for South West London. However, the opportunity to return legally didn’t arise until 1996 when a new FM licence for South West London on 107.8MHz was advertised. Radio Jackie’s hopes of a return to the airwaves of South West London were dashed though, when the licence was awarded to another applicant: Thames Radio. So, it looked as though Radio Jackie would become simply a piece of British broadcasting history.”
A sad story.
Jackie is very alive and well today, a happy ending.
I’ll tell you some things then you can look at their web site which includes photo galleries from local news and events. You can also listen via streaming.
The station is small, local to south west London, part of the older real London. Commercial carry adverts and does a lot of charity work, so the flavor is low key intimate with the community, no suits here. I don’t know the station but given what I have heard it is at least partly aimed at people who grew up in the 60s, 70s and so on. This of course also sets the advertising target groups.
Way back when pirate radio was definitely illegal and frowned upon I was slightly involved, such as rebroadcasting in a minor way. Technical interest.
As fate has it a rule is you never know what job will come next, in the end I gave up even guessing, all techie stuff. I fell into professional audio (from automotive tools and radio). As lady luck went I ended up doing a lot of work with IBA (independent broadcast authority) which was the body set up overseeing non-BBC broadcasting in the UK. Novelties such as having equipment in every station. Needless to say many other broadcasters around the world had things done for them (BBC, CBS, NJK come to mind, many more), and recording studios. This was a very busy time yet I was still doing two jobs!
I never came across Jackie. ITN, ILRN, Capital yes but local in this sense I rarely dealt with them.
Things fizzled out as the world changed, eventually I moved on. Yes another crazy change.
What Jackie missed
In a way they were fortunate in skipping ~1985 to 2000 or so. This was the time of moving from analogue to eventually PC disk based stations. Painful and expensive. I wasn’t directly involved but the company was and I was right there.
Initially this involved a development with an American on specific manufacturer 286 PCs (Japanese), it gets stranger, this was Novell based. Very odd experience seeing someone build an operating system via modem (remember, not even sure it was 4800bps, discussions on how to force a an Atlantic cable connection, not the the longer delay satellite) from across the Atlantic over many hours.
With this went the best audio compression, professional from over here, plugin cards. A critical point here is what today is still a major problem, the idiot factor trying to do on the cheap. You can’t correctly do live radio broadcast and particularly television with audio which has a variable time delay and short: it must be exactly constant. Why? Noticed all the television lip synch troubles? Or try an on-air live chat, two way. (more I could say about this)
The other key is disks, and disks and huge… which is money but there is a twist here: two key factors to a layperson not obvious. Firstly is reliability, we discovered major problems by manufacturer, mtbf failure means what exactly? These things run continuously, many disks, you see 50k hour (5 years) failures but back then only HP really managed this. Secondly, some disks recalibrate, now if you are simultaneously recording and playing back multiple stereo streams, “hang on for a moment” is not acceptable live on air.
There is more. The real reason for all this is advertisements, news, jingles, music, the whole output of a station. Cuing up that lot is the display and keyboard near a DJ, further twists, the station might go out over multiple transmitters and identities carry different adverts, still not the end, the machine has to try and cue, pad and get all the break ends at the same moment.
Complex software and system? There is more… the content has to be put onto the system at the same time, someone else doing that. Almost endless complication.
Today a lot will have changed and prices plunged. Jackie had an escape.
I was surprised to see a wide choice on streaming formats, completely unlike the larger and straightjacket stations including the BBC, most now throw you at Adobe Flash. Also a little unusual is the sound quality, from what I’ve heard is kept sensible.
Twist for those interested in the Olympics this radio station is close enough to the venue and the area is hosting some events so this might be a way to get a local view, news, interviews, away from the mass media. (personally I do not have an interest in such events, is here for you, for that matter discuss the O. if you want)
If you like occasional snippets way off the usual fare, best speak up. Same if you don’t.
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