Non-stop jammin' on the radio

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The Independent Online
OUT OF all the exciting new-look commercial radio stations opening this week perhaps the most exciting and new-look is Traffic Jam FM. This dynamic new service is said to be the first 24-hour radio station anywhere in the world entirely devoted to traffic conditions on the road.

'And conditions off the road as well]' cracks mediaman Adrian Wardour-Street, the station's new head. 'Don't forget that at any one time, more than half the cars in Britain are actually off the road, whether in the garage at home, being repaired, or parked while the owner goes off shopping or working. That's a staggering quantity of vehicles, and a market that has hardly begun to be tapped.'

But surely a parked car is almost always an empty car, and therefore will not have a radio listener in it?

'That's possibly true at the moment. But we are going to change all that. Traffic Jam FM is just going to be so good that we foresee people preferring to stay in their cars at their journey's end and go on listening]'

What kind of programme output will you provide?

'You mean, how are we targeting our listenership profile?' says Adrian, almost as if he cannot understand a question unless he has translated it for himself into media-talk. 'Well, we are going to be telling people on the road what's happening on the road.

'It's a subject of vital concern to people. Don't forget that more than half the people in Britain, including the wealthiest and most influential, go in a vehicle every day. People want to know what's ahead of them. When the trip is over they want to know what happened, and to compare notes. Don't forget that 35 per cent of the average British conversation is concerned with cars in some form or other. Now they've got someone to touch base with. Us.'

But surely a non-stop service of bulletins about motorway conditions, most of which will never concern you, is going to be a turn-off?

'You mean, a purely vehicle-oriented database would bring diminishing returns?' muses Adrian. 'That would be true, if that were what we were providing. But this is going to be roadway radio with a difference. For a start, we're going to have reporters out there actually in the traffic jams, talking to people trapped alongside them, relaying messages to their loved ones and playing request records.

'We're going to act as a clearing house for messages to reach people caught in pile-ups and tailbacks. Traffic Jam FM may be the only way for some people to reach their loved ones. And of course we are going to ask listeners to phone in with news of any hold-up that may have escaped our notice.

'At quieter periods of the day, we're going to get more thoughtful. We are going to offer historical documentaries on great traffic jams of the past, like the ones that regularly brought horse-drawn London to a standstill. We're going to have a classical music corner . . .'

Excuse me, but what is the connection between classical music and road traffic?

'Oh, come now - how often have you read that Mozart or some other great composer was held up endlessly on the road to Prague or Paris, and wondered just what road conditions were like in those days? Well, we'll be having regular updates on those historic traffic snarl-ups.

'There'll be world news, too, but always from the motorist's angle. Traffic newsflashes from Bosnia, trouble spots to avoid in Somalia and so on. But it will be a fun station, too, with lots of competitions and prizes]'

Oh, come on - all radio stations have competitions and prizes these days.

'Not like the ones we're offering. For instance, you know when you're caught in an inexplicable jam on the M6, and when it clears and you go through you can see no reason for the tailback - no roadworks, no crash or anything? Well, we're going to get listeners to phone in their solutions to the problem, and the correct answer will win a big prize - maybe a chance to go out with a cone- laying vehicle on the M6.

'We'll ask them to guess how many cones there are in toto on the M1. We'll offer prizes for the most useless B road, the most time-wasting short cut in Britain, and so on and so forth. These are the things that people talk about non-stop in bars and homes. Now there's someone to talk about it for them]'

If what he says is true, then Traffic Jam FM sounds like a good spot on the dial to avoid.