Putting a clamp on TJ-FM

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The Independent Online
THE first weekend of broadcasting for the new commercial radio station Traffic Jam FM proved something of a mixed experience, said the station's spokesman, Adrian Wardour-Street.

'On the one hand,' he told me exclusively, 'it was a sensational debut for Britain's youngest and brightest radio station, proving once and for all what a crying need there has been for a 24-hour-a-day, motorist-only broadcasting service. TJ-FM is definitely on the road]'

And on the other hand?

'On the other hand, there is the somewhat negative aspect that the station has temporarily been closed down by the authorities. But let's not look on the dark side. Let's consider first the plus points of our achievement - and a very considerable achievement I think you'll agree it has been. For instance, it's the first time that any radio station has restricted its phone-in programmes to car-phone users, the first time anyone has staged an on-air Win-a-Central-London- parking-space competition, the first time motorists have been offered advice on how to simulate a burglary . . .'

Why would anyone want to simulate a burglary?

'To prevent burglars breaking into your car, of course. If a car thief thinks a car has already been broken into, he won't bother. So the obvious thing to do is to make the car look as if it's been done over already.'

And how do you do that?

'Well, you should be listening to TJ-FM if you really want to know. But I can tell you that it involves quite a lot of mess, some slashed upholstery and a ripped-out radio.'

Do you really have to rip your upholstery every time you leave your car behind?

'Not necessarily. We are doing a special line in seat covering that looks as if it has been ripped - Rip-Alike, it's called - and you just Velcro it on the seat when you leave. The offer has already been oversubscribed. And we're working on another camouflage device to deter tyre-slashers - something you stick on tyres to give them that slashed look] Unfortunately, we're having technical hiccups with that one.'

What sort of hiccups?

'With deflation simulation.'

With what?

'Well, there isn't much point making a tyre look slashed if the tyre is still fully inflated. It tends to undermine the effect. And we haven't yet found a good way of making a fully blown-up tyre look deflated.'

What other features have proved popular on TJ-FM?

'Oh, they've all proved popular] But the ones that have taken off best are Slip Road, our motorway service-area whistle- blowing programme, and our Name-That-Little-Chef] contest, in which listeners have to spot regional culinary variations between different Little Chefs, which is harder than it sounds. The one programme that, frankly, I never thought would get any figures at all is our Singalong Hour, in which drivers are invited to do their karaoke practice in the privacy of their car while we play the backing tracks. But we have had praise from all over on that one, so obviously there was a demand for it.

'Actually, our biggest success was the one that has sadly led to our temporary setback, namely and to wit our Clampergram service.'

And what is a Clampergram?

'Well, we said that for a fee we would arrange for anyone's car to be clamped - someone who had just carved you up on the motorway, perhaps, or someone who perpetually parked in your space - someone, at all events, who deserved it. But we fell foul of the law here, because we were not entirely aware that it is well and truly against the law to affix a clamp to anyone's car unless you have the authority to do so.'

Even an imitation one? Or a joke one?

'Them included. So the authorities have asked us to pull over to the hard shoulder and switch our engine off for a week, as you might say.'

So what will you be broadcasting for the seven days during which you are off the road?

'We'll be going back to the test transmission with which we had such enormous success before going on air. Just plain traffic noise. People loved it. It turned out that with their windows up, most drivers can't hear neighbouring traffic noise and miss it dreadfully. So for the next seven days you can get all the car sounds you want on TJ- FM. No need to suffer withdrawal symptoms, listeners]'

(Traffic Jam FM will be back next Sunday on 92-107 FM).