Jack F M

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Jack F M's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Jack F M is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Chairman Donnach O’Driscoll
JACK at annual Round
Table Fireworks
The team at the radio group JACK in Oxfordshire have
been at the forefront of innovation within the commercial
radio sector since the company’s inception in 2006.
They have a portfolio of five distinct stations, spanning both
local and national platforms. With the launch of another
groundbreaking national service, JACK Radio, they remain
committed to creating new formats within the industry.
Chairman Donnach O’Driscoll explains their remarkable rise
andtheir plans going forward.
After working in the media industry for a number of years, we decided to establish
JACK FM in 2006 to regain the creative control we had lost while working in
larger corporate environments. We felt that we had more to contribute than
maintaining the status quo. The key motivation for the creation of our company
was innovation. As the company is entirely funded by ourselves, we are able to
retain 100 per cent control and freedom. We are always seeking to innovate,
and we see ourselves as a challenger brand, always looking to offer new formats
We are one of the very few independent radio groups to have both a local and a
national presence. Having launched our first local station in Oxford in 2007, we
remain committed to our Oxfordshire heritage. Today, with three local stations in
Oxfordshire and two national stations, we are one of the only national radio groups
to be based outside London or Manchester, emphasising our dual commitment to
our local and national ambitions.
»Chairman: Donnach O’Driscoll
»Established in 2006
»Based in Oxford
»Services: Commercial radio
»No. of employees: 20
Jack FM
Highlighting best practice
36 | JACK FM
Putting our mark on Absolute
Our team have created two of the
most exciting brands in commercial
radio. Firstly, in 2008, we purchased
the old Virgin Radio with the backing
of Times of India. Rather than
continuing to develop someone else’s
brand, we created Absolute Radio.
Most people said that Absolute would
never succeed, given the crowded
media market we were launching into
just as the financial crisis hit. In the six
years that we ran Absolute Radio, we
made it into one of the most successful
brands in the country. We made
Frank Skinner and Ronnie Wood into
household names as radio presenters,
and Absolute became known for being
the most digitally advanced brand in
commercial radio. Today, Absolute is
regarded as being the most innovative
brand to launch in national commercial
radio in the past 25 years.
Our ownership of the JACK brand tells
a similar story. Originally founded as a
North American format with over 50
branded stations in the US, there are
JACK stations in significant markets
such as Los Angeles and Dallas. We
consequently anglicised the brand and
became the first group to bring JACK
out of the US.
Succeeding without presenters
We launched in October 2007. Just
as with Absolute Radio, JACK was a
revolutionary step forward in the UK
market. Unlike most other commercial
radio stations, JACK does not have live
presenters. Apart from a live breakfast
show that runs from six o’clock to nine
o’clock, we invest in the best creative
writers for our stations. When we
launched, our peers and competitors
looked at us in disbelief, convinced
that we were guaranteed to fail. A
decade later, we now have 250,000
weekly listeners, and JACK is now the
biggest brand in Oxfordshire.
Our initial consultations with focus
groups produced a clear message:
If we were to succeed without live
presenters, we would have to offer the
best selections of music and comedy.
To achieve this, we hired a team of
local comic writers to present local and
national information in an amusing
way. The success of our five stations is
testament to the quality of the model.
In September 2016, we decided to
bring the brand onto the national
stage. This led to the creation of Union
JACK Radio. Union JACK solely plays
the best of British music and comedy
from both national and local artists.
JACK FM’s Brick awards
for the trade industry
We are always
seeking to
innovate and
we see
ourselves as a
Considering that these are two of our
most iconic creative industries, we
were surprised that no one had done
this before. Not only does this provide
a valuable market niche but it also
serves as a platform to showcase the
best of upcoming British talent.
As well as having no presenters, Union
JACK does not have a playlist. Instead,
all of its music is chosen by our listeners.
We are able to do this through our
Union JACK app, where listeners vote
songs up or down according to which
songs they want to play. The song with
the most votes is played. This innovation
has proved so successful that in two
years, we have received over 16 million
votes. We are the only national radio
station to allow our listeners to choose
all the music, in clear contrast to the
rest of the UK radio industry, which is
heavily researched and formatted.
On October 23, 2018, we unveiled
a world-first radio format with the
launch of JACK Radio across the UK
on DAB. A radio station playing only
female artists, JACK Radio provides a
platform for women in music, from
the female stars of the past through to
new and emerging female talent. We
believe that it’s time that these women
had their own radio station – and we
have conducted extensive research that
supports this proposition. At its core,
JACK Radio is a showcase of women
– firstly in music, but ultimately in
comedy and sport too.
Character of service and
restrictive legislation
One of the greatest legislative
challenges we face is Ofcom’s character
of service policy. Put simply, to gain a
licence from Ofcom, you must adopt
a particular style of output. Once
licensed, you must remain producing
the same genre of content. We have
been pushing to change this restrictive
legislation both individually and as
part of Radiocentre. In a commercially
competitive environment, it is essential
that we are in control of our output
and can make changes to our formats
that may increase our profitability. This
policy is now being re-evaluated by
the government, and we are confident
that it will be softened soon.
The other major issue that affects
us is the transition from FM to DAB.
Currently, 40 per cent of our total
expenditure is spent on paying for dual
transmission on both of these channels
and we look forward to an eventual
complete switch over to DAB.
Despite the increased prominence of
online streaming services, radio has
never been in a healthier position.
Audiences are higher than ever, as
are revenues in the commercial radio
sector. We are confident that the new
JACK Radio will create a huge amount
of international attention and keep us
at the forefront of innovation within
the sector.
Trevor Marshall, Jack
Oxford’s breakfast
presenter. On June
21, we broadcast for
27 hours and travelled
Oxfordshire giving out
2018 free ice creams
We are the
only national
radio station
to allow our
listeners to
choose all the


This article was sponsored by Jack F M. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister