Stephen Williams and Radio Luxembourg
Roger Bickerton

For example, in October, 1936, Cadbury's found that letters from listeners to its Sunday evening programme dropped from 25,000 to 10,000 when the BBC transmitted Light Entertainment on the same evening. By that time, RL was charging 400 for a l-hour programme between 1300 and 2300 hrs, in addition to costs for preparation of programmes, copyright and transit to Luxembourg.

There was no question of land lines being supplied to RL. Although Nichols' book states that RL, through the IBC, sought permission from the GPO for landline facilities to enable the broadcast of Edward VIII's accession speech in February, 1936, Stephen said that this was not so and that possibly IBC sought this for its Normandie station.

The BBC's concern about RL's continuing popularity was fuelled by the discovery that most American artists who came to visit the UK worked primarily for RL. Its continuing protests to the Luxembourg Government had no effect and in late 1937, the BBC threw in the towel.

The 1938 Cairo World Telecommunications Conference led to a reappraisal of policy towards RL, because of its proven commercial success and the increasing threat from Nazi Germany. In September, 1938, the unprecedented step was taken of providing RL with special recordings of Chamberlain's speech on the Munich crisis and the BBC gave help with the rebroadcasting of other speeches by Chamberlain in December 1938 and March 1939.

This was at the instigation of Downing Street and the Foreign Office which recognised that a continental and neutral transmitter could prove useful in counteracting German propaganda throughout Europe.

As stated earlier, Stephen Williams, by mid - 1935, had ensured solid foundations underpinned RL. He had a well-matched team supporting the still-growing business. A wide range of sponsors booked up every Sunday and used the weekdays as a sort of "waiting room" until Sunday space became available. There were Department Stores, Building Products, Dog Biscuits, Cosmetics, Cars, Tourist Attractions, Ladies & Gents' Clothing, Pianos, etc. Also, one of the first washing machines - the "Jiffy".

One announcement should have come out as "Husbands, don't let the washing kill your wife - let Jiffy do the hard work for you". Perhaps, not unsurprisingly, the announcer managed to tangle this up as follows, to the annoyance of the sponsor : "Husbands, don't kill your wife with washing - let Jiffy do it for you".

On another not-to-be-forgotten occasion, after a programme sponsored by Parsley Brand products over-ran, a record entitled "Mrs. Looseborough-Goodbye" by John Tilley was played. This was a sardonic "thank-you" to her for a disastrous house party, and contained the line: "Thanks for the ptomaine I got from your famous tinned salmon", which was unfortunate, as Parsley Brand's main line was, of course, tinned salmon! Stephen had to use all his diplomatic skills here, as one comic client of Parsley 'phoned in his regular order for "another case of your ptomaine".

One of the first radio advertising "jingles" (if not the first) was written for Chef Products by Annette Mills (later of "Muffin The Mule" fame) to promote its Betox cubes and the Betox March became as famous as the slogan "gives a meal man appeal" did for Oxo much later.

"Hurrah for Betox, what a delightful smell,
The stuff that every self-respecting grocer has to sell,
The price is right, it's cook's delight, how easily it's made,
So join the happy family of the Betox brigade"

Radio and other personalities also appeared on air to endorse certain products - for example, Gillie Potter is heard extolling the virtues of the Marconiphone and an easy payment system "only 16 shillings and sixpence down".

However, it was during 1936 that Stephen's career changed direction. Up to early 1936, the method of obtaining RL's advertising revenues had not been handled by Captain Plugge's International Broadcasting Corporation, as relations between the IBC and Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Rediffusion (CLR), which owned the station, had been frosty, to say the least.

Radio Publicity (London) Limited # was aware of this, but the sales Manager of the associate Company, Radio Publicity (Universal) Limited, was not. The result was that RP(U) and the IBC came to an arrangement whereby RL's spare time on early Sunday morning or occasionally on weekdays, could be made available to clients of IBC.

# - This was the English language concession Company, of which Stephen was "Directeur-General".

previous page / next page

1:Early life and a first radio set
2:The yacht 'Ceto', Lord Northcliffe and the Daily Mail
3:An early transmitter in Luxembourg
4:Radio Normandy and a Persian Princess
5:Plans for the Luxembourg transmitter
6:Delegated to the new Radio Luxembourg
7:Williams takes charge
8:Recording audio on film, and the Philips recording system
9:Signing up Christopher Stone
10:Football Pools advertizing, 1930s
11:Advertizing anecdotes and pre-war strategy
12:Radio politics, and WW2 begins
13:Stephen Williams joins ENSA as Broadcasting Officer
14:Messages from soldiers: Two-Way Family Favourites
15:More wartime work for ENSA and the BBC
16:War ends; Williams returns to Radio Luxembourg
17:Back to the BBC
18:The hazards of 'Have A Go!'
19:Twilight years at the BBC
20:Awards and retirement


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