Stephen Williams and Radio Luxembourg
Roger Bickerton

Stephen was soon joined by John de Denghy, who had worked with the American Occupational Radio and later by Sgt. Geoffrey Everitt from the British Military Mission.

After the war, it wasn't difficult to get clients, as de Gaulle had enacted a law in France, preventing French stations from accepting radio advertising. You could on the private ones, like Radio Norrnandie, but not on the official ones.

Radio Luxembourg's signal was as good as any French station, demand was strong, so I had to come to an arrangement with a French firm that they more or less financed me for a period in exchange for a block of air time which they then sold.

The Exchange Control Regulations of 1947 made it almost impossible for a British advertiser to buy and pay for air time, unless a complex network of Companies were set up, one of which would have to be a Luxembourg Company, floated and operating in the UK, as this would be "gold­capitalised" and could transfer a reasonable amount of its earnings which its "gold capital" had achieved in the UK. All very complicated.

Well, the point was eventually reached, in 1948, when I had had to sell two - thirds of my air-time to the French under the arrangement I've already outlined and I felt that it wasn't worth carrying on with only one-third available to market, not to mention the EC Regulations, so I handed the whole thing over to Geoffrey Everitt, who managed it very well as EC Regulations were slowly relaxed - in fact, he was responsible for the whole '208' business". (208 metres was the RL wavelength - Ed)

Hard news about the immediate post-war period history of Radio Luxembourg is not easy to find. Whereas "Radio Pictorial" is a mine of information about its pre-war activities, early copies of "208" magazine are rare, as are copies of "Radio Review", an Irish weekly which carried programme details.

Recordings of programmes of that era are either non-existent, or extremely scarce.

Stephen showed me a letter he wrote in 1983 in answer to a query about his career in the late 1940s. He could remember only 4 sponsors :

  • William Hill (Bookmakers) Ltd., whose Sunday programmes in late 1946 or 1947 consisted of popular music from Billy Ternent's Orchestra, with guests (variety stars) plus racing news and information from well-known racing correspondents like Geoffrey Gilbey, who were flown over.

  • William Hill (Football) Ltd., with a late Saturday afternoon show, given over almost entirely to football and Pools news and comments. Its great feature was the British Football Results, phoned over from the UK and almost invariably broadcast minutes in advance of the BBC's Results service.

  • Zetters Pools, who took Sunday time to announce their dividends, offers, etc., filling in any gaps with gramophone records.

  • "Bringing Christ To The Nations" - an American pre-recorded religious programme, with popular hymns and sermons of the "get-down-on-your-knees-and-repent" kind.

    CLR, which still owned the station, was not interested in laying money out for English language programme­building. The result was that although listener correspondence showed the British audience to be growing, the limited standard of programme quality and output did not inspire most British advertisers or their Advertising Agents to take any serious interest. So Stephen once more returned to England, where for the second time, he was to pursue his broadcasting career with the BBC.

    My personal relationship with the BBC was still very good, so I saw both Michael Standing and Cecil Madden and was taken in once more to the Variety Department, and then for a brief spell in TV in 1950-51, which I hated. There was a lot of bother with the Unions.

    One of the programmes I produced was 'Picture Page', billed as a 'Topical Magazine' and broadcast on occasional Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.

    I soon made it clear that I wanted to return to sound broadcasting, and, through the goodwill of Kenneth Adam, Seymour de Lotbiniere, Charles MaxMuller and Frank Anderson, I returned to sound radio with the Outside Broadcast Department, thoroughly enjoying myself with a very varied selection of interesting OBs, ranging from general interest, musical, moderately dramatic, biographical, educational, pop music, contests, variety shows, people-to-people programmes like Down Your Way' to amateur talent competitions, instructional industrial features - indeed, any form of actuality which could be interpreted into a radio broadcast".

    Stephen was Senior Producer of Qutside Broadcasts for a while, but there was one programme which he produced for about 15 years from November, 1953, which underpinned all these activities and which, in its pomp, commanded very high levels of listener support.

    This was "HAVE A GO!"

    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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