JACK FM is a radio station branding licensed by Sparknet Communications to 44 media markets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia. Stations adopting this branding play a mix of 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s hits with some current hot adult contemporary singles.
Jack's slogan "playing what we want" can also be considered as more of a motto or philosophy of their programming. They promote themselves as having a larger and more varied playlist than other commercial radio stations. It is not unusual for a Jack FM station to have a playlist of over 1000 songs compared to normal FM stations which sometimes have playlists of fewer than 500 songs. The format has been likened to "...an MP3/iPod set on shuffle." The stations are officially classified as the Variety Hits or Adult Hits format by radio research companies.
History and timeline
One of the early originators of this format was radio programmer Bob Perry, on an American Internet radio stream in 2000. Perry named the station after a fictitious persona, "Cadillac Jack" Garrett, "a hard-living radio cowboy." The back story created by Perry for the original web stream was that Garrett, a DJ who had worked many "big sticks," finally got his own radio station and after years of being told what he was to play on-air was creating a station where the motto was "playing what we want." However, according to Rogers Communications, the only thing taken, without permission, for the first Jack FM radio station, in Vancouver, was the name and the tagline. Pat Cardinal, one of the first JACK Program Directors, says that he was unaware of the type of music on the American website and that "JACK" was one of several names that were considered for the format. Rogers Communications came to an agreement with Perry for the use of the Jack FM name in Canada soon after the launch.
Jack was also inspired by the success of CHUM Limited's "Bob FM" brand on CFWM radio in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Program director Howard Kroeger was inspired to create Bob FM after hearing a mix tape at a friend's 40th birthday party. Other Canadian broadcasters copied the concept as well, adopting such brands as Corus Entertainment's "Dave FM" and "Joe FM". In 2003, an Ottawa station launched "Frank FM" as a one-day Halloween prank. (The prank's name was possibly also inspired by the Canadian satirical magazine Frank.)
Beginning in late 2002, the format was adopted on Canadian radio stations owned by Rogers Communications. The first Jack station was Vancouver's CKLG-FM, which quickly shot to the top of the city's BBM radio ratings. The format was consequently adopted on other Rogers stations in 2002 and 2003. The format proved popular in many markets where it was introduced, although its success was not always as dramatic as it had been in Vancouver.
In 2004, SparkNet Communications, the owner of the Jack FM and "Playing What We Want" trademarks outside of Canada, started to license Jack FM's in the United States. NRC Broadcasting's KJAC 105.5 in Denver, Colorado was the first U.S. station to become "Jack FM" on April 14, 2004. The success of Jack caused a cloning effect, with some stations using the names of famous locals to promote their version of the format, such as WABZ "Abe FM" in Springfield, Illinois, named for Abraham Lincoln, WBEN-FM "Ben FM" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, named for Benjamin Franklin, "100.5 FM Louie" in Louisville, Kentucky, "Doug-FM 93.1" WDRQ in Detroit, Michigan, "96.7 Steve FM" WLTY in Columbia, South Carolina, named after current University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier, or "The Chief 92.5 FM" in Champaign, Illinois, named for the controversial symbol of the University of Illinois, Chief Illiniwek, or local symbols like WARH in St. Louis (licensed to Granite City, IL), known as "106.5, The Arch".
On Wednesday, May 4, 2005, at 11 AM, WQSR, an oldies station in Towson, Maryland which targeted Baltimore area listeners, changed its format from oldies to Jack FM. Listeners and staffers alike were surprised by the sudden change because many long-time DJs and on-air personalities were considered almost a Baltimore institution. WQSR received a large amount of negative publicity regarding their format change. Popular former WQSR personality Steve Rouse has since resurfaced as the new morning show host at sister station, the Soft AC-formatted WLIF.
Not long after, on Friday, June 3, 2005, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, WCBS-FM, the oldies station in New York City, switched to Jack FM without any prior warning. The switch to a more generic format has been termed The Day the Music Died by some New Yorkers and has drawn criticism even from non-listeners of the station, particularly due to the sudden firing of DJs of historic renown such as Cousin Brucie. In a partial nod to this controversy, on June 14, 2005, it was announced that the station would be unique among those with the Jack format in that it would occasionally include 1950s and early 1960s songs in its rotation as well as songs by performers like Frank Sinatra that are normally not part of the Jack format, though a later Web update retracted this and songs from before the late 1960s were no longer played.
The change in New York generated the most negative publicity of any market that switched a station to the Jack format, including a derogatory comment by the mayor himself. According to the New York Post, mayor Michael Bloomberg responded to the change by declaring he would "never listen to that fu**ing CBS radio ever again", which the new Jack station picked up on, making jokes about his quip. ("Hey, Mayor Bloomberg. I heard you took a shot at us in The Post. What's with all the swearin' like a sailor? Fleet week is over. It's just music.") Initially, Arbitron ratings showed a sharp decline and while ratings did recover, they never surpassed the levels that WCBS-FM had before the format switch.
As a result, on July 6, 2007, WCBS-FM announced it would be switching its Jack format back to "Classic Hits" on July 12, a move attributed mostly to the newly appointed CBS Radio CEO Dan Mason. Three of the fired DJs and staff (Dan Taylor, Bob Shannon, and Mr. G) returned to the station, along with newsman Al Meredith (who had stayed at the station during Jack FM doing his Sunday morning public affairs show), as well as DJ Pat St. John who had previously left CBS-FM for Q104.3 about a year before the flip to Jack. Steve O'Brien a weekend and fill in DJ's at time if the format change would also return in a similar capacity in 2008. However, the Jack FM format now renamed ToNY is still available through WCBS-FM's HD2 subchannel, and via an internet stream at www.1011hd2.com.
On the same day that WCBS-FM made the switch, another station owned by CBS, 104.3 WJMK, an oldies station in Chicago, Illinois, changed format to 104.3 Jack FM as well. The change at WJMK didn't attract as much attention as the change to WCBS, but it still drew the ire of its listeners. The oldies format has since returned to the Chicago airwaves with the introduction of WZZN (94.7 FM; now WLS-FM).
On July 5, 2005, it was announced that Bohn & Associates Media and Wall Media formed SparkNet Communications L.P. as the exclusive International licensor and owner of the Jack FM format. SparkNet has, in turn, licensed the format to Dial Global for satellite-based syndication to stations in U.S. markets outside the 40 largest. This satellite-fed Jack became active in October 2005, and now serves many of the smaller Jack stations, such as Evansville and Knoxville.
All Jack FM stations in the United States and Canada use Howard Cogan as the "voice" of Jack, while all Jack FM stations in the United Kingdom use former Blake's 7 actor Paul Darrow as the "voice" of Jack.
Stations using the "Jack" name are very strictly licensed by SparkNet. There are several terms that the station must agree to, one of them being the fact that disc jockeys are not to be used for at least the first few months of the format, among other things. SparkNet has also been very protective of its format, unsuccessfully filing suit against Bonneville International for its use of the Jack FM "Playing What We Want" trademark and other phrases said to infringe. For this reason, many stations using a Jack-like format use slightly different slogans to avoid infringing on SparkNet's service marks: BEN in Philadelphia uses the tagline "playing anything we feel like", for instance. WDRQ in Detroit uses the line "93.1 DOUG FM - We Play..EVERYTHING!"
In late September 2005, CJAQ-FM in Toronto, Ontario announced that it would become the first DJ-free station in Canada. Pat Cardinal, general manager and program director of the station, announced that "The move came as a result of listener feedback." "The audience has been telling us that they want no DJs on Jack. They want more music." When it first launched - 92.5 Jack FM operated without disc jockeys in an effort to establish the "Playing What We Want" concept which was new to Toronto. DJs were introduced within weeks. In November 2005, Cardinal defended his decision in an interview with Michael Hainsworth of Report on Business Television and stated why he doesn't see commercial-free iPods and satellite radio as a threat to a non-DJ format.
In mid-October 2005, Entravison Radio launched a Spanish-language version of the Jack format dubbed "José" with the "We Play What We Want" tagline translated into Spanish as "Toca lo que Quiere." "José" went live on six FM and AM stations in Sacramento, Stockton, and Modesto, California, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Denver, Colorado. Currently, "José" stations have no affiliation with Jack, SparkNet Communications or Bob Perry.
On October 25, 2005, Infinity Broadcasting announced that it would be replacing Howard Stern with Jack FM on some of its stations. Stern left terrestrial radio for Sirius Satellite Radio in late 2005.
In mid-May 2006, the playlist of CJAQ-FM in Toronto, Ontario evolved into a classic rock format. The 1980s Top 40 acts such as Madonna, Duran Duran, Kim Wilde, Cyndi Lauper, Falco etc. have been dropped in favor of an all-rock format, and the station's slogan has changed to "Toronto's Best Rock Variety."
In September 2006, Rawlco-owned CKCK-FM (the only non-Rogers operated Jack FM station) changed its slogan from the traditional "Playing What We Want" to "The Greatest Rock Of All Time" and added announcers to their afternoon drive show. This station also follows the "classic rock" format, similar to CJAQ-FM in Toronto.
In October 2006, the UK's first Jack FM format station won a broadcast licence for the Oxford area. 106 Jack FM Oxford started broadcasting at 1:06 PM BST on 18 October 2007. On 2 December 2009, Bristol radio station Original FM changed to Jack FM after requesting a format change with OFCOM. Two further Jack FM stations were planned on DAB digital radio from 2008 for Northamptonshire and Northeast Wales and West Cheshire but by August 2009 were a year late with no indication of an ETA. In addition the Oxfordshire Jack was to have been relayed to a wider area. RadioToday has reported The Coast (radio station) will flip to become JACK FM on July 4, 2011
In January 2007, KAJR in the Coachella Valley, California launched as a "Jack FM" affiliate in a region unable to receive the KCBS-FM signal from Los Angeles, 100 miles to the West. KAJR is no longer "Jack FM" and now airs a soft AC music format branded as "The Oasis" as of February 1, 2010.
On October 22, 2007 WJMK in Chicago announced that radio personality Steve Dahl would be morning drive personality as of November 5, the first personality on the station since it went to the Jack format. In March 2011, WJMK dropped the Jack format and is now known as "K-Hits" with a similar format of 1960s-1970s-1980s classic hits. Eddie & Jobo (Ed Volkman and Joe Bohannon, former morning hosts at WBBM-FM) now do the morning show.
From 2007 to present, many Jack FM stations were added in cities in the United States, while some Jack stations changed to other radio formats, e.g.: CJAQ in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. On June 29, 2012, it was announced that KJQN in Salt Lake City would drop the "Jack FM" format on July 16, 2012 and begin to simulcast the talk radio format of KLO. (http://www.radio-info.com/news/salt-lake-city-standalone-klo-1430-buys-kjqn-fm-1031), picking up up the call letters KLO-FM.
On August 2, 2013, the Jack FM station in San Diego, CA decided to restrict their online radio streaming to just the city of San Diego. This move by the program director caused the ire of fans who live outside the city limits. including the large US Military personnel stationed overseas. The program director, Mike O'Reilly, characterized this move as "Our radio industry is continually adapting to changing metrics, which are sometimes out of our control within our competitive landscape. I understand your frustration and I can assure you this decision to restrict our streaming efforts to San Diego was based on multiple factors including the licensing issues outlined on our website. In addition, radio stations that do not 100% simulcast their signals online are essentially competing with themselves. Technically they are considered two separate radio stations in the way they are rated. By restricting our signal to San Diego only, our online stream and our air signal at 100.7FM will be considered one unified station." The station achieved this effect by restricting the signal based on the mobile phone's IP address. However, fans within the city of San Diego were prevented from hearing the station as well. In addition to this move, the station will be charging for their local morning radio show via podcast in September, 2013.
Jack FM stations
|Regina, Saskatchewan||CKCK||94.5 FM||only Jack FM station in Canada not owned by Rogers Media|
|Smiths Falls, Ontario||CJET||92.3 FM||serves Ottawa market|
|Vancouver, British Columbia||CKLG||96.9 FM|
|Victoria, British Columbia||CHTT||103.1 FM|
|Calgary, Alberta||CJAQ||96.9 FM|
|Dartmouth, Nova Scotia||CFLT||92.9 FM|
|Toronto, Ontario||CJAQ||92.5 FM||Became top 40 CKIS-FM (Kiss 92.5) in June 2009, although it was a mainstream rock station from 2006-2009.|
|Barrie, Ontario||CICX||105.9 FM||Became country in 2008.|
In the UK, the Jack FM stations are licensed to OXIS Media who manage the brand. The stations are individually run by Passion Radio (Oxford), Madejski Communications Limited or Celador.
A portal to access the sites is available at http://www.jackfm.co.uk
- Oxford, Oxfordshire – 106 Jack FM and Jack FM 2 (launched in August 2013).
- Bristol – 106 Jack FM launched at 6:00 am 2 December 2009 with no prior warning, following a staged on-air argument and station hijacking of Original 106.5 the previous day.
- Hampshire – 106 Jack FM (South Coast) - (previously The Coast 106) launched on July 4, 2011
- Swindon, Wiltshire – Jack FM Swindon - (previously More Radio) launched at 06:00hrs on 28 May 2012
- Reading – 107 JACK fm (Berkshire) - (previously Reading 107) launched on 2 March 2014, the same day as the Reading Half Marathon.
- Hertfordshire - 106 JACK fm (Hertfordshire), existed from 10 May 2010 until rebranded as BOB fm Hertfordshire on 10 March 2014
- Vienna, Austria – Radio 88.6
- "'Imitation iPod' Invades Radio", Wired, July 13, 2006.
- 'The Day The Music Died' New York Times, June 19, 2005
- http://publications.mediapost.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.san&s=63620&Nid=32050&p=407397, Retrieved on 2008/06/12.
- The website of Howard Cogan, "the voice of Jack"
- History Of Jack FM
- Leila Cobo, "José Is The Latin Jack," Billboard, 11/12/2005, Vol. 117 Issue 46, p. 32.
- http://www.925jackfm.com/ 92.5 JackFM
- http://www.ofcom.org.uk/media/news/2006/10/nr_20061012, Retrieved on 2008/06/12.
- JACK Map - Every JACK station in THE WORLD!
- "Mike Ford 'row' with Bristol DJ launches new radio station". Bristol Evening Post. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-09.