How an air-conditioning mechanic in Sydney Australia became an award winning broadcaster in Britain; Part 145.

11Jan15

With so many conspiracy theories floating around on what’s really behind the latest Paris attacks, it reminds me of that other event in Paris in 1997 that conspiracy theorist are still talking about, the death of Princess Diana.

At the time, I presented the Breakfast Show on 2CR FM on England’s South Coast. Two things happened just before Diana’s death that could have just been coincidences but make you think.

One of them has been widely reported but I’ve never heard anyone mention the other, even though a lot of people working in the commercial radio industry in Britain at the time will remember it and still have questions about it.

The reported event was tabloid news on 16th July 1997. British newspapers said that Princess Diana was about to make a shock announcement about her future. In an extraordinary speedboat rendezvous with British journalists spying on her supposedly private holiday in the south of France, Diana told them, “You are going to get a big surprise with the next thing I do.” I remember speculating on the air with other members of The Breakfast team about what it was going to be.

Diana never got to make that shock announcement because on August 31st, she was dead.

The other thing that I’m sure conspiracy theorist would love to know is what happened on the 29th August 1997, the Friday before Diana’s death on the Sunday.

2CR FM had a light in the on air studio called the “Obit Light”. If a senior member of the royal family died, the light was supposed to come on and that was a signal that normal programming was to be immediately suspended and an “Obit Procedure” was to be followed which involved a checklist and diverting all programming to Independent Radio News in London. 2CR was the first British radio station I worked at when I came over from Australia. When I was told about the light, I thought someone was having me on but the obit light and procedure were taken very seriously, they even tested the light once a week. I think it was Tuesday mornings at 11am, I could have that day and time wrong but there was a specific time and day every week when someone at IRN in London pressed a button and obit lights came on in every on air studio in Britain. I think it was a requirement of the licence, a hangover from Britain’s quaint old licensing rules which also included having a member of the House of Lords on every commercial radio station board. I wish I could remember exactly which day and time the weekly obit test was done but it definitely wasn’t on a Friday.

On Friday 29th August, the last working day of the week before Diana died, my boss, Tom Hardy told me that he’d been instructed from higher up to make sure that we all knew exactly what to do in case it was announced that a senior royal had died. As far as I know, every radio station in Britain got this message and tested their procedures for the second time that week. I’m not sure if the instruction was put out by IRN or the regulator at the time, The Radio Authority, but it does seem strange that they asked us all to check something that we checked every week anyway and had only checked a few days earlier.

Two days later Princess Diana was dead.

Craic on!

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