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Thursday, August 19, 1999 Published at 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK


Entertainment

Radio DJ 'fired for being black'

Meg Mathews (left) with Liz Hurley: A recent recruit at Kiss FM

An award-winning DJ was sacked from London radio station Kiss FM as part of a purge of black presenters to attract more listeners, an employment tribunal has heard.

Former Kiss DJ Steve Jackson is claiming racial discrimination, unfair dismissal from his £80,000-a-year-job and breach of contract against the dance station.

Until December last year, Mr Jackson hosted the station's breakfast show, which beat Terry Wogan and Chris Evans to the top prize at the prestigious Sony Radio Awards in 1998.


[ image: Emap relaunched Kiss with a more mainstream pop sound]
Emap relaunched Kiss with a more mainstream pop sound
He also won a Music of Black Origin (Mobo) award, and Prime Minister Tony Blair was reported as saying his children were regular listeners to the programme, a mixture of comedy stunts and music.

But just before Christmas the station was relaunched with a more mainstream pop music policy by owners Emap Radio.

New presenters drafted in included Meg Mathews, wife of Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher.

Mr Jackson was sacked along with 19 other staff members, and he claims all black presenters were swept from the show's daytime programming.

He told the tribunal that when he tried to re-enter the station's headquarters in Holloway, north London, after completing his show on 18 December, he found his way barred by security guards and was escorted to the boardroom to meet two Kiss executives.

"There was a letter on the table and I was told I was dismissed," he said.

In a statement, he said he was then escorted out of the building without being able to collect his personal belongings.


[ image: Dale Winton: Had been considered for a show on Kiss, it was claimed]
Dale Winton: Had been considered for a show on Kiss, it was claimed
Jason Galbraith-Marten, representing Mr Jackson, told the tribunal: "He was dismissed because he was black. The management of Kiss FM as part of their more mainstream approach did not think it was appropriate to have a black person presenting their lead peak-time show."

The tribunal heard that his show was given to a less experienced presenter who was white called Bam Bam, real name Peter Poulton.

Mr Jackson said he had been told black personalities like Ian Wright and Andi Peters had been considered for his show, but Mr Wright's agent had denied any approach had been made.

He also claimed Kiss informed him that TV host Dale Winton had been considered. He said: "This is astonishing".

Mr Galbraith-Marten added that Mr Jackson and two other peak-time presenters, David Morrissey and Janice V, had been dismissed with a significant amount of other ethnic minority staff.

Kiss FM - which has reached settlements with other presenters, but not with Mr Jackson - denies the allegations, and says a record rise in the number of listeners - to 1.28 million - over the past three months justifies its decision.


[ image: Bob Geldof: Helped Capital Radio relaunch Xfm in 1998]
Bob Geldof: Helped Capital Radio relaunch Xfm in 1998
Jonathon Swift, representing Kiss, said Mr Jackson's show was "starting to show its age" and that is was not attracting its target audience of 15-24 year-old listeners.

"It was a pretty tired and dated format," he said.

Mr Swift also criticised Mr Jackson's "persistent lateness" and said he had taken a "confrontational approach" to management, disregarding the stations playlist on many occasions.

Mr Jackson responded by saying records he had championed on his show had later gone on to be national hits, such as Shanks & Bigfoot's Sweet Like Chocolate.

He also said management refused to listen to his ideas for the playlist, and did not promote his programme either.

Two other London stations underwent dramatic changes in 1998 as media groups battled for listeners in the UK's most competitive radio market.

Alternative rock station Xfm was given a more mainstream playlist by new owners Capital Radio 12 months ago, which also introduced a show hosted by rock veteran Bob Geldof. Easy-listening station Melody FM - like Kiss, also owned by Emap - was relaunched as Magic FM.

The hearing at North London employment tribunal was adjourned on Wednesday until 28 September.



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