Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 1 March 2015

Blackburn defends 'tainted' Radio 1

Tony Blackburn is still very proud of Radio 1
Tony Blackburn is still very proud of Radio 1

Tony Blackburn has defended the reputation of Radio 1's early years after he said it had become "tainted" in recent months.

The veteran DJ, who was famously the launch host for the station when it went on air in October 1967, said it was "wonderfully-run" and not like the way it was being portrayed.

He made his comments as he accepted an honorary prize at the Radio Academy Awards to celebrate his 50 years of broadcasting, and they came in the wake of concerns about the activities of the presenter and prolific sex offender Jimmy Savile who was also one of the early station hosts.

There have been suggestions that people may have turned a blind eye to his activities and Dame Janet Smith has been writing a report into the culture and practices of the BBC during the years Savile worked there.

Tony, 71, told guests: "Radio 1 was absolutely amazing. You do read in the papers now, it's got slightly tainted - but it wasn't like the way they are writing about it now.

"It was a wonderfully-run radio station and I'm very grateful to it. It's written about now by people who weren't there. I was there and I can tell you it was wonderful, you know, the people that started it."

Tony, who continues to broadcast nationally as presenter of Radio 2's Pick Of The Pops countdown, added: "I'm delighted as well, having opened up Radio 1 that it's still doing well - I'm also delighted that it's not doing as well as Radio 2."

Before the star was given his award, his station colleague Graham Norton said that Blackburn often light-heartedly made reference to the Operation Yewtree investigation into a number of figures from the entertainment world

Graham told guests at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London last night: "My greatest pleasure at Radio 2 is every Saturday morning when Tony comes into our studio and he bounces in and we say 'how are you Tony?', and he says 'still not arrested'."

Tony was given the Academy's Gold Award, the second time he has been recognised with the honour, having previously given it to mark his 25th year on air.

Accepting the prize, Tony said that after such a long career, his thoughts have turned to retirement.

He said: "I've been on the air for 50 years now and I got my family together last week and I said probably it's time I spent more time with you at home.

"And they all said to me 'we'd rather you didn't' - so I've decided to go on for another 50 years."

Reflecting on his longevity, Tony said: "Someone asked me the other day why I've lasted such a long time. I've got no idea, but then I thought about it and I thought well, it's because I found people who let me be myself, now I choose all my own music."

But he joked that sometimes time has taken its toll on him when he struggled to remember what day his programme on BBC London 94.9 is broadcast.

"I don't know if it's Saturday or Sunday. I've got to the stage in my life and I don't quite know why I'm there any more."

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