Popular regional radio station Radio Jackie is celebrating its 50th birthday today (March 19).

The long-running broadcasters are one of the few remaining independently owned, above-ground radio stations left in the UK, and air the show from their public radio station headquarters on Tolworth Broadway, Surbiton.

The Surrey Comet spoke with Radio Jackie Owner and Founder Tony Collis on the station's birthday and asked him his thoughts on the historic day.

Mr Collis said that the station had come a long way since its founding in 1969 and confessed that he and the team who first put the station together probably hadn't considered the chance it would have such a long lifespan.

Mr Collis said: "It's a milestone really that we've reached and we're pleased to have got there."

"It's an incredible achievement. I doubt whether we ever thought at the beginning if we'd still be around... in the sixties we had offshore radio which led radio in this country and when that was closed by the Marine and Broadcasting (Offences) Act (1967) Radio Jackie picked up from there in 1969."

The road, Mr Collis said, has been a tricky one. With the expansion of commercial radio in the seventies, he said competition has tended to cede ground to monopolization in the industry, mirroring market tendencies in general over the last 50 years.

Mr Collis said: "Radio has come forward in stops and starts and slowly but surely more and more radio has been allowed...the vested interests don't really want more radio so we have this thing called community radio which Radio Jackie is."

"There's a need for this enthusiastic community radio...the vested interests use licensing as an excuse why there can't be more radio," and Radio Jackie was an exception to that view, he added:

"Radio's all about projecting enjoyment and fun and some of that's been lost today with the amalgamation of (smaller organizations) into larger entities."

Radio Jackie battled with authorities before receiving its broadcast license in 2003, the station said.

While Mr Collis said that monopolization was detrimental to independent radio of which Radio Jackie is a good example.

He also praised the underground, unlicensed radio stations, many of which operate out of London, as "healthy for the country and for radio".

The wider picture for independent broadcasters might look gloomy, but the same could not be said for the Radio Jackie team this week.

Employees at the station celebrated with balloons and a party atmosphere at the Surbiton HQ, while listeners from the area heaped praise on the station and its team to mark the birthday.

Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake was one of the well-wishers. Mr Brake said via Twitter: "Happy 50th birthday #RadioJackie! Some things do get better with age! Thank you for continuing to broadcast local news to South-West London every day!"

Few would doubt that five decades of continuous, independent broadcasting is an impressive achievement. So what is the secret of the station's success? Mr Collis, for one, said that the philosophy of openness and links to communities at the heart of what Radio Jackie does.

The station founder also praised their listeners as central to any successes the station has enjoyed down the years.

Mr Collis said: "People are welcome to walk in and see what it's all about, and that level of communication is something that I believe in. It's something that relates to an area. There's a principle at stake here and if people didn't respond positively and enjoy it we wouldn't be here."