Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader: Radio executives, Who's on the right wavelength?
Wednesday 03 March 1999
I ADMIRE the people who have built up their business from scratch. They are usually people who conspire positively to manipulate circumstance to create their product.
Tim Schoonmaker, chief executive of Emap Radio, is one such force. He is a formidable businessman in radio, determined to achieve what he perceives as right for his company. He's not the forceful type, and is convincing rather than bullish. He knows exactly where he wants his network to be heading and is aided by his refusal to shy away from tough decisions.
Another pioneer of the airwaves is Eddie Blackwell, who is on the board at GWR and steeped in radio. You can't really be successful in radio without that kind of relationship with radio.
PASSION AND a real commitment to listeners, with a fan's belief and enthusiasm for the genre - be it news, sport, speech or music - alongside a can-do, must-do-now attitude (reflecting the immediacy of the medium) all wrapped up in charismatic leadership with the ability to manage the interface between culture and commerce: these are the ingredients for a great radio executive.
The people who embody these qualities include , the chief executive of GWR, who has lived the business from top to bottom, is totally committed to it, and is without doubt the most successful radio executive today.
Second I would line up Richard Park at Capital Radio. He's a hard driven, single-minded man with a passion for music radio and he has steered Capital for more than a decade.
Finally there's Steve Orchard, group programme director of GWR. He's the best radio programmer in the business, because he mixes the science of research with music and fun far better than anyone I know.
THERE ARE a lot of extremely clever and hard-working people in the radio industry. I feel very much in debt to all the other people I will be sharing this page with who have been responsible for a renaissance in listening and revenue over the past five years.
From my point of view, the people I respect the most in the industry are the senior management and staff of this radio station, including, of course, the inimitable Chris Evans. I do have good reason. For me each one represents the core reasons for the industry's success; enthusiasm, fun and genuine passion for the medium.
I WOULD single out for the vision he has shown in transforming GWR into a major media business. He has taken risks but seen them rewarded, particularly at Classic FM. More bravely, he has led the development of commercial digital radio.
Richard Huntingford at Chrysalis has skilfully built a tremendous business through acquisition and licence awards, while Tom Hunter at Liverpool's Radio City stands out for his brilliant understanding of the market and team-building skills.
Elsewhere, I had better mention my boss Kelvin MacKenzie in case nobody else does, and Chris Evans at Virgin who have both given national commercial radio a tremendous boost in profile. Finally, let's not forget that the BBC retains half of all radio listening and some talented individuals at the top. Roger Mosey at 5 Live is undoubtedly the best I have come across in the public sector.
ANY outstanding executive or boss would have to know how to create a station which related to the audience. One such man is Jimmy Gordon. His years of experience enable him to recognise good radio and how to make it.
Other qualities I look for would be a grasp of how important talent is and an ability to nurture it. Radio is about quality entertainment, and any station looks to its presenters to help pull in the audience.
Jim Moir of Radio 2 has this ability and a great sense of what makes showbusiness. It would be difficult to talk about figureheads in the industry without mentioning Chris Evans and the sheer innovation he has brought to his station.
Scottish Radio Holdings
I WOULD say that to stand out in radio these days you need a vision, a plan for the future.
The man I most admire is Jimmy Gordon. Admittedly, he is the chairman here at SRH but he was in at the beginning when he started up Radio Clyde. Since then he has scarcely swerved in his beliefs, never compromised his integrity or forgotten the public service aspects of commercial radio, which can sometimes get lost or confused.
Independent Radio Group
THE MAN I most admire in radio at the moment is Terry Smith, chairman of Emap Radio.
He was the founding father of Emap Radio and has done an extremely skilful job in organising it. He is a genius at building big radio because he is talented, bright and not afraid to take risks.
At the same time, the risks he takes are controlled. He uses his judgement to evaluate the situation and that judgement has been honed through his long and successful career in radio. He's shrewd and well versed in the ways of radio. A canny Yorkshireman and a flexible, capable radio executive. He is a figurehead in the industry.
RADIO HAS been the fastest growing advertising medium over the past five or six years and has increased its share of advertising from 2 per cent to nearly 6. This is largely thanks to Douglas McArthur, managing director of the Radio Advertising Bureau. We couldn't operate without it - or this man at the centre of all of these changes. He is the linchpin for the two industries and single-handed made commercial radio the success story that it is. He possesses those qualities essential to any radio executive: he's very bright, he's his own man, he's ruthless when it comes to achieving what he wants.
He's a wonder - courageous, a lateral thinker, a doer.
Ours is a tough market. Radio used to be the medium of last resort but things have changed. The catalyst for change was when we all decided that a customer-focused approach was the way forward. Many radio owners are inward-looking but Douglas convinced us to bow to the customer.
THE RADIO man of the moment has to be Paul Brown of the Commercial Radio Companies Association. I choose him because I think he has the most difficult job in radio and he does it with great alacrity.
He has the task of pulling together all the disparate views of the chief executives in radio and then putting them to the government for their approval. The only way he can possibly have managed this is through his singleness of vision. I think that's the most important characteristic for a radio executive in radio at the moment, given the changes that are happening.
Radio will be unrecognisable in ten years' time: digital will be the medium then so distribution will have changed, relationships with advertisers will have changed and the sheer number of channels will mean a very different radio service. And if you don't have vision, you're not going to be ready. I think all of the big names in radio have vision but, in the same breath, we could all do with some more!
I think it's vital for those who have been in radio for a long time and who have worked their way to the top to retain a passion and enthusiasm for the medium. It's so easy to become jaded.
My managing director, Phil Riley, has managed to keep his original love and fascination with radio. It is important because it keeps you on your toes. Combine this with strong leadership and team-building qualities and you have your ideal radio executive.
Team-building skills are very important in an industry which comprises people of many natures and skills -the executives, the creatives, the engineers, the presenters -and it is extremely important to be able to unite your people.
Radio is a people industry, so anyone who wants to do well has to be good with people -you should be a good team leader with drive, charisma and personality. And you have to be inspirational. That's the key.
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