Ben Jones: My Life in Media

'Everyone thinks a DJ starts work five minutes before the show and goes straight home after the last track. That couldn't be more wrong'
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The Independent Online

Ben Jones, 29, has just taken over the microphone as Virgin Radio's new Drivetime presenter. A former children's television presenter, he has successfully made the transition to radio and is on the airwaves every weekday from 4pm to 8pm. He grew up in the New Forest and now lives in Fulham, west London, with his wife.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

Laziness. As a child, I thought the TV presenter Andy Crane watched children's programmes all day. Actually, being a children's TV presenter and then a radio DJ turned out to be the hardest work I have ever done.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

I used to read my parents' Daily Mail, but only realised after leaving home that life wasn't quite like the newspaper depicted.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I watched Byker Grove and Art Attack well into my teens, but Catherine Zeta-Jones in The Darling Buds of May is my main adolescent television memory. I listened to local radio and admired the way local DJs had their names scrawled on their cars.

Describe your job

It's about music, interviews and listeners. I'm passionate about the music I play, and if I didn't work at the station I would be tuning in anyway to hear the likes of The Who and Razorlight. I've interviewed some amazing people through my job and can't wait to interview Will Smith and Leonardo Di Caprio for the new Drivetime show.

What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?

There's a lot of on-air banter that goes on between myself and Christian O'Connell, so I like to flick him on in the morning to catch the latest! Then I get a quick fix of GMTV before turning over to the BBC for the news.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

The BBC website for the news and entertainment; for music news.

What is the best thing about your job?

The music I get to play and talk about on air, no question about it.

And the worst?

The only downside is that everyone thinks a DJ starts work five minutes before the show and goes home straight after the last track. This couldn't be further from the truth, as so much prep goes into every show to make it entertaining and still sound off-the-cuff.

How do you feel you influence the media?

Drivetime is my biggest break so far, so ask me again in six months' time.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Going from children's TV with limited radio experience to Virgin Radio, where I was nominated for a Sony Award and I am on the same schedule as Suggs and Christian O'Connell. Not bad for the kid who used to stand outside Virgin Radio waiting for autographs.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Any interview with Hugh Grant.

At home, what do you tune in to?

As Drivetime DJ, I like to link my show with everything else that goes on around the clock on Virgin Radio so I dip in and out throughout the day if I'm in my car or at the gym. I also tune in to some comedy panel shows on Radio 4. The best show on TV is 24 and I'm loving Nip/Tuck on Sky One.

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I buy a broadsheet and a red-top depending on the headline or the free DVD. I also read quite a few magazines, my favourites being Arena and GQ. I like the glossy feel of the pages.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

The sensible answer is that I want to have the market-leading drivetime show. My real ambition is to fly on Air Force One.

If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?

Either teaching or running a gastropub in Devon with a friend.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Chris Tarrant, because of his longevity, consistency and talent. He took me under his wing while I worked at the Capital Radio café and put me on my TV career path. In terms of management, our own programme director Paul Jackson, who has taken me from being a nobody to where I am proud to be now.

The CV

1998 Begins working at the Disney Channel, presenting the station's first-ever breakfast show and a live interactive show

1999: Moves to Children's ITV, where he presents Ten of Everything and It's a Mystery

2000: Starts work at Fire local radio in Bournemouth

2001: Joins Virgin Radio as weekend and overnights DJ, soon moving to the Most Wanted evening slot

2006: Lands the Virgin Radio Drivetime show