Hardeep Singh Kohli: My Life in Media

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Hardeep Singh Kohli, 38, is a writer and broadcaster. He reports for BBC1's The One Show and has presented Newsnight Review and Radio 4's Saturday Live and Loose Ends. He makes radio documentaries with his production company, Above The Title, most recently The Hippy Trail. He grew up in Glasgow, where he first joined the BBC on Radio Scotland, and now lives in London with his wife. He is currently working with RTS Futures, the Royal Television Society's venture to encourage young people to work in television.

What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

My dad is a landlord and he used to take me out with him when he visited properties. He would leave me in the car while he went and had a cup of tea and tried to bargain them down, and I would listen to talk radio.

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

My mum owned a news-agent's and my parents were slightly obsessed with newspapers: as children of immigrants they thought them a great way to up your knowledge of English and current affairs. So we had The Glasgow Herald and the relatively kooky Sunday Post, which was like the Daily Mail but with lower journalistic standards.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I used to listen to a guy called Tom Ferrie on BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday. In those days if you got a shout out on the radio it was cool, and we got a shout out every six weeks. Clearly they were short of people. Gangsters, a Friday night drama, was fairly seminal in my education. The History Man, a four-part BBC drama, was one of the first things I watched with my brother where we were aware of the sexual content. Abigail's Party, The Young Ones, Saturday Night Live, Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies. Dallas was appointment television for everyone in my house, including my slightly disdainful father.

Describe your job.

I generally describe myself as a writer because I think that covers everything, but I will do almost any work if it is something I'm engaged with. Although I abhor reality television, I did Celebrity Master Chef because it's based on a skill. For many years I got paid no money because I refused to "job". The upshot of it is I now find it very difficult to do things I don't believe in.

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

The Today Programme. I used to consume Radio Five Live voraciously but, like most stations, it has cycles of zenith and nadir, and it's not at its best right now.

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

We were the generation that boycotted News International because of Rupert Murdoch. I'm a Guardian reader and The Independent is my newspaper of default. My wife buys the Daily Mail for Jonathan Cainer's stars. I find it a dangerous newspaper, though my wisdom suggests I should buy it to find out what the enemy is thinking. I'm a big Facebook user, mainly for playing Scrabble, and it's interesting to find out what's going on in people's lives. It's important to remind yourself that the overwhelming majority out there experience things that matter far more than a semicolon in the middle of a paragraph.

What is the best thing about your job?

No two days are the same.

And the worst?

I never know what I'm doing from one day to the next which makes it very difficult to plan.

How do you feel you influence the media?

My biggest contribution is to slightly overweight Glaswegian Sikh people, to show them there's nothing wrong with being slightly tubby and from Glasgow and on the telly.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Just to have a working life. I got through five or six years of famine with no work and no prospect of it.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

One day at Shepherd's Bush tube station I was feeling quite low, and I saw this man bounding towards me. I thought, "He's clearly recognised me, I'm just going to enjoy this moment." He started going, "You're great, I see you on the telly all the time..." at which point the alarm bells should have rung, because I'm not on the telly all the time. " I've seen that show you did. Tell me sir, have you still got a place in France?" He was mistaking me for Nippi Singh from A Place in France on Channel 4, a Sikh guy about 15 years older than me who looks nothing like me and is an all-round objectionable character. I just said, "Yeah, I've still got it," and walked away. I think that was a lesson sent to educate me.

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

I love The Observer. The Independent on Sunday does really good supplements. I still go for The Sunday Times because I like A A Gill's writing. I read Broadcast because I have to and I bought GQ the other day. I didn't like having it round the house with the kids because there might be strong images of naked women in it. There's more to being a woman than being naked.

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

When Jonathan Ross retires I'd like to think he'd give me his Radio 2 show and his BBC1 show. Obviously I wouldn't require the sort of remuneration he has, but I've got the suits lined up.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I have deep admiration for David Dimbleby. He has the sagacity of a man of his experience, yet the sparkle in his eye of a teenager.

The CV

1990 Joins BBC Radio Scotland as a graduate production trainee on politics, sport and art shows

1992 Moves to London to work at BBC Children's TV aged 23 before going to work with Janet Street-Porter in Manchester on "Reportage"

1994 Wins a BAFTA and RTS award for "It'll Never Work", a kids' science show

1996 Leaves the BBC to go freelance but has a hard time finding work

2004 Writes, directs and stars in "Meet the Magoons" for Channel 4, which is nominated for a Golden Rose at the Montreux Comedy Festival

2006 Joins BBC1's "The One Show" as a reporter, and is runner-up on "Celebrity MasterChef"

2007 Makes "Crossing the Border" for Radio 4 about the partition of India and Pakistan

Comments