Kanya King: My Life In Media

'My proudest achievement is not giving up on my dream. Careers are punctuated with setbacks and you have to bounce back from disappointments'
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The Independent Online

Kanya King, in her 30s, is the CEO of the Mobo Organisation. She worked her way up from a television researcher and a booker for Radio 2 to being the driving force behind one of Britain's most successful music awards. The annual Mobos - which take place on Wednesday - celebrate Music of Black Origin and are now in their 10th year. She also publishes the Mobo Magazine and has appointed Terry Mansfield, formerly of the National Magazine Company, to work on that project. She is the youngest of nine children and grew up in north-west London with a Ghanaian father and Irish mother.

What inspired you to embark on a media career?

I felt that the awards scene was not truly representing the entire musical landscape and certain genres of music were not being rewarded, so I believed a career in the media would enable me to try and do something about it.

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

My family used to get the Daily Mirror and would read the Marje Proops column.

What were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

My favourite radio shows were Tony Blackburn on Radio London and the David Rodigan show, because they were the only black music stations that paid homage to the great legends of our day. I used to regularly tune into Top of the Pops in the hope of experiencing some really exciting music.

Describe your job

My job is incredibly demanding, frustrating, yet rewarding. It involves running a company that promotes music, creates various opportunities and organises award shows in the UK and beyond.

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

BBC1's Breakfast.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I surf the net for about 30 minutes a day, if I am lucky, as that is all I have time for.

What is the best thing about your job?

Being my own boss, and creating and pursuing opportunities.

And the worst?

I should do myself a favour and work less hours.

How do you feel you influence the media?

After 11 years it is perhaps understandable that our opinion is sought on issues relating to urban culture and diversity. We stimulate debate and provide opportunities, we honour those who persevere and succeed. Mobo has come to act as a voice for a large section of the community. Our business is unlike others, in that we have a social and cultural responsibility, by virtue of the fact that we are perceived to represent black British youths beyond the parameters of music.

What's your proudest achievement in work?

There have been a few. Doing the very first show by remortgaging my house and turning it into a success. Receiving an MBE, as it acknowledged in a high-profile way something that I recognised as being my duty. But my proudest achievement is not giving up on my dream. Resilience is one of the characteristics you need in business. Careers are punctuated by setbacks, and you have to be able to overcome adversity, bounce back from disappointments and face failure squarely in the face and know how to recover from it.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

I was at an award show and apparently not paying attention. When my name was mentioned, somebody advised me to get on stage, which I did, only to find out that I was nominated - lucky for me, I did get the award, but a bit later. Oops.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I frequently dip into news channels. When I want to relax I watch pre-recorded programmes or play CDs. Radio varies from Choice to Radio London, depending on the mood, really.

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

I have a routine of reading The Sunday Times, The Business from time to time and The Mail on Sunday or Express, which gives me a nice variety of what happens in the world. As to magazines I like Oprah, as well as supplements, such as the Evening Standard magazine.

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

Until now we have focused on developing a strong brand and the time is right to ultimately expand into other related business areas. A Black Hall of Fame would be a lasting legacy.

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

I would be doing something creative, for sure. Most probably, still running my own business and of course everyone has a story to tell and a book to write.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Oprah Winfrey: strong woman owning her own network, need I say more?

The CV

1992 Joins Clark Television Productions as a researcher, working on programmes such as The Chrystal Rose Show

1996 Celeb booker to Radio 2 for the Denise Williams and Jimmy Ruffin show

1997 Launched the first ever Music of Black Origin (Mobo) Awards, Europe's first awards show celebrating black music

1998 Negotiated distribution rights to broadcast the Mobo Awards world-wide

1999 Joined government committee for music industry task force. Appointed with an MBE

2000 Published the first MoboMagazine, an annual magazine celebrating black music, entertainment and culture.

2006 Launched the first live-to-air Mobo Awards broadcasting on the BBC