My Life In Media: Roger Wright

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The Independent Online

Roger Wright, 48, has been controller of BBC Radio 3 for six years. After taking a degree in music at Royal Holloway College, he spent 20 years working in orchestras and the recording industry before rejoining the BBC. He has a wife and two children and travels to work from his Bedfordshire home at 6am.

What inspired you to start a career in the media?

A love for radio from an early age.

When you were 15 years old, what was the family newspaper and did you read it?

Being brought up in Manchester it had to be the Manchester Guardian, the Manchester Evening News and the indispensable Saturday-evening football pink.

What were your favourite television and radio programmes?

TV: Grandstand, Monty Python's Flying Circus and as much of Casanova as my parents would allow! Radio: on Radio 3 Record [now CD] Review and all those concerts and talks where you are led into a special world often by serendipity, and fantastic comedy on Radios 2 and 4. No change now!

What is the best thing about your job?

Being paid to do what I love - immersing myself in music and the arts.

And the worst?

Just having the one pair of ears and there only being 24 hours in the day.

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

As soon as I wake up: Radio 3's Through the Night and Radio Five Live's Wake up to Money. The presenters make it a fun, engaging but serious listening experience.

At the office, will you consult any media sources during the course of the working day?

I devour all the broadsheets for music, arts and media stories on my way to the office. I check out the tabloid stories when I get there, and go online taking in a number of sites, particularly those from performing arts organisations across the world. I also find very helpful. I catch up on BBC radio I might have missed by listening via the web radio player - one of the great inventions of recent years.

What is the proudest achievement of your working life?

Being allowed to be the keeper of the Radio 3 flame.

Your most embarrassing moment?

Being set up by an Austrian TV programme-maker who persuaded me to take part in a documentary about the Salzburg Festival which had, they said, to be filmed in a limousine and a particularly expensive hotel. The actual interviews were hardly used, but they denounced me as a fat cat of the recording industry, using the footage of expensive cars and hotels they had filmed me in as evidence!

When you're back home, what will you tune in to?

Still Radio 3 of course! Our drive-time show In Tune, the concert at 7.30 and the ever-stimulating Night Waves. I hardly watch any real-time TV but I may see something of Newsnight. Otherwise it might be a drama that friends or colleagues have suggested - most recently I finally got round to seeing State of Play - gripping. I'll also catch Radio 1 and Chiltern FM being played (too loudly) in other rooms in the house.

What is your Sunday paper and do you have any favourite magazines?

I read all the broadsheets. (We're never short of papers to line our rabbit and hamster cage during the week!) Private Eye is a must, as is The Cricketer. There are also Sugar and The Simpsons magazines just to keep up to speed with what our children are consuming!

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

Commentating on Test Match Special - it'll never happen but I'd serve the cakes just to be there.

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

Professional cricket.

Who are your best friends in the media?

In the BBC, the entire team that cheerfully keeps the network running to such exacting standards. Elsewhere in the media, all those fans who appreciate their work.


1978 British Music Information Centre, spreading contemporary classical music. Manager and later director.

1987 Appointed senior producer for BBC Symphony Orchestra.

1989 Moved to the US to become artistic administrator of the Cleveland Orchestra.

1992 Joined Deutsche Grammophon in Hamburg, where he became executive producer and then vice-president, but quit in 1997 because of disillusionment with the politics of the international recording business.

1997 Took newly created post of head of classical music at BBC, running the BBC's bands, orchestras and choirs.

1998 Appointed controller of Radio 3, the first to have an academic qualification in the subject. Critics have accused him of populism: Friends of Radio 3 object to the amount of non-classical output. Supporters point to his revamping of presenters and schedules - promoting jazz, film music, world music and musicals.