My Mentor: Matthew Bannister on Arnold Miller

'Arnold took the rather risky step of letting me present the breakfast show'

I started at BBC Radio Nottingham straight from university in 1978, and Arnold Miller was my boss for most of the three years I was there. I thought he was a bit straight at first, in his tweed slacks and big glasses, but he turned out to be straight for all the right reasons – very honest and supportive.

Thanks to Arnold, Radio Nottingham was absolutely embedded in the community. He really understood his audience. I got a fantastic grounding in broadcasting, as local radio gives you the chance to do everything.

After I had been there about 18 months he took the rather risky step of letting me present the breakfast show. It was a gamble, as the bulk of the audience were probably over 50 and I was 22, albeit with a deep voice. But I was very grateful to him for the chance.

I couldn't drive and used to take taxis to stories when other people would drive to cut back on costs. He presented me with the station's biggest-ever taxi bill in a frame when I left.

My next job was on London's Capital Radio. After a few more moves, I saw the job of managing director of BBC Radio London advertised. When I looked to see who was in charge of it, it was Arnold. I think they had a dilemma, as Radio London hadn't been as successful as the BBC's other services. I went in with a radical proposal to close it down and start it up again as Greater London Radio (GLR).

They took a risk with me, and there were some hairy times as we employed people like Chris Evans, Chris Morris and Danny Baker, but I learnt from Arnold by watching him at work. He might disagree with people over the editorial thrust of a programme, but he was always supportive. There were a lot of very positive lessons to be learnt from him. I left to go to the corporate centre of the BBC for a couple of years before pitching up at Radio 1, but we've met since and we exchange Christmas cards. I don't think you'll find anyone who has a bad word to say about Arnold; most remember him with warmth and respect.

Matthew Bannister is a former controller of Radio 1 and was the BBC director of radio from 1996 to 2000. He presents shows on Five Live and Radio 4.