Peter Bennett-Jones: My Life In Media

'My most embarrassing moment was appearing as Rik Mayall's and Ben Elton's support act in Ibiza in the mid-Eighties'
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The Independent Online

After putting on plays as far afield as the United States and the Far East, Peter Bennett-Jones settled in the UK and turned his hand to the small screen. He brought 'Mr Bean', 'Harry Enfield and Chums' and 'The Vicar of Dibley' to sitting-rooms around the country, and is now, aged 50, the chairman of Tiger Aspect Television. His talent agencies, PBJ and KBJ Management, look after artists and broadcasters including Rowan Atkinson, Eddie Izzard, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, and Kirsty Young; and in 2000, the film arm of his production empire made 'Billy Elliot'.

What inspired you to start a career in media?

I was brought up in Liverpool in the Sixties and early Seventies. It was teeming with infectious cultural life, particularly at the Liverpool Everyman. Witnessing at close quarters the likes of Simon Rattle and Willy Russell working their magic was enough to derail my intended law career in favour of showbiz on arrival at university.

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

The Times and the Liverpool Daily Post were the staple diet. I recall buying a couple of copies of the first ever Sun with my dad to stick in the attic. He felt that it marked an important new media moment. How right he was.

What were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

The Frost Report on BBC1 and any programme featuring Ronnie Barker. Steptoe and Son sticks in the memory as a great sitcom from that period. I remain addicted to what was then the Home Service on the radio, and Humphrey Lyttelton is still the wittiest person in the UK.

Describe your job

I have three jobs that, in essence, all involve managing talent on TV. Identifying, nurturing and guiding creative folk.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

The World Service helps me through any sleepless nights and guides me to Farming Today. Wake Up to Wogan is the best morning show. I devour the "broadsheets" on the commute from Oxford, and catch up with what is making tabloid news in the office.

Do you consult any media sources during the day?

I occasionally dip into the Media Guardian site, but largely rely on my colleague Andy Zein to be ahead of the gossip. I have Channel 4 on in the background, and pay particular attention when the racing is on.

What is the best thing about your job?

Although all jobs involve large elements of routine, what I do is rarely dull or repetitive. It combines the commercial, the creative and the charitable. Variety is vital.

And the worst?

Handling the disappointment of having great programme proposals rejected, repeatedly... and then seeing them pop up elsewhere!

What is the proudest achievement in your working life?

Creating companies that deliver the goods and for which talented people actively want to work. And producing Mr Bean.

Most embarrassing moment?

Appearing as Rik Mayall's and Ben Elton's support act at an Ibizan club in the mid-Eighties is high up the list. The punters seemed keener on Kevin Turvey and Motormouth than me for some reason.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I have eclectic taste and watch a lot of television: comedy, drama, factual, quizzes and horse racing. I adored our recent Catherine Tate series. She's special.

What's your Sunday paper, and do you have a favourite magazine?

I struggle with Sunday papers as the Saturday editions tend to be better. It is always worth reading Bryan Appleyard in The Sunday Times and Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer, and anything Jeremy Clarkson writes if you want a laugh. On the magazine front, it is The Economist, The Week and Nuts, of course.

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

To produce a commercially successful new comedy in the West End.

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

I have always derived vicarious pleasure from my brother Owen's rovings as a World Service foreign correspondent. A very different media life.

Who in the media do you most admire?

No contest - Richard Curtis. He employs a brilliant talent not only to make us all laugh but to help to even out some of the inequalities that surround us. A wonderful colleague.

The CV

1977 Works in the theatre, producing and managing shows around the world

1983 Pole-vaults into the position of managing director at Talkback Productions

1987 Founds Tiger Television and PBJ Management

1993 Merges with Aspect and becomes chairman of Tiger Aspect Productions

1997 Appointed chair of Comic Relief, the charity for Africa founded by Richard Curtis and Emma Freud

1999 Tiger Aspect Pictures releases its first film, Kevin & Perry Go Large, starring Harry Enfield and Kathy Burke

2005 Tiger's latest hit is The Catherine Tate Show, which won the comedian the Best Newcomer award at the British Comedy Awards