Sonia Deol: My Life In Media

Sonia Deol, 32, is the BBC Asian Network's breakfast presenter, having taken over the show last month. The station began life in 1976, as a show on BBC Radio Leicester, before broadening its reach across the Midlands. Deol joined the station a decade ago, before it went national in 2002. Earlier this year, the BBC announced an extra £1m of funding for the network, which broadcasts in English and South Asian languages, in an effort to make British- Asian interests "a mainstream part of the corporation's output". Deol has just moved from London back to Edgbaston in Birmingham, where she grew up.


What inspired you to start a career in the media?

I'd love to have a really good story but the honest answer is, I don't know. All I remember is making pretend programmes at home while I was still at school, and boring my friends to death about being a presenter with my own show one day.

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

A great talking newspaper: my gran! We had no choice but to listen to it. Other than that, weekend papers such as The Times were the only ones I saw, usually to be found beside the lavatory.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

Spitting Image has to be up there as a huge growing-up favourite. I loved Jonathan Ross on The Last Resort, Clive Anderson Talks Back and Have I Got News For You. I was a Radio 1 child, loved Steve Wright, fancied Gary Davies, and Simon Bates's Our Tune scarred me. Hearing sob stories when you're 10 forces you to grow up faster, doesn't it?

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

Now that I get up at the beautiful time of 3.30am, I tend to have Radio Five Live or TalkSport on, depending on how delicate my head is feeling, and, like most breakfast presenters, I skim through the main papers.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

My amazing production team is my first source. Then all the papers, and I find the BBC news website great for bitesize research.

What's the best thing about your job?

My programme boss, Jonathan Aspinwall. Naturally, he is talented and gifted, but the real reason is that he is just so good-looking and cute. He makes getting up this early in the morning something I look forward to every day.

The worst thing about your job?

My social life is slowly dying. I have to go to bed earlier for the breakfast show. Great for a single girl...

What are the proudest achievements in your working life?

Co-hosting an awards ceremony with the then BBC director-general Greg Dyke; giving The Sun its front-page headline after meeting the Queen (I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, and she replied "a nice sunshiny day"); and getting a Sony bronze for my old phone-in show. Now, in the immortal words of Henry Kelly, we are "going for gold"!

Your most embarrassing moment?

I was interviewing the Bollywood star Dharmendra and the phone lines went mad with people trying to get through. One caller who made it on air sounded strangely familiar. I slowly realised that it was my mother. She had sneaked through with an alias. When I pointed it out, she denied any genetic connection. It was very painful.

At home, what do you tune in to?

Bobby Friction on Radio 1, on the one night that he's not on our station. Jonathan Ross at the weekend on Radio 2. And Magic FM for those calmer moments.

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

News of the World, Sunday Times, Independent on Sunday and Observer. I tend to buy about four or five weekend papers, and I'm a girlie girl, so Cosmo, Marie Claire and Asiana all get a look-in.

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

Be bigger than Moyles - in show, not size.

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

I'd apply to be on The Apprentice. A good salary, a polite boss, what more could a girl want? Oh damn, I'm not blond.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Jonathan Ross. Yes, I admit, as a teenager I thought him cute. But as a broadcaster, he's been in this game so long, but hasn't lost his energy, warmth and humour.

The CV

1996

Joins the fledgling Asian Network, a regional station in Leicester

1997

Presents BBC2's Network East for three years

2000

Moves to the capital to join BBC London radio as a drivetime and news presenter, just as the Asian Network is shifting its focus from the Midlands to the whole country

2002

Rejoins Asian Network for its national launch on DAB digital radio, presenting her own phone-in show

2006

Moves to the breakfast slot, on air from 6am to 9am every weekday

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