Steve Orchard: My Life In Media

'My demo tape fell into the wrong hands and was played at a Radio Academy conference. Talk about loss of credibility.'
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The Independent Online

Steve Orchard, 47, operations director of GCap Media, graduated from Oxford University with two degrees - one in history, and a Masters in applied social studies. He became a social worker (specialising in families and teenage delinquency) but switched to the radio industry, working as a football reporter and a breakfast DJ. He has worked his way through the ranks of Britain's largest commercial radio group and is now leading the relaunch strategy of flagship station Capital FM. A rock fanatic, he owns a vintage Rockola jukebox. He has two children and lives in Marlborough.

What led you to embark on a career in the media?

As college social secretary, I ran the Saturday night disco. Those sweaty sessions entertaining Oxford undergrads started a slow-burn fuse. Six years later, I got the opportunity to launch GWR Bristol as the breakfast jock.

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

We were northern and working class, and so the Daily Mirror. It stood up for us, and had the best United coverage. I still start papers at the back.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

The Clangers - completely hallucinogenic. On radio, Piccadilly - high-octane Mancunian attitude. Mike Sweeney was inspirational.

Describe your job.

I help my board to determine the best portfolio of radio stations for GCap; I lead the best management talent in commercial radio and make sure we all understand our objectives; and I coach performance.

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

Always local radio. In London it starts with Capital, and in Wiltshire it's GWR.

Do you consult any media sources during your working day?

I'm always surfing: a circuit of BBC Online, Hemscott, Media Guardian and I also use Google's news alert; currently I'm tracking John Mikel Obi stories (don't ask).

What is the best thing about your job?

Creative people.

And the worst?

Things move quickly in radio and you can't do things in the way you used to. Laying people off is something I still find hard to do.

How do you feel you influence the media?

This will be the year GCap starts to deliver. We've promised we'll lead the radio industry with new initiatives, starting with the relaunch of Capital Radio, which will put some zest back into the radio marketplace. Other operators will respond through product improvement.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Going into a pub with Ralph Bernard, my boss, listening to the classic rock jukebox and coming out several pints later with Planet Rock sketched out on the back of a beer mat. I know I'm biased - but it is the world's best station. For dads.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

My 1980s demo tape fell into the wrong hands and was played at a Radio Academy conference a few years back. Talk about loss of credibility; I was a trainee radio guru until that happened.

At home, what do you tune in to?

Planet Rock - very loud.

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

I change according to where the media business stories are that week. Sport and business are the starting points. Uncut is my favourite magazine: good content and great cover-mount CDs.

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

It's more immediate than that - to help restore Capital to the clear market-leader position.

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

Back to social work.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I can't nominate the gaffer - I'd end up with the Order of the Brown Nose. So: at executive level, Charles Sinclair, DMGT chief executive, for intellectual rigour and commitment to quality of content; in programming, it's Lesley Douglas at Radio 2 for her achievements (she also once introduced me to Bruce Springsteen at a party; nothing beats that for cool); and Helen Boaden for her passion for radio of all kinds. On-air talent? I admire Steve Wright for making moments of radio genius sound so bloody effortless. I once believed I could be as good as him on air - now I stick to management...

The CV

1985 Launches GWR Bristol breakfast show

1994 Becomes group programme director of GWR

1997 Programme director of Classic FM, leading the station through the five million audience barrier for the first time

1999 Operations director of GWR's local radio division

2005 (May) With the merger of GWR and Capital Radio Group, becomes operations director of the new GCap Media

2005 (November) Appointed to the board of GCap Media