My First Job: June Sarpong, the presenter of 'T4', was a one-woman music enquiry service

A job in radio? That's better than a degree

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The Independent Online

"There was an uproar," recalls June Sarpong. "Uncles I hadn't seen for 20 years turned up on the doorstep to say that I was ruining my life. My mum cried every day."

A decade later, it is only too clear that her relatives were right in being totally horrified when, at 18, she wilfully chucked away her university plans and opted instead for an apparently mundane day job.

June's career has been a complete disaster - apart, that is, from presenting the Saturday morning show T4, the current Wags Boutique and Emergency on Planet Earth, a forthcoming environmental series that will feature Al Gore in its opening episode. In addition, she is fronting the launch of Sky Learning, the online search engine for children revising for exams.

On second thoughts, maybe she was right to take up the job offer at the London radio station Kiss FM.

"The actual job was so boring," she says. "For every record played, you have to pay royalties. After every show, I would get the playlist from the DJ and fill out the royalty sheets - the artist, the song and the time it was played - for the Per- forming Rights Society."

Tedious as she found it, this meant that June was the only person on the station to have at her fingertips its 24-hour musical output. When anyone rang in with a query - "We had loads, so many calls, I can't tell you" - they were put through to her. She switched instantly from "PR's assistant" mode to "record enquiry line" person.

"I heard a song last night," the caller would say, perhaps going on to sing it, probably not very well. June would join in on vocals to check that she had identified the title and band. Drawn together by the unifying factor of music, the caller and callee would take the conversation down unexpected lines. "They would tell me about their life - 'My boyfriend and I had a terrible row last night and during it we heard this song...'"

In the general run of offices, even in radio stations, incoming calls tend to be of a business nature. For June, though, all her callers were members of the public, which she found not only interesting but useful. "It definitely prepared me for this job," says the T4 presenter.

And, presumably, joining a stranger in a duet in D:Ream's "Things Can Only Get Better" is a useful preparation for the vagaries of life in broadcasting. So too is doing a solo of Jamiroquai's Roy the Roach remix of "Space Cowboy" unaccompanied down the phone.

"I did the job for a year and then fortunately I moved to work on a Saturday show as the 'gossip girl'." Since then, there have been fewer complaints from her mother and uncles about job changes.

Details of educational programmes on digital satellite are on www.sky.com/learning

jonty@jonathansale.com

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