RADIO REPORT: WHO’S WHO IN RADIO - Radio bosses share a common belief in the power of their medium to deliver, Robert Dwek says Additional reporting by Jade Garrett.

RALPH BERNARD 44 chief executive GWR

RALPH BERNARD 44 chief executive GWR

Ralph Bernard began his career as a news agency journalist. A stint in

hospital radio opened the door to Peterborough’s Hereward Radio in 1980,

first as head of news and later as programme controller. He then joined

Wiltshire Radio in Swindon as managing director, merging it with Bristol

Radio West - the foundation of today’s GWR empire.

It seems a long time since Bernard was a passionate union man who

’caused terrible problems for management’, according to one

acquaintance. Poacher has turned gamekeeper and he is widely admired for

transforming a provincial radio station into the second largest radio

group in the UK, holding more than 30 licences.

Now a public company, GWR has a market capitalisation of around pounds

175 million. The passion for trade unionism has been turned into a

passion for radio deregulation and aggressive acquisition, most recently

with the pounds 90 million takeover of Classic FM in January 1997.

Bernard hopes to improve margins which have been trimmed because of

Classic’s many overseas ventures. A review of this part of the business

will attempt to ’see what the strengths are and play to them,’ although

Classic’s UK operations will not see ’massive changes’.

Signs of lateral thinking in the Classic FM marketing department were

evident in December with the announcement of a link-up with

Mercedes-Benz, which has a valuable customer database and will work

closely with the station.

The City, however, remains somewhat sceptical about the logic of holding

Classic FM under the same corporate roof as GWR’s other stations.

Observers have commented that there are no obvious synergies, since

Classic FM has such a specific and upmarket audience.

But GWR is too busy moving up in the world to worry about this - it has

just moved its headquarters from Camden to Oxford Street. Its first

occupants are the company’s new national sales team, called Opus, which

came about because of Capital’s decision to pull the plug on MSM.

Another key development, albeit non-radio, is the formation of a digital

division, whose aim is to capture a slice of the emerging digital TV


Despite his company’s relatively high stock market rating, not everyone

is convinced Bernard’s enthusiasm for buying radio stations is matched

by an ability to run them. ’They’ve stayed provincial in outlook,’ says

one observer, who finds Emap a much slicker operation.

RICHARD HUNTINGFORD 41 chief executive Chrysalis Radio

At 18, Huntingford opted out of college and, with pounds 50 in his

pocket, packed his bags for Australia. The next year was perhaps a sign

of things to come. He got a job at McDonald’s, worked his way up from

toilet to oven cleaner - and claims he can still stomach a Big Mac.

His career started after he acquired a professional accountancy

qualification and spent the following decade working as an accountant at

KPMG. This gave him his first contact with Chrysalis (a client), then

only a record label promoting the likes of Huey Lewis.

He helped to prepare its flotation on the Stock Exchange (1985) and, as

a result, got to know the company.

In 1987, Chris Wright, its founder and chairman, hired Huntingford as

corporate development director, where he gained a grounding in media

generally and discovered the ’Cinderella medium of radio’.

His first real break came shortly afterwards when Chrysalis bought a 20

per cent share in Metro Radio, covering the North-east and Yorkshire,

for pounds 5 million. Huntingford was on the board for five years as a

non-executive director.

Chrysalis Radio - consisting of two Heart and three Galaxy stations -

now covers a potential 22 million adults, which roughly translates to 46

per cent of the UK population. These figures secure Chrysalis the number

one spot as the UK’s largest regional operator, by size of potential

coverage - and all within the past four years.

Huntingford puts the group’s success down to a substantial marketing

spend of ’more than pounds 3 million’. The spend for Heart 106.2 in

London was actually increased after its launch year.

The year ending August 1998 will be the first profit-making one for

Chrysalis Radio but Huntingford is already keen to communicate expansion


It has made a bid for the North-east licence - to be decided upon by the

Radio Authority on 10 March - and is also planning to submit for the

Central Scotland franchise. Chrysalis’s first bid in the North-east in

1993 was thwarted when the licence went to Jazz FM. Both new bids will

follow the Heart format.

Trevor Morse, the director of strategy at Chrysalis, says he has ’great

respect for a man who has taken the company from new beginnings to a

200-strong workforce.’ The managing director of Chrysalis Radio, Phil

Riley, among other compliments, says Huntingford is focused and very

astute politically.

SALLY OLDHAM 42 managing director Group Radio, Capital Radio

Sally Oldham’s career began at Haymarket Publishing as advertisement

manager for Campaign and Marketing but after two years she made a move

into radio.

Over the past 17 years, Oldham has acquainted herself with most of the

major stations in the South and South-east and, a little further north,

Birmingham also features on her CV.

Oldham joined Capital in 1995 as station director of its Hampshire-based

Ocean Radio Group. In 1996, she was promoted to regional operations

director, which brought responsibility for all of Capital’s non-London

stations. The current position was officially bestowed in October of

last year but has only been a reality since mid-January.

Oldham light-heartedly refers to Capital’s failed bid for Virgin Radio

last year as ’probably not the best news we received in 1997.’ But she

believes the outcome has ’re-energized us and made us more focused.’

This will be necessary since some now doubt Capital’s ability to expand

in the London market.

Asked to describe her strengths, Oldham has little hesitation in coming

up with ’determined’, ’focused’, ’direct’ but ’above all, great

integrity, honesty and drive to get the results’. Some might see a

tension here between ethical probity on the one hand and hard-hitting

business aggression on the other. But Oldham seems comfortable with the

combination, making repeated references to radio as a responsible


Those in the industry who know Oldham agree with her self-assessment,

although they point out that as a newcomer to the London broadcasting

scene, she will have to make more of a personal impact before she can

expect to renew confidence in Capital.

One long-standing acquaintance, Linda Smith at the media buyer,

MediaVest, says Oldham is: ’One of the most single-minded people I know

and incredibly ambitious for any cause she’s promoting.’ And, although

Oldham ’doesn’t suffer fools gladly, she can be incredibly supportive’.

Smith believes Oldham will find a way round potential Monopolies and

Merger Commission restrictions, if there is a way to be found.

Oldham’s ambitions for Capital remain understandably vague at the

moment, since she has only just got her feet under the table. ’We’ve got

to make sure we’re not seen as a pushover. That means putting our

interests first, while being concerned about the health and wealth of

the industry as a whole.’

JOHN PEARSON 40 chief executive Virgin Radio

Pearson’s schoolboy plan was to work in newspapers but he was tempted by

radio because ’it looked like fun’. His career includes spells at Radio

Luxembourg, Capital, LBC and now Virgin. In between, there have been a

couple of jobs in newspapers and magazines.

The fun doesn’t appear to have gone out of radio yet. He describes it as

’the most reactive and compelling medium’. Radio, Pearson believes, must

constantly reinvent itself to stay ahead. ’Radio is a speedboat compared

with most media’s oil tankers.’

He takes pride in the station’s achievement of ’offering more than just

spots’. The relationship between clients and media owners is changing,

he says. ’Traditional trading is now just a small part of the

relationship, especially between multi-brand companies.’

The station’s main focus is the 20- to 44-year-old age group but Pearson

says there is ’a great deal’ of potential still to fulfil. As the radio

market becomes more competitive, accurate targeting and discrete

audience delivery to advertisers will be paramount. ’The challenge for

the next five years is to create a valuable brand using the culture of

Virgin and the energy of Chris Evans.’ The high-profile recent changes

at Virgin, snatched from the jaws of Capital by Evans’ Ginger

Productions (now Ginger Media Group), have prompted a soon-to-begin

pounds 5 million advertising campaign, probably using TV and featuring

Evans. The station has already capitalised the broad appeal of Evans

with a BSkyB sponsorship of his breakfast show. And another

multi-million pound sponsorship is also believed to be imminent.

Pearson is impressed by the unity the radio industry has shown and

believes it will ’probably be the single biggest factor in our continued


Strengths and weaknesses? The former, Pearson says, are ’not getting

bogged down in trivia and focusing on important things’, while the

latter is ’time management and setting unrealistic deadlines’. He

appears unfazed at the prospect of dealing with Evans on a daily basis.

’Chris is passionate about radio but his view is to let business people

run the business.’ Pearson is admired by industry colleagues for his

’infectious enthusiasm’, his ’impeccable understanding’ of radio as a

brand and the fact that he became bullish about radio long before it was

fashionable to be so.

NIGEL REEVE 45 managing director London News Radio

’I decided at 17 that a car was better than further education,’ says

Nigel Reeve, who began his working life selling ads for local


When the first licences for commercial local radio were granted, Reeve

jumped ship. From sales executive at Radio Orwell, he joined

Bournemouth’s 2CR in 1981 as sales manager before stints at two other

stations. He joined Classic FM, in 1991 and left in 1996 to become the

managing director of London News Radio.

He believes radio has made the leap from commodity - with a pile it

high, sell it cheap approach - to brand, as demonstrated by Classic FM.

’It’s now marketed as much to ad agencies as it is to consumers.’

When Reeve joined LNR, it was already attempting to throw off its shoddy

reputation and present a more professional image, under its new

shareholders, ITN, GWR and DMGT. FM is now branded News Direct, while

the AM station has gone back to its LBC roots. ’I hope I’ve brought a

degree of credibility to the station and a bit of stability,’ Reeve


His task for the future is to turn speech radio into a more distinct

brand, which ’attracts very specific advertisers and makes them think

more about the style of ads they run on our stations. No-one would dream

of using a rock ’n’ roll soundtrack on Classic FM. I want to see a

similar focus from our advertisers.’

Radio as a whole has the potential, he predicts, to become an 8 per cent

medium (almost double its current 4.8 per cent level). ’But to achieve

this, the industry must back the Radio Advertising Bureau. If we act as

loose cannons, we won’t get there.’ There are no signs of complacency at

News Direct and LBC. The former has increased its January 1997 weekly

audience of 295,000 to 440,000 in 12 months.

And while the reborn LBC’s audience figures are ’much more static’, he

is ’looking at ways to enliven the brand’. He expects to make

announcements over the next two to three months. Another less

high-profile change at LNR has been the establishment of its own

national sales house a year ago. Sales are already 70 per cent up on

January 1997. If Reeve hadn’t pursued his radio career, he thinks he

might have become a broadcast journalist.

However, ’in a perfect world, I’d play golf every day’.

PAUL ROBINSON 41 general manager Talk Radio

Robinson’s BSC (Hons) in metallurgy and MBA in business, followed by

three years as a marketer for an industrial gas company were an unlikely

start for a career in radio. But he caught the broadcasting bug at

Chiltern Radio, went on to become head of strategy for all the BBC

stations, and moved to Talk in August 1996. With the promotion of Travis

Baxter to chairman last year, Robinson was promoted to managing

director. He also heads up Country 1035 AM which, like Talk, is

majority- owned by CLT. Commercial radio, he says, has become a

’fully-fledged business over the past six years’.

Robinson’s impact on Talk Radio, which suffered from a limp launch, has

so far been a redefining of the audience and a determination to make it

a ’proactive listen’. The strategy seems to be working, with successive

increases in Rajar quarterly listening figures (up to an average of 2.4

million a week). Market share stands at 2 per cent.

’The task this year is to increase our rate of audience growth and to

get closer to profitability,’ Robinson says, although he concedes that

the latter ’won’t be for a while yet’. Advertising revenue, which leapt

by 80 per cent last year and now comes from an impressively blue-chip

line-up (including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, BT and McDonald’s) certainly

looks healthy enough.

Robinson hopes to increase it further by creating ’unique properties’

for advertisers, based on the fact that Talk is the UK’s only national

commercial speech station’. Talk’s programming has been beefed-up in

recent months with the appointment of new presenters such as Danny

Baker, Lorraine Kelly and Kirsty Young. There is also a heavier emphasis

on sport. And January saw the arrival of a new programme director with a

background in speech radio - John Simons, from Century Radio in the


Radio as a medium will survive the onslaught of new media channels,

Robinson predicts, because of its portability and the fact that it is a

’secondary medium,’ meaning that you can listen to it while doing other


The medium’s strength also means there should be plenty of room for all

the big players to grow. ’I want to work co-operatively with Virgin and

Classic FM, which means not trying to poach from each other. There’s no

point in us trying to cannibalise each others’ audiences.’

TIM SCHOONMAKER 40 chief executive Emap Radio

Tim Schoonmaker joined Emap in 1983 after completing a BA at Dartmouth

College and an MBA at the London Business School. From managing director

of the newspaper division, he became development director of the


Schoonmaker says he ’sold’ deregulation of the radio industry to the

company and was made chief executive of Emap Radio.

His view of radio is upbeat: ’Music is life, and radio will remain the

best mass-market medium for young people, provided there is investment

in talent and change,’ he declares.

Under Schoonmaker, Emap Radio has raised its weekly listening figures to

seven million. This success has been consolidated more recently through

the ’listening hard’ advertising campaign and the complete revamp of

Emap’s nine AM stations under the ’Magic AM’ umbrella. This exercise,

completed early last year, was promoted via posters, TV and the back of

Tesco till receipts.

Schoonmaker’s overriding concern is to assist advertisers with


’We’ve shifted the age of our ideal listener down by 10 years to 39.’

The Magic brand is now being rolled out into Emap’s radio stations in

the North-east and a cable TV version is also in the pipeline.

Despite his evident enthusiasm for radio and his belief that the

industry’s way forward is ’to continue seeing the enemy as other media,

not other radio groups,’ Schoonmaker maintains that the future for Emap

is ’to offer advertisers the best place for reaching young people across

radio, TV and press’.

A by-product of the failed Capital bid for Virgin was the launch last

November of Emap’s own national sales house, Emap On Air. This has

’already made a huge difference to our understanding of, and contact

with, the national advertising market,’ Schoonmaker says. It has also

allowed the radio stations to work more collaboratively with Emap’s

magazine division.

Schoonmaker is described as a ’very shrewd commercial animal who

believes he can make a lot more money out of commercial radio’ by

Douglas McArthur, managing director of the Radio Advertising Authority.

To one media buyer, he ’keeps his thoughts to himself - perhaps that’s

why Emap has done so well’; while another says the AM rebranding

exercise has been done with ’verve and vitality’.