Working for a Capital radio station is a bit like being in a band. There’s a lot of tribal loyalty and the people on the front line rely heavily on the staff who beaver away in the background.
Britain’s largest commercial radio company has 19 stations from Glasgow to central London, employing almost 800 staff, and having a turnover of £120m.
London’s Capital FM was launched in 1973 and if the central London office in Leicester Square is anything to go by, the firm buzzes with life: its vibrant offices have jelly-bean machines and music pumping out everywhere from the lifts to the lavatories. Life there is obviously fun, but workers also do their bit for charity by running Help a London child and Share a Capital Christmas. Together, they have raised more than £13m.
Long hours are a part of the culture, as Alison Hilborne, the managing director’s PA at Fox FM, admitted. “But we don’t mind putting in the extra,” she said. There is a similar sentiment at every level, from Paul Harris, operations director, to James MacDonald, 20, and the hands behind Chris Tarrant’s breakfast show on Capital FM.
Harris starts early and makes an effort to get home “by 7pm or 8pm twice a week”, while MacDonald sometimes can be found putting together jingles up until 11pm and then be in work at 5.15am to “drive” the morning show. Both find the buzz of the job fulfilment enough. MacDonald says: “It’s all good. Even though I am in bed by 8pm most of the time, my friends enjoy the free concert tickets I get sent.”
There is a community feeling in each station. Natasha, who DJs on Xfm said: “Even though we are in the same offices as Capital, we have our own sense of being an alternative station with a laid-back identity.”
Pay disparity is, however an issue. Some DJs can earn £1m a year or more. Only 54% of staff say that they received a fair share of the profits. MacDonald, for example, does not earn enough to live in London and spends hours driving in from Kent. However, there are free CDs in return for the long hours and hard work, keeping the crew in harmony.
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