“There was never really a consideration that I would never be in the radio industry.”
James Rea, the Director of Broadcasting and Content in Global, talks about his journey from a 16-year-old boy coming from a family of musicians to becoming a head of a well-known media and entertainment group, Global, with International Radio Consultant John Simons.
Global is one of the biggest radio companies in the UK owning multiple stations, from the oldest stations – LBC and Capital – to the newest ones – Capital Chill and Radio X Classic Rock. LBC is the oldest commercial radio station which started in the year 1973 and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.
“And how do you keep on top of so many brands?” John asked James with a genuine curiosity. James responded that for him, this job is a blessing. He also added that without his amazing team, he wouldn’t be able to work like that. “It is a strong partnership,” James highlighted.
Even though James is now one of the most influential people in Global, he started just as any other teenager with a dream. He didn’t go to university and started at the age of 16 as a journalist while still working on his A-levels. In fact, John Simons gave him his first job because no one else wanted him. But he achieved a lot of great things. For example, he had a chance to interview Tony Blair just before he became the Prime Minister. “I was kind of a partial journalist because I couldn’t drive and I couldn’t even vote!” James describes his experience with laughter.
Rea worked as a reporter for BBC for some time but even though he finds the role of this institution crucial for the industry, it simply wasn’t his environment. “Journalism is about breaking stories and creative freedom for me, I didn’t have the patience to wait for multiple editorial approvals all the time,” he says.
So he found his way to Global and started to run LBC which he led to its successful comeback on the radio scene and to its current number of more than 3.5 million listeners. “We didn’t want to follow the news agenda, we wanted to set it,” states Rea.
The biggest commercial music Heart Radio and its “Balls” came along later. This massive event taking place in Webley stadium hosts the biggest names of the music industry and ensures its place in people’s hearts.
Looking back at his career, Rea admits that getting into the radio industry is tough. “We need a new generation of people not to just listen to the radio but to be part of this fantastic industry.”