From interviewing Michael Jackson to managing Chris Moyles, from signing Craig David to heading Global Radio: Richard Park did it, and still loves to discover radio talent.

Over the course of five decades, he employed the majority of radio presenters in the UK. At the Radio Festival 2012, radio godfather Richard Park (1948) shared radio stories and defended the programming model of Global Radio’s national brands Capital FM and Heart that he implemented. “At times that we need local, we are giving it in spades.”


“Music was always my passion;

that’s what absolutely drove me forward”



Richard Park, Kay Burley, Radio Festival 2012

Global Radio director of broadcasting Richard Park’s main motivation to work in radio was his love for music, he tells interviewer Kay Burley and the audience of his ‘Park Life’ session at the Radio Festival 2012 (photo: Thomas Giger)



Starting in pirate radio

Richard Park has a clear destiny in life. “I wasn’t one of these people who wonder at school: what am I going to do?” He is determined to work in media, and begins as a journalist for local papers. As much as he enjoys reporting and writing, he finds his true calling when he finds an advert in the Edinburgh Evening News: Presenters Wanted for Radio Scotland. “I thought: that is really what I want to do. Music was always my passion; that’s what absolutely drove me forward.” He wins the audition and soon after finds himself making pirate radio on an offshore station. This happens before 1967, when there’s no law against pirate radio and BBC Radio 1 doesn’t exist yet – so it’s basically a free playground.



Richard Park, Radio ScotlandLiving the radio dream

“There was nothing on the waveband”, Park reminisces (photo taken back then). “Radio Scotland was, like Radio Caroline, absolutely iconic.” He speaks of an incredible time, although The Boat That Rocked was based on more fiction than facts. “The first minutes of that film had some sort of distant accuracy to them, but the rest of it – young ladies piling on board of the boat – never happened in my time!” [see also: radio movies]



Contributing to Radio 1

When most pirate stations close down on August 14, 1967, due to the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, the majority of radio deejays steps ashore and submits demo tapes to BBC Radio 1; the public broadcaster’s answer to young people’s demand for pop music. Park finds his way into BBC Scotland, does an audition and – “believe it or not, 9 months later” – receives a call from a producer named Johnny Beerling (who would later become controller of BBC Radio 1). “He said: do you fancy as show on Radio 1; being on Friday as the guest interviewer with the Emperor Rosko in Glasgow?” Park says yes – not knowing that one of the first guys he’ll talk to will be David Bowie:


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“Could you turn down a chance

to be in charge of this here?”



Leicester Square, night, London

Richard Park fell in love with London after feeling the city’s vibe on Leicester Square (photo:



Growing in local radio

In the early 70s, Park joins the Radio Glasgow consortium that apllies for the city’s first independent broadcasting license. They don’t get it, but luckily the beauty contest winner Radio Clyde offers him a job as a presenter. “They asked me: what do you prefer – a part time or a full time job? I said: is that a serious question?” The station (now split into Clyde 1 and Clyde 2) launches on new year’s eve 1973, and becomes the center of his existence. Besides weekday lunch hours, the young presenter is hosting a Saturday sports program and another show on Sunday. “After a couple of months, managing director Jimmy Gordon said: the records on your show sound better than on the others. I said: I don’t use the station’s playlist; I play my own.” Instead of getting fired, Park becomes Radio Clyde’s head of music. He stays on the air as well, doing everything – from covering soccer matches to interviewing Michael Jackson:


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Capital Radio, London, AM 194Receiving major market opportunity

“I never had any intention of leaving Scotland until I got a phone call, telling me that they had a vacancy in London.” It turns out Capital Radio is looking for a music director. Park is invited for a meeting in the Duke of York’s Theatre that Capital owns then, with chairman Lord Richard Attenborough and director Nigel Walmsley. “I just thought: I hope I’ll make a decent impression, but I won’t be coming down – I’m enjoying what I’m doing too much.”



Programming Capital Radio London

Everything changes when he leaves the theatre after a well-gone conversation, and walks over Charing Cross Road towards Leicester Square – today, that’s the exact location of Global Radio’s headquarters. “It was a Friday night at 8 ‘o clock. The buzz was just unbelievable. And I was thinking: could you turn down a chance to be in charge of this here? On Monday I got a phone call saying: if you want, we would like you to come and accept the position. I said: you know what? I’m in.” Most people at the station then think that ‘this lad from Scotland’ won’t last for 6 months, also because the ratings are not great: “Capital had drifted into an AOR position; away from what I remembered to be its best position. People loved it when it played the hits. That, for that radio station, was absolutely spot on.”



“It was an invigorating time”



Tony Blackburn, Capital Gold, radio studio

As PD of Capital FM and Capital Gold, Richard Park worked with DJs such as Tony Blackburn (photo: PA Photos)



Repositioning Capital on AM & FM

Capital plays pop music on AM, and AOR on FM for some time. “In 1987 I thought: going forward, as FM makes its biggest mark, that’ll be the wrong way around. I had to tell my board in those days that I was going to change the AM into Gold.” The birth of CHR station Capital FM (‘Hot Rockin’ 95.8 FM’, as the jingles say) and Classic Hits spin-off Capital Gold is accompanied by the arrival of some high-profile radio personalities. “We had Tarrant on the FM, and Blackburn coming onto the AM. That’s quite a two bold hosting your FM and AM breakfast shows. It was an invigorating time.” His programming changes and station repositionings pay off: Capital wins 1 million listeners – their audience reach grows from 2.3 to 3.4 million people. Over the years, Richard Park employs many UK radio legends.



Pat SharpBecoming radio talent’s godfather

He contracts Chris Moyles – “I didn’t realize we were training him for Radio 1!” – and also hires VJ Pat Sharp as Capital FM DJ. After 10 years, Sharp’s contract isn’t renewed and Park invites him for a goodbye lunch after Pat’s last show. When he opens his wallet to pay the bill, he has a yellow and a red card in it. He takes out the red one, and says: you’re off, Patman! “It’s the way I like to work. We have some fun, even in a moment of contract conclusion.”



Signing record label deals

“It was time up”, he explains his decision to let a loyal employee like Sharp go after a decade of working together. He explains that at a given time, the audience expects to hear the next phase, and that a change can even be good for the radio personality. “Sometimes you’re doing people a favor. In some cases – and certainly in his – they do come back later and say: you know what? I know the shows weren’t as good as they once were, and I know now that you’re looking for something for the future to continue to sustain the levels of audience that we had.” Apart from discovering radio talents, Richard Park also helps to launch the career of several recording artists. One of them is a kid by the name of Craig David… who is still unknown and hasn’t been signed by a record label yet. He and his manager come to visit Park, who immediately sees a great opportunity:


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“If Global hadn’t picked it up,

it was gone, over, goodnight”



Global Radio brands, UK map

Richard Park claims that Global Radio’s national brand rollout strategy saved many local radio stations from being shut down as a result of financial challenges that the UK radio market is facing (original images: Global, JF Faber)



Joining Ashley Tabor’s Global

After being with Capital for 14 years, he feels that it’s time for something different. Park is a serial entrepreneur in those days. Among other things he starts a record company, and a consultancy firm with which he helps EMAP (now Bauer Radio) develop their Big City (now Bauer Place & Passion) and Magic networks. Finally, it’s going back to Leicester Square to sign up with Ashley Tabor, founder of Global Radio and son of UK businessman Michael Tabor. The young radio owner used to hang out at Capital FM as a kid, serving tea. “Ashley was the most enthusiastic person I ever met”, Park remembers. His future boss regularly stops by his office when he’s preparing Capital’s weekly playlist:


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Richard Park, Radio Festival 2012‘Rejuvenating’ UK’s radio industry

How does he respond to the criticis who claim that ‘Global is killing local radio’ by replacing heritage brands and local content by national brands and network programming? “People who say this do not know what they’re talking about; they don’t know the facts”, Park counters. “It’s a rejuvenation. Audience numbers are higher – whether you’re in Norwich, Bristol, Central Scotland… with a license that if Global hadn’t picked it up, it was gone, over, goodnight.”



Combining local & network programming

He remembers the audience that over the whole UK, independent local stations have a hard time financially. “We need to realize how serious it has been, and that the work that has been done has breath fresh life into an industry that I love and I’m passionate about. We’ve got a great set of people. They are doing brilliantly in their own local areas, and then they feed into the main center. That is a strength; not a weakness. Who feels disenfranchised when they hear Hirsty’s Capital Yorkshire breakfast show? Most of us are at work when Rich Clarke or the Bassman are spinning the tunes. But as we come back at drive time and hear Adam O’Neill to carry on with Yorkshire, that’s what he’s talking about. At times that we need local, we are giving it in spades. People like Hirsty can say to me: Richard, I want a future in this business. So I can say: okay, you’re part of the Global family; I’ll give you a shift on Gold.”



“I want to encourage the people

that we’re bringing forward”



Richard Park, Radio Festival 2012

Richard Park influenced the radio career of hundreds of on-air personalities in the UK radio market over the course of 5 decades, but says he still lives for finding and mentoring unique radio broadcasting talents (photo: Thomas Giger)



Delivering new broadcasting generation

Richard Park is a significant part of the UK radio industry for over 5 decades. Interviewer Kay Burley is asking what his plans are for the future. “I want to work with the people I’m working with, encourage the people that we’re bringing forward”, he replies. It seems that to discover and develop radio talent is his main motive to be in radio. “We did a student radio [event] with Radio 1 the other night. I have to tell you: it was the most motivating thing I’ve been to for years. I don’t think I’ve seen a group so able to cast everything aside in terms of negativity. We’re trying very hard to introduce new people. We put a shifting together for people who want to be the next generation of radio broadcasters. That’s what still drives me on.”



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