THE BLOG

That Nervousness Is There - But I've Never Been More Excited About A New Job

16/09/2016 16:29

I joined Radio 1 as a specialist music DJ back in October 2002. Back then it would've sounded strange and not a little pompous to describe myself as a broadcaster. Maybe it is an age thing - my desire to be taken more seriously - which means that I am comfortable with the term now and revel in it. I never knew that I wanted to work in radio until I did.

I had no aspirations to be in student radio nor did I sit up in the eighties taping the links of my favourite radio presenters to analyse their quality of on air banter, or how they segue between a ballad and an uptempo pop track. Language and communication mattered to me, married to an inquisitiveness that meant that I have done many jobs in the past related to the music industry.

It was my late father who subliminally indoctrinated me with a love of current affairs. He read a broadsheet newspaper everyday and would never miss an opportunity to watch the news back in the days when there were four channels and the 6pm and the 9pm news programmes were a time for silence and reverential focus on the national and international events of the day. So while I was trying to succeed as a British MC chasing that rap music dream in the 1980s I would also take notice of and try to understand world events such as the Tiananmen Square protests, the break up of the former Soviet Union or the Beirut truck bombing that killed hundreds of American servicemen.

Looking back such events were seared into my subconscious and as I got older while still a Radio 1 DJ I decided that speech broadcasting was where I wanted to go. Luckily an Editor called George Mann at the BBC saw a documentary I had done for Channel 4 and asked me to be a bit of a supply teacher on the BBC Asian Network Phone In Show then presented by Anita Rani.

To cut a long story short I ended up hosting that show full-time for seven years and in that time I truly became a broadcaster. Religious extremism, terrorism, forced marriages, alcoholism, drug addiction, integration, segregation, controversy, death threats, two general elections and an EU referendum plus hundreds of guests from the worlds of music, film, theatre, art and literature all helped me to become someone who learnt on the job and made all the mistakes while talking to a passionate and powerful audience who were never shy in sharing their opinions.

In my mind there was always this doubt though. Am I destined to be defined by my ethnicity as far as my radio career was concerned? People would only see me as the Asian broadcaster. That is one of the many reasons that I am so excited about my new job co-hosting Afternoon Edition alongside Sarah Brett on BBC Radio 5 live and so happy that the Controller of 5 live Jonathan Wall has given me an opportunity of a lifetime. This is mainstream broadcasting. The guests are household names, the issues go beyond the Asian community while being relevant to them too. The chance to have the conversations I used to have but on a bigger platform, and many new debates as well. The chance to be unleashed onto a largely unsuspecting public and bring my vibe to their weekday afternoons.

I could do a massive hard sell on everything the show has planned and the array of extraordinary guests we have lined up which reads like a Come Dine With Me on LSD, but I hope you'll listen! Radio 5 live is my broadcasting home now, I moved my entire family from London to be a part of this brilliant 5 live team in Salford, so it had better work out! There will be hourly challenges as the news develops, callers present new ideas and experiences, fascinating guests, and an attentive audience, needs to be engaged by asking the right questions, and the listeners are tweeting, emailing, texting, Facebooking and calling in to have their voice heard. I have never been more confident about a new job even though the nervousness is still there.

I need that, it's like the minutes before you man the turntables and it is suddenly your responsibility to get the party started or take it on to another level. The nerves are an adrenaline catalyst, and I am ready to step onstage. In the words of the rapper Humble The Poet: "I didn't make it this far just to make it this far."

Nihal Arthanayake will join BBC Radio 5 live as co-presenter with Sarah Brett from Mondays to Thursdays on Afternoon Edition 1-4pm, starting on Monday 19 Sep. On Fridays he will continue to front his award winning Asian Network show, live from Salford.

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