I’m a television and radio presenter, a writer and a journalist. I try to do what I do with heart, humour and integrity. I specialise in asking difficult questions that others avoid. If you’ve seen me at all it’s probably on BBC1’s consumer investigation programme, Rogue Traders or on Watchdog, but over the last twenty years I’ve fronted a lot of shows, from quizzes to debates to Top of The Pops, for all of the UK’s terrestrial broadcasters. I also love writing. I’ve done a lot. I’ve hosted major events and conferences.
I was born and grew up in Reading in the early 70s. After school I went to Manchester University just in time to stand next to the Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses at the bar. I got a degree in English Language and Literature and then went to Japan for three years, where I taught English in High Schools and ran my own English school. It helped me get (financially) ready to return to study a postgraduate degree in Journalism. I then worked in BBC newsrooms until, in 1997, after reporting a fault with my mum’s tumble drier, I was asked to report on, and then present the BBC’s flagship consumer programme, Watchdog.
I felt really at home at Watchdog, so I made a point of not leaving the office for about twenty years. I really love telling those stories and trying to make things a bit better for people. Before long they had me presenting the outside broadcasts. I was that man from the BBC, just trying to do his job, who had to deal with high winds and temperamental umbrellas, rowdy students and unpredictable horses. When Rogue Traders came along in 2000, I recognised it for what it could be - that corner of the televisual world where people could watch and really feel that someone is on their side. I write the show and come up with lots of the ideas. I’ve done over a hundred doorstep confrontations in that time, and that means a hundred vans with a hundred TV crews. I’ve been swung at, pushed and shoved, jet-washed, covered in urine and, on one occasion, had a biro pushed up my nose. I’m not saying I like these things happening to me, but at least you know that when it happens you’ve come to the right place.
Why do I do it?
I try to make programmes I care about. I think if I do that there’s a good chance that other people might care about them too. You can tell when you’re watching someone who doesn’t really care about what they’re saying, or who hasn’t had a hand in thinking it up and writing it down. Housing Enforcers is a show about the state of rental properties in the UK right now. In short, it’s a pretty appalling situation. I accompanied Environmental Health Officers in their work inspecting pretty dreadful flats and houses. Fake Britain looks at the rise and rise of shonky goods which could hurt you. But I also love quizzes. That’s why I’ve hosted a couple - The Exit List and The Code. I also present and report on The One Show because you can’t beat the variety of stuff you get to do and see. How else could I have played The Chain with Mick Fleetwood and met Brian Wilson? Where else can you meet Sigourney Weaver and hold a big fish with Kenny Rogers?
Here’s a list of a few of the other programmes I’ve worked on. Brassed Off Britain, The Heaven and Earth Show, Holiday on a Shoestring,You’ve Been Scammed, Value For Money, Watchdog Healthcheck, Rogue Restaurants, Food Inspectors, The Empty Housing Scandal. I’ve been a winner on Mastermind, University Challenge, Pointless, and The Chase, seen by many to be the Quadrangle of Quiz. I’m proud to say I get a mention in Alan Partridge’s book NOMAD (‘his name is just about fair’), and that I hosted BBC2’s Food Poker, generally acknowledged to be the closest British Television has ever got to actually making Monkey Tennis.
I‘ve written regular columns for The Chartered Trading Standards Institute and Best Magazine. I presented Channel 5’s Saturday Show with Gaby Roslin. My World Service music documentary about why some instruments are more important than others is here.
I’ve hosted loads of events and facilitated at conferences. I’m good at getting people talking, and asking the right question in the right way. I love coming up with new ideas, whether they’re for programmes, events or stories. Like I tell my kids, whoever tells the best stories, wins. I helped devise my programmes The Housing Enforcers and The Empty Housing Scandal, and got them commissioned.
I’m a patron for SANDS, The Stillborn and Neonatal Death Society, and for Launchpad, a charity fighting homelessness in my home town of Reading. I’m a member of the Alliance to End High Cost Credit. In a much as you’re professional when you get paid your first pound, I’m a professional pedal steel guitarist, regularly recording and playing live (see MUSIC, above) with a number of different artists and groups, mostly with a country or folky leaning. Music is, at the end of the day, what it’s all about. I’m married with two kids and I kayak, ride a bike and play tennis, but not all at the same time. I support Liverpool F.C. #YNWA