Former BBC Radio Oxford presenter Jo Thoenes tells Jaine Blackman how she's learning a whole new lingo as she broadcasts to the troops
While accusations of sexism – and worse – in the worlds of television and radio have been rife in the past few years, Jo Thoenes has seen little evidence of it in nearly 20 years’ broadcasting.
“I have been a bit oblivious to it all. I never felt discriminated against,” says former BBC Radio Oxford presenter Jo.
“Radio was a very male dominated environment but I have always been one of the boys.
“I always wanted to be judged as a presenter, not a woman presenter.”
And a new audience of listeners are being able to do just that, as Jo is presenting an afternoon show between 1pm and 4pm Monday to Friday on the new Forces’ radio station at RAF Brize Norton.
“It’s aimed to cater to all personnel across all of the county’s bases/stations/barracks/garrisons but also a wider Oxfordshire audience,” says Jo, who was working for Radio Oxford until the beginning of the year.
She then left to freelance but was lured back to a regular slot with the offer of being in on the ground at the fledgling station.
It’s so new that she has to explain to listeners that the banging in the background is just a towel dispenser being put up.
It’s not likely to phase Jo, who started her career by talking her way into a job with Capital FM, the first commercial radio station in Kenya (where her parents had emigrated), despite having no experience.
“After four years there presenting across the schedule I moved to the UK and within months I was working in London with the Chrysalis group,” says Jo, 40, who lives in Didcot.
Then an opportunity to come to Oxford arose and she started presenting the evening show on Fusion 107.9. From there she went to Fox FM for four years, followed by six years on the award winning afternoon show at BBC Oxford before a year on the Phil Gayle & Friends Breakfast Show.
“Broadcasting here at BFBS Brize Norton differs from other stations I have worked at because the majority of our audience are employed in this very specific field of the Forces. It is a lifestyle as much as a career choice – not just for the personnel serving across Oxfordshire, but for their families too.”
Working with morning show presenter Alex Gill, pictured left, who she describes as being like a “little brother” she’s getting a crash course in all things military.
“She has made her lack of direct experience of the military audience an asset on-air with her competitions for the audience to try military acronyms on her to see if she can work out what the heck they are talking about,” says UK bases station manager Chris Pearson.
He feels Jo and Alex, who grew up in military communities overseas, make a winning combination.
“Jo stood out at the interviews with the breadth of her experience and her winning on-air style. We were inundated with applicants for the roles but Jo struck us as exactly what we were looking for. She knows the area like the back of her hand and is well known in it,” he says.
And fans of Jo’s BBC shows will be pleased to know that the station is on DAB digital radio so they can tune in too.
“My show is about entertainment, great music, a bit of chat and banter, but also a chance to meet some of the people who every day are doing the most extraordinary jobs – and to maybe do-mystify for the broader audience what goes on ‘inside the wire’,” says Jo, who can always pick up a few tips at home too, as her partner Dave is ex-Army.
“We are about celebrating these amazing people and their achievements.”