Born in Glasgow, Paul’s ambition was to become a dentist but as his exam results were, as he puts it “underwhelming”, he instead attended the University of Glasgow and Paisley College of Technology to do a BSc degree course. He became resident DJ at both institutions, before going into hospital radio and eventually getting a job as a presenter at Scottish commercial station Radio Clyde. Whilst working there he also freelanced at the ITV channel Scottish Television (STV) as an announcer in the early 1980s and was then asked to host his own, weekly chat show, Meet Paul Coia. He won the Radio Industry Club’s Scottish Radio Presenter of the Year award. He then moved south to London to help launch Channel 4.
Paul was the first voice heard on Channel 4’s launch day on 2nd November 1982: “Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be able to say to you: welcome to Channel 4”. He also appeared in-vision, presenting their preview show; he closed the station that night by blowing out a candle shaped like the Channel 4 logo. He stayed with Channel 4 for around seven months before joining BBC One’s daily magazine show Pebble Mill at One; he presented that programme for three years. In 1987, Paul did his second chat show series with Grampian TV called, appropriately enough, The Paul Coia Show. In 1988, he presented the new, networked, daily quiz series Catchword for BBC Two and continued as host for eight years.
In 1990, Paul acted as a tour guide in an episode of the comedy show Rab C Nesbitt. Since then he has presented quiz and game shows for the BBC, ITV and Sky. He married former Miss Great Britain Debbie Greenwood (from BBC TV’s Breakfast Time) and they appeared together as cover for Gloria Hunniford on her Channel 5 chat show; they also stood in for Derek and Ellen Jameson on their late-night show on BBC Radio 2. They presented the weekend Breakfast show on LBC together for a year. Paul then worked on BBC Radio 2 as a cover presenter for several years and hosted the station’s summer roadshows while also presenting on BBC One’s The Holiday Show. He created and devised the BBC quiz show The Enemy Within (2002) and has been launch presenter on three TV stations – Channel 4, the defunct, Disney-owned channel ABC 1 and the satellite station TV Travel Shop.
Currently, Paul travels the world providing media and public speaking training for executives. He was Smooth Radio’s drivetime presenter for two years from February 2008 and, since April 2013, has continued to present a Sunday morning programme on BBC Radio Berkshire, as well as shows for BBC Radio London. Awards include Radio Personality of the Year, the Golden Rose of Montreaux (Rose D’Or) TV Awards, runner up in the BBC’s Gillards and a Webby award for corporate communication.
Paul R. Jackson corresponded with Paul in September 2017 and asked him for his memories and anecdotes regarding his broadcasting career: “My first memory of being an announcer at STV was of reading the lunchtime news, in-vision and dropping my script on the floor. I bent down out of the camera line, picked the sheets up and carried on without realising they were now in the wrong order. As the transmission controllers struggled to keep up viewers at home, memorably, saw a photo of the Pope with my name superimposed at the bottom. My mum was not impressed. My first chat show for STV, called Meet Paul Coia, was transmitted with no sound for the first five minutes leading to one newspaper review summing up the show as ‘Meet Paul Coia – no thanks’.
“First night at Channel 4 was nervy as we were doing things with computers never attempted on a UK TV station before. Would it work? I did interviews that day with everyone from The Times to The Washington Post and, as champagne corks popped upstairs, I sat with my transmission controller Jo Wright, teetotal, downstairs putting out the shows. We didn’t get a drop. Next day the reviews criticised the amount of swearing on the opening night’s shows under the front page headline ‘Channel Swore’ and even ‘Channel 4-Letter-Word’. Promises of being allowed to host shows didn’t materialise and, not wanting to simply be an announcer, I joined the BBC to co-host a summer show from Birmingham called 6.55 Special, where I replaced iconic actor David Soul. He kindly left me his autographed panama hat, which I still have somewhere! Following that series, I was asked to stay on as a host of Pebble Mill at One, a show I’d watched since I was at school. I travelled extensively filming during summer breaks, enjoying places like Bavaria, New York, The Seychelles, Singapore and many other countries. I then joined The Holiday Show, again travelling to places like Turkey to make short films for BBC One. Whilst filming on a boat filled with British holiday makers, one of the passengers died whilst we were at sea. I won’t forget the body being carried off at the nearest island with a ceremonial dagger sticking from the chest as was the local custom and placed, unceremoniously, in the back of an estate car before disappearing into the hills.
“I have presented many, many quiz shows for all the networks but decided to scale back after doing a series which tied me to going in to Sky every day for three years to do a five-minute insert for shows we’d already recorded. This was to make it look live with news references and live phone calls. For three years, I had to keep the same haircut and clothes to match what had been recorded. One night I had food poisoning and I collapsed, being taken by ambulance to A&E and put on an intravenous drip. The team called my wife and said I was doing something else, so could she come in and fill in for me. Only after the show had finished did they tell her I was lying in hospital. The show must go on!”
Video Clips on the Internet
Here we present a selection of video clips featuring Paul which we found on social media sites or have made available from our own archive. The clips are presented here for additional reference. Inclusion of a video does not constitute an endorsement of the hosting site/channel/user. If you find any broken links below or are aware of an additional clip(s) which you believe may be a useful addition to this profile, please get in touch with us via our Contact page.
Out-of-vision and in-vision Channel 4 continuity, from Paul Coia.
PICTURED: Paul Coia (2017). SUPPLIED BY: Paul Coia. COPYRIGHT: Paul Coia.