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Jasmine Dotiwala

Job Title: Head of MTV Base

Company: MTV

By Richard Bamford | 30 June 2009

First job within the music industry - and how you got it?
Straight out of University I got a job as a runner for a production company called Planet 24. They made a breakfast TV show called 'The Big Breakfast'. Planet 24 also made a show called 'The Word' which was a music crazy, youth culture programme for a Friday night. I was a runner for 'The Word', and then I became a dancer for them and eventually a presenter.

How did you work your way up to where you are?
After 'The Word' finished, I was a news presenter for MTV News in the States. Then I presented here in Europe. After that, I became MTV News producer and director. Moving on from that I worked my way up to being Head of MTV News and specials for Cribs, Making of the video and The Diary of… and then segued over to MTV Base.

What has been the highest point of your career?
Well, most people would imagine it’s the meeting of the celebrities and all that but really it isn’t. Actually, the greatest points are: When you take somebody from being a nobody, like a regular young person, and turn them into a mini-star. Supporting a UK act that didn’t get any love before.

The diaries I did were amazing. I did  'A Diary with Snoop Dogg', 'A Diary with Jay Z' and 'A Diary with Puffy; and actually sitting and watching it back with them straight after the edit, is very exciting; especially when they tell you it’s a great show. Making shows like 'The Essential Eminem' and having it rated number one across the globe in all MTV territories has got to make you feel good. Those are all great highlights and my favourites.

Artists you have the fondest memories working with?
They’re all fond for many different reasons. Some can be irritating because they make you wait for ages or won’t come out until they’ve had their hair done. The best ones are when you’re on the road with them and you see them living day-to-day. I find the biggest stars are the most humble. It’s usually the smaller stars that act up. Fond memories are when you see artists being real people. Aside from Michael Jackson I think I’ve interviewed everyone in Urban music. They’re all legends and I’m excited by them all.

Most stressful part of your job?
Long hours and the fact the business diary ends up becoming your personal diary and you don’t tend to get a life. When you get asked to change an edit that you’re really happy with.

Best part of your job?
Definitely seeing upcoming young kids making it because of us and putting them where they are.

What would your advice be to people wanting to work within the music business, in particular music and television?
I’d say it’s 50% talent and 50% luck and timing. I think you have to make your own luck and timing and the harder you work and the more you give, the more you’ll receive. Perseverance, manners and politeness go a long way. A lot of people in this reality TV age think you can be a star immediately and everything should just be handed to you on a plate. You’ll find the ones that persevere are the most professional, reliable and responsible.

How has the digital revolution changed your role?
It’s certainly changed it. Things like Channel U and Channel AKA have bred a whole new generation of young directors. I think that has to be a good thing. MTV Base and Channel AKA kind of co-exist and are both different and bring different things but they are both very necessary. Record labels don’t have any power any more. I shouldn’t say this but I do think it's funny because for so many years the labels held all the strings and now people can just get in touch with artists through things like Facebook without the labels even knowing and that is a great feeling.

Is there anything about the work you’d like to change – and why?
The politics of it is always awkward. There’s always a hierarchy and a structure within most companies. I’m more of a direct person and I like just to reach out and do stuff immediately. Going through chains of people is something I don’t have patience for. I have learnt to do it but it is very frustrating.

What is your least fond memory (albeit getting naked at a Christmas party [sic] etc…) throughout your career?
It’s probably not surprising but most of my horrific stories are from 'The Word'. There was one hip-hop group, whom I will not name, but I went into their room after the show and they obviously thought it’d be funny to smear the walls with shit.

As in their own faeces?
Yes. It was absolutely gross!

You have to name names; that’s horrible!!
I honestly can’t; really!

If you weren’t working in TV production, what do you think you’d be doing?
It’d have to be something creative. Probably involving somebody that talks a lot; who likes gossip. I don’t like selling so I couldn’t do P.R. I certainly couldn’t manage an artist because I’m very defensive; if someone said something negative about my artist I’d be earrings off and ready to fight ‘em. I would love to write a column for a newspaper; something opinionated.

Have you ever dabbled in anything musically other than your job?
Oh lord, no! I played recorder in an assembly at school and that was painful enough. It’s quite bizarre but I just kind o’ fell into this. I’m very much of the opinion that you do stuff that you’re good at. Every time somebody who’s good at one thing dabbles in another, it always makes me cringe.

Do you have anything to comment about Michael Jackson’s death?
I think he always had that Peter Pan syndrome, so the idea now that he’ll never grow old is kind o’ surreal but also kind o’ fitting. I did expect Michael to be immortal. The saddest thing is I don’t think he was ever genuinely happy, apart from the times he performed on stage where it enabled him to escape everything in his life. Absolutely every urban artist I’ve ever interviewed was in some way influenced by Michael Jackson. Everyone loved him. MTV wouldn’t be the channel it is now without him.

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