Walking through the Sydney headquarters of Sky News on a weekday afternoon it’s not surprising that the offices of the 24-hour news channel are buzzing with activity.
To get to Mr Frangopoulos’ office you need to cut a path through busy journalists working the phones in the newsroom, and bypass a room of television screens beaming various Sky News channels.
Sitting down to speak to Neos Kosmos about a media career that began when he was 14, Mr Frangopoulos plays down his influence as one of the most powerful voices in the Australian media as managing editor of Sky News and chief executive of its parent company Australian News Channel.
“I wouldn’t say powerful, but I think that my journey is one that is typical of the generation of Australians that have come from migrant families,” he says.
“In that, over time, we end up becoming part of the community like everyone else. I think that is the most interesting thing from my perspective because growing up and going to school I was just one of the ‘wogs’ and called a ‘wog’ by the other kids in class.
“There were quite a few Greek kids at my school, but we were all the ‘wogs’. But what’s happened is that we’ve become mainstream because we reflect Australia.”
While Mr Frangopoulos is humble about his place in the media landscape, in reality it’s another story.
This year he was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the broadcast media sector, to higher education and the promotion of journalistic standards, and to the community.
Outside of his role at Sky News he is on the board of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Insitute, he is a chair of the Walkley Advisory Board, an ambassador for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, a trustee and director of the Walkley Foundation for Journalism, and, until the end of this month, a pro chancellor of Charlies Sturt University.
Reflecting upon his accolade, Mr Frangopoulos says it was a privilege to be part of the Australia Day honours list.
“It is a great honour,” he says. “It is wonderful that I live in a society that celebrates people’s achievement. I don’t particularly think mine are particularly great or worthy of an AM, but I’ve just enjoyed doing community stuff. I’ve done it because I love it and it’s very special to me.”
Mr Frangopoulos has been at Sky News since its inception in 1996 when previously Australia was bereft of a 24-hour news service.
After beginning as a single 24-hour news broadcaster, there are now a number of channels specialising in news, business, sport, finance, weather and show business. Frangopoulos says the impact of Sky News upon Australia has been profound.
“Back when we launched in 1996 it was quite revolutionary,” he says.
“Because the whole idea of watching a news story unfold live before your eyes was something that Australians had only really been exposed to via CNN and the Gulf War [reportage].
“The reality was that Australia did need to have visibility into the goings on of Australian politics in particular. I thought it was quite revolutionary that news conferences of politicians from go to whoa could be shown on live TV.
“But the group that got the greatest boost was other journalists themselves, because being able to watch the story unfold from your office while you are writing the story was pretty powerful.”
Mr Frangopoulos’ father was born in Greece in the port city of Piraeus, while is mother was born and grew up in northern Spain. Seeing his parents navigate through life as migrants in Australia during the 70s gave him the impetus to pursue what would become his dream vocation.
“My dad had a taxi and my mum worked at a factory,” he says. “So, the two of them were hard workers and it was all about developing opportunities not just for their family, but also for their children.
“There is this wonderful migrant culture in Greek, Spanish, Italians and many others. That it’s about making the world better for their children and giving their children opportunities that they never had. I’m here today because my mum and dad worked very hard, they taught me to work really hard and I’ve worked hard.”
Like his parents, Mr Frangopoulos has created a family with a mix of cultures. His wife Rebecca is English, and he says it’s vital that his five children Libby, Amy, Max, Leo, and Lottie have the same understanding of the wider world his parents gave him.
“I feel very blessed that I had the opportunity to travel as a young child,” he says.
“My children have grown up going to Greece and Spain. We travel a lot, and seeing other cultures and realising that the world is very small is very important. We want our children to grow up understanding that they are part of the broader world.”
Mr Frangopoulos revealed that like a lot of children of ethnic backgrounds he was teased about what he ate at lunch time at school. But years later the irony that the type of food found in his lunchbox has turned into a sought-after meal is not lost on him.
“When I was in year three and four at primary school, my mum would pack me these beautiful sandwiches with chorizo, fetta cheese and fresh tomato,” he says.
“I’d be embarrassed to eat them because my friends had Vegemite or fairy bread which was cool. The reality is that’s the food that everyone is now lining up to pay $15-20 for at lunchtime because we have become sophisticated in our appreciation of culture.”
After studying for a year at teacher’s college Mr Frangopoulos sought a career in journalism, and attended Charles Sturt University in Bathurst, then worked in Orange as a TV reporter.
He honed his journalistic skills working in Canberra, then moved to Sydney and Channel Nine where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Kerry Packer and legendary newsreaders Brian Henderson and Jim Waley.
He worked in the UK at Sky before returning to Australia and Sky News.
But Frangopoulos’ love of journalism was sparked in his formative years while listening to a children’s program on Sydney community radio station 2SER.
“They had a kids’ show on Monday afternoons where kids were going on radio and reading stories,” he says.
“As I was listening one day, they said if you want to find out more about why you don’t come up and see us on Saturday morning and I went in. So basically, that was it. I was hooked from the age of 14 but I never thought of it as a career.”
Many Greek Australians experience varying degrees of grief when it comes to their surnames, but Frangopoulos believes having an ethnic name was of benefit, and not a burden to his journalism career.
“I don’t think I’ve been impeded in any way at all,” he says. “In fact in many ways having such a distinctive name means my name is not ‘John Smith’, so being Angelo Frangopoulos there is only so many of you.
“My journalism was very mainstream. I wasn’t a conviction journalist to tell the story of this plight or that plight. I just fell in love with production, making radio, and making television. The production side was the thing I really enjoyed.
“I feel blessed that my job is something that I really enjoy doing. I never thought that something I enjoyed so much could be a job.”