Obituary: Ferdinando Coia, executive with Scottish Television

Executives career with STV reflected the expansion of the company. Picture: Contributed
Executives career with STV reflected the expansion of the company. Picture: Contributed
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Born: 19 August, 1928 in Glasgow. Died: 26 March, 2016 in Glasgow, aged 87.

In 1957 Ferdinando Coia (always known as Ferdi) joined the new and exciting Scottish Television as a trainee lighting designer. STV had been founded as an independent television company by Roy Thomson (then also owner of The Scotsman) and enjoyed a considerable success when it first transmitted programmes in August 1958.

Thomson assured viewers that STV would, “provide first-class entertainment and as much cultural programming as possible as well as allowing Scottish talent every opportunity to develop and be seen on STV.”

Coia’s career with the company reflected its expansion and over the next few decades he rose to various senior positions within the company and became a prominent member of the board of directors. His skills in man-management and ability to see through projects ensured that Coia was much respected throughout STV.

Coia was the son of Ernesto and Filomena Coia. His father died when he was a child and his mother remarried some years later (who was also called Ernesto). He was brought up in a happy family and formed a strong bond with his step father. The family lived in the Thornliebank district of Glasgow where Coia attended school in Barrhead and after Glasgow University he joined IBM – the pioneer American company in computers.
On joining STV – Coia mostly worked from its headquarters at the former Theatre Royal, Glasgow which had become the station’s principal studios and administrative headquarters. Coia also worked in the STV studios in Edinburgh – the former Gateway Theatre in Leith Walk. He progressed through the various departments of STV showing a firm grasp of both the technological and production side of the business. He served as a distinguished senior lighting director before being promoted to the prestigious posts of head of presentation and then director of facilities. Coia worked on a wide variety of programmes – both in the studio and in the back offices overseeing the expansion of the station’s activities.

He served on a board of directors that included many leading figures in the business community in Scotland, including Sir Campbell Fraser, Sir Kenneth Alexander, Mrs Dorothy Dunnett and Gavin Laird. The director of programmes was the campaigning journalist Gus Macdonald. Coia also served as treasurer and on the committee of the Royal Television Society in Scotland.

Coia’s ability to plan programmes well ahead of transmission and sort out administrative problems weeks before going into the studio greatly facilitated recordings of many programmes. His eye for detail ensured that programme schedules were invariably practical and efficient.

Coia was an eminent figure in the Italian community in Glasgow, a devout Roman Catholic and supporter of St Vincent De Paul Church, Thornliebank. He was an enthusiastic supporter for over 50 years of the Catenians, a Catholic businessmen’s group with international connections. Coia often attended the Glasgow Circle’s monthly meetings and his work on behalf of the association was due to have been marked with a special certificate which was to have been presented to him on the day he died.

In his retirement Coia remained active – he much enjoyed travelling and was a keen golfer and curler. He also much delighted in singing and he and Jean often entertained friends with duets from musicals and light opera.

Ferdi and Jean Coia had twins, one of whom followed his father into the television business. Paul has enjoyed a distinguished career in the media and hosted programmes on Grampian TV, BBC1, Chanel 4 and on STV - his Meet Paul Coia chat show proved very popular with the public. His father was particularly proud when Paul was made the Scottish Radio Personality of the Year.

Ferdi married Jean Lochart in May 1954. She predeceased him and he is survived by their children Gerard, Paul, Denise and Martin.