Radio Producers work in both speech-based and music Radio. Although they play a key role in creating what is heard by listeners, they are not usually heard on air themselves.
They are responsible for creating and co-ordinating the content of Radio programmes, and may also have responsibility for the content of related websites or other mobile platforms. As well as managing the creative process they are often closely involved with the business and technical aspects of programmes.
The seniority and specific responsibilities of a Radio Producer may vary considerably depending on the programme or station. The majority of Radio Producers work as part of a small team, although some manage much larger programme units. They are mainly based in offices and recording studios, but may also work on location producing outside broadcasts
Although the greatest concentration of jobs is found in London and the South East, Radio Producers work throughout the UK. They may be employed by the BBC, commercial and community radio, on local or national stations, or by independent production companies.
What is the job?
Producers in music Radio work in a range of stations and programmes catering for all musical tastes. Producers in speech Radio work in all genres from topical talk shows to documentaries, drama and comedy. Radio Producers may be required to work a variety of shift patterns, including night shifts, weekends and holidays. In some roles they will be expected to travel, sometimes long distances and at short notice, to work on location.
Wherever they work, Producers are expected to understand the purpose and format of their station or programme; to be aware of the characteristics of their target audience; and to be knowledgeable about the subject matter of output for which they are responsible.
Radio Producers must create programme content and manage the whole production process for both live and recorded programmes. They are required to generate original ideas, identify suitable ideas from others, and carry out thorough research.
They should know how to access, evaluate and use all relevant information sources and, in some cases, image sources including libraries, archives, the internet, and academic and other research documents. They also need to know how to source music or audio archive material, and how to ensure the necessary licences or clearances are obtained. They are expected to understand and comply with media law, regulation and industry codes.
Radio Producers work in collaboration with presenters, performers or other programme contributors. However, in order to ensure that output meets established production standards, Producers must also be able to give direction when necessary
They should be able to operate various radio studios, and to record audio both in studios and on location. They may be required to record interviews and other material; edit and, when necessary, present items for broadcast; and in the case of more senior Producers, to commission and oversee the work of other production team members. In addition, some Radio Producers may be required to write material for websites, blogs or other platforms, and to prepare visual images and video footage, as well as audio material, for online use.
Radio Producers are also responsible for managing budgets, and for ensuring the efficient use of resources by programme teams. They are also expected to respond to listeners comments, or programme complaints
Typical Career Routes
For graduates there are two recognised educational paths into Radio production: an undergraduate degree in Radio or Media Production; or a first degree in any subject , followed by a post-graduate Diploma or MA in Radio Production. Some of the larger broadcasters may offer limited numbers of direct entry traineeships. Other Radio Producers may work their way up from entry level roles secured with or without a degree.
Whatever an individual's qualifications, employers expect to see evidence of interest in, and hands-on experience of, radio broadcasting, particularly skills gained through community radio, student or hospital radio.
Once in post, career progression for Radio Producers often involves moving to a larger station, to a programme with a wider audience, or from a local to a regional or national service. Some Radio Producers may make the move into TV, while others become Presenters or Programme Editors. They may also move into Radio Management roles.
Essential Knowledge & Skills
Radio Producers need the following:
- ability to generate original ideas, and to think creatively about how to communicate them
- excellent writing and story-telling skills, which they can adapt for different audiences and platforms
- when necessary, an understanding of how to use their voice to communicate effectively with listeners
- knowledge of the Radio market, different station and programme styles, and audience demographics
- the confidence and tenacity to pursue information, overcome obstacles, and pitch ideas to senior colleagues
- ability to work independently but also as part of a team
- self-motivation and adaptability
- ability to work effectively under pressure, react quickly, and meet tight deadlines
- determination, diplomacy and excellent interpersonal skills
- empathy and patience, the ability to build rapport and draw information from people
- ability to coach and develop talent in others
- a comprehensive knowledge of the subjects relevant to the Radio genre in which they wish to work
- a thorough knowledge of the law, ethics and industry regulation as they affect Radio production
- knowledge of when it is necessary, and how to acquire, the relevant clearances and licenses, including copyright and music clearances
- knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures
- a high level of IT skills - particularly good word-processing and data handling skills
- ability to learn how to use a variety of recording equipment and to operate different radio studios
- ability to conduct effective internet research, use relevant computer software for audio editing, and, when necessary, to manipulate visual images or edit video, and upload all such material for use on websites.
Training and qualifications
Although a degree is not always essential, the majority of Radio Producers are graduates. However, Radio employers do not necessarily expect the degree to be in a media-related subject, and may even prefer their recruits to have degrees in other disciplines - particularly those related to the radio genre in which they wish to work.
Places on direct entry trainee schemes run by some of the larger broadcasters are highly sought after, as places are limited and such schemes do not recruit on a regular basis. A degree or equivalent may be a requirement for some of these schemes, but others may specifically target non-graduates. It may also be possible to secure some entry level roles in Radio without a degree, and to advance to Producer level by gaining experience and contacts on the job
For those considering higher education, there are a wide range of media courses on offer but it is important to determine whether a particular course offers a good grounding in practical Radio production skills, has good contacts with the Radio industry, and whether its students are successful in obtaining work in Radio.
Once in post, Radio Producers are expected to develop their skills on the job. Most employers also offer a variety of forms of training to keep their Producers' skills and knowledge up-to-date, and to introduce new technologies. This training may be offered in-house, or supplied by external providers, depending on the size and structure of different Radio organizations and employers. Colleges and private training providers also offer a range of short courses which support the professional development of individual Radio Producers, and may offer opportunities for them to gain promotion, or to change career direction.
Where to go for more information
For detailed media careers information and advice, contact one of the free careers helplines. Call 08080 300 900 in England (also available to callers from Wales and Northern Ireland) or 08458 502 502 in Scotland.
- Radio Academy - industry wide charity dedicated to promoting excellence in UK audio broadcasting and production, running a comprehensive programme of conferences, masterclasses and other networking events across the country
- Radio Centre - industry association for UK Commercial Radio funded by the majority of stations - database of groups and stations, Radio Centre Player, information and advice on work placements and how to get job in Radio
- BBC - sites for all BBC national and local radio stations, listen live or listen again to much BBC Radio output, information and advice on work experience and jobs
- Community Media Association the UK representative body for the Community Media sector
- Student Radio Association representative body which supports and acts on behalf of the UK student radio community
- Hospital Broadcasting Association the national charity that supports and promotes Hospital Broadcasting in the UK
- BECTU - the UK media and entertainment trade union with information on pay and conditions, training, and access to individual advice on personal and contract issues
- National Union of Journalism - the trade union for journalists in the UK and Ireland - with information on pay and conditions, training, legal advice and more.
- Radio Today - radio industry news site
- Radio Now - Radio station directory, listen live to many UK radio stations
- Broadcast Journalism Training Council includes a comprehensive list of accredited undergraduate and post graduate broadcast journalism courses.
- National Council for the Training of Journalists - includes details of NCTJ qualifications, short courses and distance learning opportunities
- journalism.co.uk - online journalism site including news and comment; jobs across print, broadcast and new media; discussion forum; books and industry links directory
- Journalism.org - US journalism site - Pew Research Centre's Project for Excellence in Journalism funded by a non-partisan charitable trust
- Broadcast the weekly newspaper for the UK TV and Radio industry
- Media Guardian daily industry news, trends, jobs and more
- Creating Powerful Radio, Valerie Geller ISBN-10: 0240519280
- Essential Radio Skills, Peter Stewart ISBN-10: 0713679131
- The Broadcast Voice, Jenni Mills ISBN-10: 0240519396
- Presenting on TV & Radio, Janet Trewin ISBN-10: 024051906X
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Last update 2009.
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