Broadcast Assistants work in both speech-based and music Radio - offering practical support to Producers and Presenters. They undertake a wide range of key administrative tasks to ensure the smooth running of live and recorded radio programmes, and may also help with research, planning and production.
This job title is used widely within the BBC for entry level roles in Radio production. It is not commonly used in Commercial Radio where the job title Producer is broader, and may apply to a range of roles of differing levels of seniority and experience on different stations, and where the type of duties likely to be undertaken by Broadcast Assistants is shared between Producers, Presenters and others.
In the BBC the majority of Radio Broadcast Assistants are members of a small team, although some are part of much larger programme units. They are mainly based in offices and recording studios, but may also work on location assisting with the production of outside broadcasts.
What is the job?
The day to day activities of Broadcast Assistants differ between music and speech radio. The role also varies considerably from station to station, or programme to programme, in terms of the breadth of duties, and the balance between administrative and technical or production tasks.
However, all Broadcast Assistants need to understand the purpose and format of their station or programme; to be aware of the characteristics of the target audience; and to have knowledge of the subject matter of the output, whether music or speech. They are expected to access information for research purposes, and ensure that it is accurate; keep up-to-date contact lists; produce transcripts, running orders and programme logs; and deal promptly with correspondence and queries.
Broadcast Assistants are required to look after guests and programme contributors; answer and log calls for phone-ins or competitions; organise contracts and payments for contributors, performers or freelance staff; and obtain permissions or licenses for recording or broadcasting on location. Booking resources and facilities, recording expenditure, and assisting with the monitoring of programme budgets may also be part of the job. Whether they are dealing with music, sound effects and audio archive material, or in some cases, still or moving images for a website, Broadcast Assistants must know how to obtain such materials legally, taking into account issues of copyright and music licensing.
Particularly where the role has more emphasis on technical and production tasks, Broadcast Assistants may have the opportunity to contribute to programme ideas; record basic interviews and other material; edit audio using suitable computer editing software packages; and, when necessary, even present short items for broadcast. They may also be expected to operate radio studios, and to record audio both in studios and on location. In addition, some Radio Broadcast Assistants 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.
Typical Career Routes
The role of Broadcast Assistant is effectively the first rung on the Radio production ladder. Such jobs are highly sought after, and individuals often succeed in getting these jobs after building a relationship with a station or programme through voluntary or casual work over a long period; or they move into programming or production from an administrative role elsewhere in Radio.
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. Given the competition for jobs in Radio, many Broadcast Assistants are graduates, and some even post-graduates.
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.
Career progression for Radio Broadcast Assistants can involve moving to a larger station, to a programme with a wider audience, or from a local to a regional or national service. However, many Radio Broadcast Assistants aspire to be Producers or Presenters, and some may eventually become Programme Editors or move into Management roles.
Essential Knowledge & Skills
Radio Broadcast Assistants need the following:
- strong organisational skills
- accuracy and attention to detail
- creative thinking and problem solving
- knowledge of the Radio market, different station and programme styles, and audience demographics
- the confidence and tenacity to pursue information and overcome obstacles
- 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
- a good knowledge of subjects relevant to the Radio genre in which they wish to work
- a basic understanding 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
A degree is not essential for this role. However, for graduates hoping to work as Broadcast Assistants in Radio production, Radio employers do not necessarily expect the degree to be in a media-related subject. They may even prefer their recruits to have degrees in other disciplines - particularly those related to the radio genre in which they wish to work.
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 Broadcast Assistants are expected to develop their skills on the job, but most employers also offer a variety of forms of training to keep their employees' 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 may support the personal development of individual Radio Broadcast Assistants, 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 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.Publications
Last updated 2009.
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