Researcher - TV
Researchers work across all genres of television production, including news, sport, current affairs, documentaries and factual programmes, light entertainment, children's, situation comedies, soaps or serial dramas, and one off dramas. They originate or develop programme ideas, drawing on their knowledge and understanding of industry requirements, and present their findings to decision makers. They are also fact checkers and 'brief' writers for on-screen presenters. They must understand, and work within, relevant legislation and regulations. They may be employed by broadcasters, or work on a freelance basis.
What is the job?
Researchers may be briefed by Producers or other decision makers about programme ideas and carry out further development. Alternatively, they may produce original programme ideas for consideration by Producers, broadcasters, production companies, or other decision makers. They identify relevant data, contributors, locations or archive material etc. collate and assess information from various sources, and ensure that legal, compliance and copyright requirements are met.
During preliminary telephone and/or face-to-face interviews, they assess contributors' potential suitability for inclusion in each programme according to its genre and format. They check contributors' availability, and arrange for their appearance within time and budgetary limits. They may also be required to identify location requirements from scripts or programme outlines, and assess locations for suitability and cost, taking various factors into account including the need for any permissions and licenses. They identify and select suitable sources for archive footage, still pictures or audio materials, within time and cost limits. They must present all their findings to decision makers clearly, concisely and coherently, both in writing and verbally.
Researchers may contribute to the development of scripts or other written content by writing drafts, or briefing others who write so that they can deliver what is required. They may be asked to check final written materials for accuracy and suggest amendments in a helpful and constructive manner. Before production commences, Researchers must identify, negotiate fees for, and conclude copyright clearances and legal issues relating to all bought-in materials used on shoots, including archive materials, intellectual property or music. They must ensure that all relevant broadcast territories are covered. They monitor usage throughout the production process. Production Assistants (PAs) also log usage and timings after transmission. During production, Researchers arrange transport for contributors to and from locations or studios. They greet contributors and brief them before recording commences, support them as necessary, and escort them from the studio or location once shooting is completed.
Researchers may also be required to prepare production materials for external use, including fact sheets, pamphlets, books and booklets to accompany productions, and publicity material such as production billings, press releases, related websites, and text pages.
Typical career routes
Researchers may begin their careers as Runners or Production Assistants, or they may be employed as Researchers because they have specialist qualifications or knowledge about a particular programme's content. They may progress to become Associate Producers, and eventually Producers, or in some cases, Directors. Non-media researchers, journalists and writers often become TV researchers.
Essential knowledge and skills
Researchers must be able to quickly establish a rapport with production personnel, and potential contributors. They must maintain up-to-date contact lists, and be able to access relevant information from various sources, including the internet, libraries and archives. They source and suggest suitable contributors, demonstrating how their input fits into each production. If necessary, they should be able to explain tactfully and diplomatically if contributors are not suitable. Researchers should be aware of the legal and ethical considerations surrounding the release of information to the press and public, especially when sensitive or contentious issues are involved. Researchers may be required to handle floats and petty cash, e.g. for taxis for contributors during production, and they must be able to keep accurate records of all income and expenditure.
Key Skills include:
- excellent verbal and written communication skills;
- excellent presentation skills;
- advanced analytical skills;
- precise attention to detail and methodical approach to work;
- ability to conceptualise ideas;
- ability to think visually;
- initiative and problem solving skills;
- endless energy and determination;
- advanced IT skills;
- diplomacy and sensitivity when working with writers, producers, actors, presenters, other contributors and crew members;
- current knowledge of the relevant legislation, regulations, and associated procedures, including Copyright, Data Protection, Public Liability, etc. and how to comply with regulatory requirements;
- knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.
Training and qualifications
Although no specific educational or training qualifications are required for the role of Researcher a degree in a media related, drama or specialist subject may provide some useful background information. Experience in, and knowledge of, the pre-production and production processes is required.
Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Creative Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive Creative Skillset/BFI course database. Finally, Creative Skillset Careers is UK's only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit http://www.creativeskillset.org/careers/
- - BECTU, the trade union represents production personnel; http://www.bectu.org.uk/
- - BBC Training; http://www.bbctraining.com/
- - National Film and Television Schoo;l http://www.nfts-tv.ac.uk/
- - Research for Media Production - K. Chater - ISBN - 0240516486
- - Researching for Television and Radio - A. Emm - ISBN- 0415243882
- - Broadcast, the weekly newspaper for the UK TV and Radio industry; http://www.broadcastnow.co.uk/
- - Televisual, the business magazine for the broadcast and production industry; http://www.televisual.com/
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