Broadcast Assistant

The Job and What's Involved

Broadcast assistants help producers and presenters make radio programmes.

They look after administration, help to plan programmes and provide technical support in the studio. Their actual tasks vary widely from one station to the next. There are also big differences depending on whether they work in talk or music radio, and whether they work on live or pre-recorded shows.

Administration duties generally include:

  • Typing scripts.
  • Keeping track of costs.
  • Researching programmes.
  • Booking guests, ensuring they have contracts and arranging payment.
  • Producing programme logs and running orders.
  • Archiving programme material.
  • Arranging and sending out competition prizes.
  • Booking studio time and equipment.
  • Updating the programme or station website.

Studio production work can include:

  • Managing phone lines for phone-ins and competitions.
  • Timing shows.
  • Using computer software to record, edit and mix sound sources.
  • Inputting data about programme material and transferring files over networks and the internet.
  • Offering creative input, such as writing links or devising quiz questions.

More experienced broadcast assistants may contribute programme ideas, interview guests or present part of a programme.

Broadcast assistants often work in a small team with producers, presenters, researchers and technical staff and also have contact with listeners over the phone or by email.

In speech or news radio, assistants may carry out short interviews (known as vox pops) with the public.

Hours depend on the programme, but may involve evenings, late nights and weekends. Assistants often need to work overtime to meet deadlines.

They work in offices and recording studios, but may also travel locally or nationally as part of an outside broadcast team.

Salaries start at around £12,000 to £14,000 a year.
Broadcast assistants with some experience could earn up to around £17,000. With more responsibilities and on larger stations or programmes, salaries could rise to around £25,000 a year.

Some assistants work freelance and negotiate a fee for each contract.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Broadcast assistants work for:

  • BBC radio stations.
  • Commercial radio.
  • Internet radio.
  • Community, hospital or student radio.
  • Independent production companies that supply pre-recorded shows.

Many of the national networks are based in London, but most major towns and cities have local stations. In commercial radio, there is a wider spread of stations throughout the UK. The BBC has a strong presence in Manchester and Scotland, and many of its nationally networked programmes are produced in different parts of the UK.

Competition for jobs in radio is strong and many people are prepared to work for free, or on short-term contracts to get a start on the career ladder. The BBC gets more than 20,000 applications a year for its work placement scheme.

Jobs may be advertised in national newspapers, the trade press and online, but many roles are not advertised at all. Making contacts and networking is an important way of finding jobs or work placements. The Radio Academy also recommends sending an email or letter directly to editors, producers or station managers, asking for a placement or work shadowing opportunity.

Education and Training

There is no set route to becoming a broadcast assistant, but practical experience is essential to show initiative and enthusiasm to prospective employers.

Volunteering with community, hospital and student radio can be useful experience.

The BBC has a searchable list of work placements on its jobs website with an 'alert' option for people who register their details. Placements last between one and four weeks.

Commercial radio placements are advertised through a downloadable digest available from the RadioCentre website.

A list of independent production companies, some of which may offer work experience, is available on the Radio Independents Group website.

Because competition for jobs is so fierce, many broadcast assistants have a degree. Entry requirements vary. Applicants for a media production course usually need a minimum of two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), including English and maths, or the equivalent.

Other courses in radio or media production can be useful, especially those that include practical skills training and work placements. There is a wide range of full-time, part-time and short courses at colleges, universities and training organisations.

The Skillset website has a searchable list of courses aimed at people wanting to work in radio.

Qualifications include:

  • The 14-19 Diploma in creative and media.
  • NCFE Certificates and Diplomas in radio production at Levels 1 and 2.
  • BTEC Level 2 and 3 Certificate and Diploma in creative media production.
  • OCR Level 2 National Award and Certificate in media.
  • BTEC Level 3 National Award, Certificate and Diploma in production arts or media production.
  • City & Guilds (C&G) Level 3 Diploma in media techniques.
  • ABC Level 3 Award in music broadcast skills or radio production skills.
  • Foundation degrees and degrees in radio or media production
    professional courses in specific aspects of radio presenting, production and technical skills.

The Radio Academy runs day master classes for young people considering a career in radio. These involve seminars, hands-on skills sessions and lectures.

For news-based and factual radio, applicants may have an advantage with a background in journalism or research.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Many skills are learned on-the-job, but assistants may also take short courses in technical aspects of the jobs, such as operating studio desks or using particular recording and digital editing equipment.

The BBC provides extensive training for new recruits. It also offers a wide range of short courses in technical and production skills. RadioCentre offers a programme of C&G-accredited courses in many aspects of radio work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Broadcast assistants need:

  • To be well organised, with good administration skills.
  • The ability to plan, prioritise and work under pressure.
  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills.
  • To be creative and flexible.
  • To be good at working in a team, but also able to use their own initiative.
  • Technical and computer skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

Becoming a broadcast assistant is a common starting point for a career in radio. As assistants gain experience, they may put together a demo or showreel of productions they have worked on to send to potential employers.

Assistants could progress to become a radio producer, a music programmer or a technical studio manager. Some people choose to move into television research or production.

Get Further Information

BBC Academy
Website: www.bbc.co.uk/academy

BBC Recruitment
Website: www.bbc.co.uk/jobs

Community Media Association,
15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield S1 2BX
Tel: 0114 279 5219
Website: www.commedia.org.uk

Hospital Broadcasting Association
Website: www.hbauk.co.uk

The Radio Academy, 5 Market Place, London W1W 8AE
Tel: 020 7927 9920
Website: www.radioacademy.org

RadioCentre, 4th Floor, 5 Golden Square, London W1F 9BS
Tel: 020 3206 7800
Website: www.radiocentre.org

Skillset
Tel: 020 7713 9800 or,
08080 300 900 (careers helpline)
Website: www.skillset.org

Student Radio Association
Website: www.studentradio.org.uk

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