Media Researcher

The Job and What's Involved

Media researchers are part of a team contributing to TV, radio or online shows. They carry out much of the essential groundwork for what is eventually broadcast.

Researchers investigate the subject to be covered by a programme, and assist with the recording. They may also help to come up with ideas for topics and new shows.

Media researchers are found in a variety of disciplines, including:

- News and current affairs
- Consumer shows
- Quizzes and talk shows
- 'Reality' TV programmes
- Dramas and film - to ensure factual accuracy and realism

Tasks may include:

  • Researching a topic, using a variety of sources, including the internet and archive recordings.
  • Contacting experts on particular topics to talk through the issues.
  • Providing accurate briefings, in writing and in person, to programme producers, directors, journalists or presenters.
  • Drafting scripts.
  • Booking interviewees, and finding replacement guests at short notice.
  • Finding appropriate locations for filming.
  • Getting permissions for filming and use of material.
  • Researching and writing material for the programme's website.
  • Carrying out general administrative tasks.

Increasingly, media researchers are also expected to take on extra tasks as part of the production crew. In TV, they may do some filming.

Working hours depend on the employer and the programme. Long and unpredictable hours are common. Researchers are expected to work flexibly to meet programme deadlines.

Many researchers work on a freelance basis. Short-term contracts are common. Some may last only a couple of months, or for the duration of a programme or series.

The work is based in offices or studios, but often involves frequent travel to other settings as well. Researchers may work on location, sometimes outdoors. A driving licence is essential.

Researchers may have to stay away from home for lengthy periods, possibly abroad. Researchers on investigative programmes may work undercover, sometimes in difficult situations.

Starting salaries may be around £19,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Media researchers are employed by:

- Independent TV and radio production companies
- The BBC, both on a national and local level
- The ITV network
- Channel 4, five and S4C (Wales)
- Commercial radio companies
- Some cable, satellite and digital broadcasters
- A small number of film production companies

Jobs are mostly found in the major cities, including London, Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow.

Jobs with terrestrial TV companies have been in decline recently. The cable and satellite sector is smaller, but opportunities are growing. Research is commonly seen as a first step for those with ambitions to reach roles such as producer. This means competition is fierce.

Vacancies are advertised in the specialist press, such as Media Week, and on the websites of employers, such as the BBC. Networking is also important as some posts are filled through personal contacts.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements for researcher jobs. Many entrants hold a degree or HND. However, experience, enthusiasm and evidence of relevant skills usually count for as much as academic qualifications.

Degrees or HND's may be in any subject. A directly-relevant subject, such as broadcasting or journalism, may provide an advantage, but is not essential.

For a degree, entry requirements are usually at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent. For an HND, entrants usually need at least one A level/two H grades and four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent.

Work experience is normally essential. Opportunities are often available with student TV and radio, local newspapers and community radio. This is also a good way of building up a list of useful specialist and general contacts for the future.

Some TV researchers enter the industry in a more junior role, such as a runner. Others gain experience as journalists in print or broadcast media.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Researchers train on the job, developing their skills as they gain in experience. Employers may fund short courses in specific skills.

The BBC and some independent companies run training schemes for new entrants. The following companies run new entrants' schemes supported by Skillset, the sector skills council for the audio-visual industries:

- FT2
- Cyfle
- Production Guild
- Scottish Screen
- Screen Yorkshire

Skillset has set up a network of screen academies, based in Bournemouth, Edinburgh, London and Wales. Each academy offers a range of courses, summer schools, work placements, master classes and online learning resources, as well as a talent scout programme.

TRC (The Research Centre), based in Glasgow and Manchester, offers training programmes for employed TV researchers.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Media researchers must be:

  • Able to absorb information quickly and retain it.
  • Creative and resourceful.
  • Excellent communicators, both in writing and person.
  • Skilled at building a rapport with all kinds of people.
  • Alert to what makes a good story or angle.
  • Highly organised.
  • Cool under pressure.
  • Self-confident and persistent.
  • Aware of media law, ethics and regulations.
  • Able to work well in a team.
  • Flexible.

Your Long Term Prospects

Researchers progress by establishing a reputation, and seeking work on more prestigious or high-profile programmes and stations. This may mean changing employers frequently, often working on short-term contracts.

Many researchers move on to become assistant producers and then producers. Some become broadcast journalists.

Get Further Information

BBC Recruitment, PO Box 48305, London W12 6YE
Website: www.bbc.co.uk

Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC),
18 Miller's Close, Rippingale near Bourne,
Lincolnshire PE10 0TH
Tel: 01778 440025
Website: www.bjtc.org.uk

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic
and Theatre Union (BECTU),
373-377 Clapham Road, London SW9 9BT
Tel: 020 7346 0900
Website: www.bectu.org.uk

Film and Television Freelance Training (FT2),
3rd Floor, 18-20 Southwark Street,
London SE1 1TJ
Tel: 020 7407 0344
Website: www.ft2.org.uk

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

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB
Tel: 08080 300900 (England),
Tel: 0808 100 8094 (Scotland),
Tel: 0800 012 1825 (Wales)
Website: www.skillset.org

TRC, 227 West George Street,
Glasgow G2 2ND
Tel: 0141 568 7113
Website: www.trcmedia.org

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