Radio Producer

The Job and What's Involved

Producers help to shape the content of all kinds of radio programmes. They may not appear on the air themselves, but they play a key part in creating what listeners hear.

Producers are found in national, local and digital stations. Most work in speech radio, such as news, features, documentaries and sports programmes. Others work on music shows.

Depending on the nature of the station and programme, a radio producer's tasks may include:

  • Coming up with ideas for interviews or features, and discussing them with colleagues.
  • Preparing show schedules.
  • Making contact with potential guests and booking them for interview.
  • Researching subjects, and briefing the presenter on questions to ask.
  • Sourcing archive material and music.
  • Booking studios.
  • Recording, mixing and editing shows.
  • Creating commercials.
  • Reading and responding to listeners' comments.
  • Co-ordinating competitions, phone-ins and other interactive features.
  • Maintaining a website for the show.
  • Managing programme budgets.
  • On smaller stations, presenting items on air.

Producers usually work as part of a small team, which may include a presenter, researcher, broadcast assistant, studio manager and engineer. They are also likely to deal with a range of outside contacts each day, such as interviewees or band promoters.

The job involves using digital equipment to edit recordings. The producer may also operate the studio controls during shows.

Working in radio can involve a lot of pressure, especially if the programme goes out live. A fairly small team may be responsible for creating all the content for a programme. Attracting the highest possible number of listeners is a key aim for both BBC and commercial radio stations.

Radio producers may be required to work long and unpredictable hours, to ensure that deadlines are met. As most radio programmes are broadcast live, shift work is common, and may include evenings and weekends.

Many producers work on a freelance basis after gaining experience.

Radio producers work in offices and recording studios. They may also travel to work on location for outside broadcasts, so a driving licence is useful.

Salaries for radio producers start at around £10,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 800 radio producers working in the UK. The growth of digital radio is generating new opportunities, but competition for vacancies is still fierce.

The BBC is a major employer through its five national stations and network of local and digital stations. Other employers include independent radio stations operating in the commercial sector.

Independent production companies, which supply pre-recorded shows to broadcasters, also employ some producers.

National radio stations are generally based in London. However, there are local and specialist stations in most major towns. Outside of London, the BBC also has a strong presence in Manchester, and many of its nationally-networked programmes are produced in different parts of the UK.

Jobs in radio are advertised in the trade press, such as Broadcast magazine, or in local newspapers. The Radio Academy website also lists vacancies. Some vacancies are not advertised, so it is important to make contacts in the industry.

Education and Training

Practical experience is an asset when seeking any job in radio. It is a good idea to contact a local or community radio station, or volunteer for student or hospital radio to get some hands-on experience.

There are several possible routes into the job.

Most radio producers have a degree. This may be in radio production, or media production including radio. There are many degrees in media studies, but check the content of these courses to ensure they provide a grounding in radio.

Some people enter after gaining a degree in an unrelated subject. They may take a postgraduate diploma or Masters degree in radio production, or gain the technical and production skills they need while working on the job.

The BBC runs its own Programme Making Scheme. After working alongside experienced programme makers, trainees can apply for assistant producer and producer jobs. The scheme does not recruit on a regular basis and competition for places is fierce.

Producers working on a news-based show are expected to have journalistic training. The Broadcast Journalism Training Council accredits relevant degree and postgraduate courses. The BBC trains graduates in its own journalism scheme, and, again, competition is fierce.

It may be possible to enter without a degree, perhaps as a broadcast assistant, and advance to producer after gaining good experience and contacts in the industry.

Entry requirements for a degree vary. Applicants for a media production course usually need a minimum of two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths, or the equivalent.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Before becoming a producer, entrants will have already gained practical skills through work experience.

Radio producers develop their skills on the job. They are expected to keep up to date with advances and new technology in the industry.

Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries, provides details of a wide range of courses for professionals.

The Radio Academy runs an annual conference to help young members working in radio to plan their careers.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A radio producer must be:

  • A strong communicator - verbally and in writing.
  • Able to generate fresh ideas and make them happen.
  • Able to take the initiative.
  • Calm under pressure, and not intimidated by tight deadlines.
  • Good at working in a team.
  • Technically skilled to work with computers and broadcast equipment.
  • Good at numeracy.
  • Well-organised.
  • Creative and inquisitive.
  • Well-informed, with a wide general knowledge.
  • Resourceful.
  • Self-confident, persistent and persuasive.

Your Long Term Prospects

Radio producers may advance their careers by moving to a more high-profile programme, or from a local station to a national station.

They may earn promotion to senior producer or editor, or take on a station management role.

Some may choose to work on a freelance basis.

Get Further Information

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

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

The Radio Academy, 5 Market Place,
London W1W 8AE
Tel: 020 7255 2010
Website: www.radioacademy.org

Skillset, Prospect House,
80-110 New Oxford Street,
London WC1A 1HB
Tel: 020 7520 5757
Website: www.skillset.org

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