The Qualities Needed
In a competitive situation, good academic qualifications can give you the edge but they are certainly no guarantee of job success. Employers will want to see evidence of a genuine enthusiasm, commitment and flair for the job and you can demonstrate this through such things as your choice of leisure pursuits or your involvement in voluntary and student activities. Of course, individual jobs will have their own specific requirements, but there are three general qualities that every potential employer will look for:
- The ability to work as part of a team. Television and radio work is teamwork. A successful program depends on the effective cooperation of everybody involved.
- The ability to keep a cool head under pressure. Deadlines must be adhered to if a program is to be completed on time and within budget. This can lead to enormous pressure, particularly during the preparation of live programs such as news bulletins.
- Communication skills. You need to be able to communicate ideas effectively and persuasively, but you must also show that you can listen to the advice of others and carry out their instructions.
Few jobs connected with television and radio are based around a nine-to-five routine. Many involve working unsocial hours, since an increasing number of stations broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Some posts require spending periods away from home. So if you are thinking of a career in radio or television, be under no illusions about the disruptive effect it can have on your family and social life, let alone the toll it can take on your health. The presenters and production team of a break-fast program, for instance, have to rise before dawn, while evening presenters and studio staff often don't arrive home until 2 or 3 am, night after night. Stress is also an extremely important factor because the competitive atmosphere of a broadcasting company can be emotionally and physically taxing.
A good rule of thumb is that the larger the company you work for, the more specialized your job is likely to be. In a smaller company you will probably have a wider range of work. There has been a significant movement away from rigid job demarcation to multi-skilling in the broadcasting industry, and a shift from permanent employment (contracts of employment) to freelance engagements (contracts for services; see Pay and Conditions of Employment below). Many companies, including the BBC, have been forced to put out to tender what were once regarded as essentially in-house employments. Tenders are competed for by independent production companies, facilities companies, teams of freelances and individual freelances, depending on the nature of the work.
David who runs his own independent production company, explains some of the difficulties of working in the independent sector:
Being an independent producer means you have to pitch your ideas to the broadcasters, so one of the things you have got to do is watch television and read the media pages in the national papers to find out what the agendas are at the different TV stations, and if you watch TV you can find out what works and what doesn't.
You also have to get to know the people who commission in the different TV stations, find out what they like and what they don't like and try to make your ideas fit in with their needs. A lot of people don't do that and are not successful. You also have to be original and come up with good ideas that work, and then when you have a good idea make sure you have the people who can turn that good idea into good television.
You also need an awful lot of good luck. There are people who have been independent producers for 20 years and are still struggling to get commissions. Yes, it is hard to get into television, but the fact that you are in does not necessarily mean that it gets any easier, even though it may seem that way looking in from the outside. For an awful lot of people in television, it is month by month, year by year survival.