Training for Broadcast Journalists

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The National Council for the Training of Broadcast Journalists (NCTBJ), working together with the BBC, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Association of Independent Radio Companies (AIRC), has developed the following guidelines which are intended as an indication of the minimum requirements to be met by any NCTBJ-approved broadcast journalism course.

Their emphasis is still very much on radio journalism, where most trainees are likely to find their first employment in broadcasting. However, although these details are accurate at the time of going to press, the guidelines are currently under review to take account of the growing number of courses with an emphasis on television journalism skills. The introduction of NVQs in this field, coupled with the development of first degree courses in journalism, is likely to lead to further revisions in the near future.

Practical Training

Practical training should encompass the following:

  1. The spoken word as opposed to the printed word. How to communicate clearly, succinctly and accurately by the spoken word. Writing for radio and television including bulletin stories, cues and voice reports. Correct usage and pronunciation.

  2. A thorough grounding in and a critical understanding of news values.

  3. A thorough knowledge of the full range of news sources and an awareness of the importance of research.

  4. Interview technique and an awareness of the different types of interview situation.

  5. Bulletin editing.

  6. The use of actuality and the preparation of short news packages, features and documentaries.

  7. The use of portable tape recorders/ENG equipment, microphones, mixers and other studio equipment. Practical tape editing.

  8. Voice training to a standard acceptable for broadcasting purposes.

  9. News reading.

  10. A form of shorthand designed to achieve a minimum of 80 words per minute and keyboard skills to a level of 30 words per minute.

Professional Studies

Professional studies should aim to provide students with the background knowledge essential to them as professional journalists and to develop in them a critical understanding of the role and responsibilities of journalism in society. They should include:

  1. The structure and function of public administration, including the workings of central and local government, the political parties and the political process generally.

  2. A knowledge and understanding of economic, business and industrial relations, including the role of trade unions and employers' associations.

  3. The development of an awareness of contemporary social issues (for example, housing, education and unemployment).

  4. A knowledge and understanding of journalism and the law; the treatment of rape cases, libel and defamation, electoral law, the Official Secrets Act and so forth.

  5. Media studies, including the structure and ownership of the British Media and its role in society.

  6. An appreciation of journalism ethics, including a knowledge of the various journalistic codes of conduct, the operation of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission - due to merge with the Broadcasting Standards Council - and of any other bodies concerned with the conduct of the media (on issues such as, for example, privacy versus public interest and the use of 'selective quotes').

The NCTBJ prefers that these areas of study should be integrated with the practical work of a course to highlight their relevance, rather than have them dealt with separately in an academic fashion. Tutor input based on direct personal experience in broadcasting and/or journalism should amount to at least 40 per cent of total tutor time (in other words, two days in five). The Council also insists that colleges have studio equipment, editing facilities and a sufficient number of portable tape and video recorders to cater for their students.


Although the NCTBJ permits each college to develop its own assessment procedures, the Council insists that these should be as rigorous as possible. It also stipulates that students' progress should be continuously monitored by tutors, on both professional and personal skills, such as motivation and initiative.

In certain specific areas, however, there are formal tests which the student is required to pass in order to complete the course successfully. The NCTBJ recommends that these take one of two forms:

  1. A written examination or method of assessment to cover the following:

    • Bulletin and cue writing and a voice piece or pieces
    • Journalism and the law, public administration and other topics mentioned under the heading 'Professional Studies', above. Particularly stress should be placed on the achievement of a high standard for law in journalists - performance which is merely average should not be regarded as sufficient.

  2. A project covering the following:

    • A five-minute news bulletin prepared and read by the candidate
    • A news interview of three minutes' duration
    • a 'vox pop' or interview on a human interest subject of two minutes' duration
    • A current affairs documentary or feature program.

Students are required to pass in all major aspects of the course.

Details of NCTBJ-recognized courses can be obtained from the Council on receipt of a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Some of these courses may stipulate shorthand and keyboard skills and even possession of a full, clean driving license as pre-entry requirements.
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