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How to become a Media Researcher

media researcher careers

What does a Media Researcher do?

Researchers find the information, people and places for television, radio and film productions, and increasingly for website content, ensuring accuracy of information at all times.

They liaise with producers and directors to generate ideas, draft pitches and establish production requirements, and may also be involved in writing scripts or briefing scriptwriters. Depending on the programme brief, they search library, film and video records to source music, photographs and archive film footage, and arrange permission to use the material. They also find and interview contributors and may scout for suitable locations for programmes. Researchers must keep detailed records to ensure the accuracy of their work.

They may work on a range of programme types or specialise in a particular area, although there are limited opportunities to work in drama and the majority of researchers work on factual programmes. Some specialise in finding studio audiences for entertainment shows, or in picture or archive research.

Researchers are increasingly expected to be able to operate digital video (DV) cameras. Many programmes and films have their own websites and researchers may be involved in contributing content to these sites.

What's the working environment like working as a Media Researcher?

Working hours tend to be very irregular including evenings and weekends. Depending on the project, researchers could be working up to seven days a week for long periods.

Some of the work is office/studio based, using the telephone and the internet. Researchers should also be prepared to travel throughout the country or even overseas on research trips. Some documentary researchers can work undercover for weeks or months at a time, often in difficult situations.

What does it take to become a Media Researcher?

As a researcher, you should:

  • have excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • be able to generate new ideas and have an instinct for spotting a good story
  • be thorough and organised in your approach to work
  • be able to keep detailed records of research progress
  • have a good knowledge of current affairs and the media
  • be flexible and able to adapt to a variety of projects
  • be able to work under pressure and meet strict deadlines
  • be able to work alone or as part of a team
  • have an awareness of health and safety issues
  • be able to work within budgetary constraints
  • be familiar with available resources and be able to locate new sources of information
  • have an awareness of legal issues affecting the media including copyright and compliance.

Media Researcher Career Opportunities

Researchers are employed by television companies, satellite and cable broadcasting companies, independent production companies, radio (national public networks, and national and local independent stations), and film companies.

This is a very competitive profession. Most researchers are freelance and work on short-term contracts, although some companies will offer renewable contracts. The main opportunities exist within the factual programming sector, with only limited scope elsewhere eg drama. Some researchers specialise in certain areas such as putting together studio audiences for entertainment shows, or working in picture/archive research.

On a larger production, there may be opportunities for an experienced researcher to supervise a research team. Many researchers move into assistant production roles, eventually becoming a producer. On this route, it is common to spend some time shadowing a more experienced producer and learning on the job.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Media Researcher that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Tel: 0808 100 8094 for Scotland

Prospect House
80-110 New Oxford Street

FT2 Film and Television Freelance Training
4th Floor
Warwick House
Warwick Street

Scottish Screen
249 West George Street
G2 4QE
Tel: 0141 302 1700

The Research Centre
4th Floor
227 West George Street
G2 2ND
Tel: 0141 568 7113

British Film Institute
21 Stephen Street

Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT)
The Eye
2nd Floor
1 Procter Street
Tel: 020 7067 4367

Courses to help you become a Media Researcher