Radio is already a fiercely competitive industry – and now it’s getting even tougher to earn a living. Regional newsrooms are regularly cutting staff or merging with nearby stations to reduce costs, while many local stations struggle to survive. Thousands of people graduate from radio and journalism courses every year, yet very few are lucky enough to get into the career they dream of.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as there are still examples of those who work hard and break in to the radio profession. It doesn’t matter whether you have long-term ambitions of making it as a radio presenter, dream of being a sports commentator or see yourself as a no-nonsense reporter, you’ll need to “learn the ropes” of radio production first.
To discover more about what it’s like working in radio, we spoke to Isaac Chenery, a journalism graduate who has managed to hold down a job with the BBC. After graduating from the broadcast journalism degree at Staffordshire University in 2008, Isaac went on work experience at BBC Radio Suffolk. More than five years on, he’s still there, now with a full-time job as a broadcast assistant (more commonly known in the industry as a BA). We spoke to him to find out what it takes to break in to the radio industry....
How did you get a job in radio?
I did the broadcast journalism degree at Staffordshire University, but I was very lucky with getting a job in radio. I first came to BBC Radio Suffolk on work experience, but things progressed from there.
I showed willing in everything I did and as I am so passionate about radio, I managed to pick things up quickly. The news editor at the time then asked if I was willing to come back one day a week on a voluntary basis, which led to paid shifts and eventually developed into a full time job (which was a dream come true!).
What’s your role as a BA at BBC Radio Suffolk?
I work on both the breakfast and mid-morning shows, acting as the link between the two programmes. Normally a BA would probably only be needed to work on one show a day, but I do the two.
What’s it like being a broadcast assistant?
Being a broadcast assistant sees you doing so many different tasks, ranging from answering calls to setting up guests and sorting out technical problems. You have to be able to turn your hand to almost anything, plus know your way around the world of social media, so being versatile is important. Above all though, it’s a fun job!
What characteristics do you need for a career in radio production?
The ability to multi-task is crucial as you’ll often be thrown jobs to do, often with a very quick time limit, so you need to immediately identify which of the tasks is most important.
A good telephone manner is also essential, as whether you’re talking to listeners or persuading someone to appear on a radio show, it’s something you’ll end up doing regularly each day.
How about good people skills?
It sounds obvious, but you have to have them, as you’re often trying to get information out of people – which they often don’t want to give away. The job is far, far easier if you build good relationships with people.
What advice would you give to someone trying to make a career in radio?
If you’re looking for a job in radio, there are five things you need to remember:
1. Never say no! It’s the best way to gain experience and knowledge. You’ll quickly find yourself doing something you never thought you would be doing, which will help you in the long run.
2. Make sure people know you are around, as talking to people is one of the most important things you can do.
3. Show that you’re reliable, as if someone knows you can do the job and be trusted then you are more likely to get shifts.
4. Take all the training that you are offered, and if there’s something you want to do, ask! Being able to do many different roles makes you invaluable, especially as radio stations are trying to make cuts.
Ø Always enjoy it, as it will mean your work is the best it can be!
If Isaac’s encouraged you to take your first steps on the road towards a radio career, then have a look at the broadcast journalism course he studied at Staffordshire University and all of the other journalism courses we list here on Hotcourses.
With a BA in Journalism, Alistair has a passion for writing, especially if it's got anything to do with football or other sports. In his spare time, he's big on exercise and he once completed the London Marathon.