Our guide to radio production
Alistair Stafford

Our guide to radio production

First published date December 04 2013 Amended date December 04 2013

Listen to the radio dreaming of one day getting on the air? Are you the gossip among your friends who always asks plenty of questions? Whether you’re a budding broadcaster striving for that first career step in radio or just a confident talker looking to try something different, then a radio journalism course could be for you.


What will I learn?

Most radio courses will go over the basic interviewing and technical skills needed to broadcast on the airwaves, as well as show you how the equipment works. Longer radio courses are likely to give you experience driving the desk (the technical term for controlling all the buttons), as well as teach you how to use audio editing software to enable you to create packages. Depending on the level of radio course you study, many have modules and sections in specialist areas of broadcasting such as radio journalism and radio documentary making.


But I’ll never make it on to air...

While we can’t guarantee you that a radio course will see you becoming the next Chris Moyles or Tony Blackburn, there’s still a very good chance that you’ll be able to get some live radio experience as a result. There are around 250 commercial stations in the UK, most of which will offer work experience programmes and potential freelancing opportunities. Plus, with literally hundreds of community and hospital radio stations across the country, all of which will be looking for voluntary presenters, you should have no trouble finding a station near you to kick start your radio career.


Finding the role for you

Despite what many people think, there’s far more to a radio career than just playing your favourite songs while pushing a few buttons in a studio, with lots of different people other than the presenter needed to keep a station on air. Here’s just a few of the common positions you’ll find at your local station:

. Radio producer – It’s said that behind every great radio show, there’s a great producer. Their role is to make sure the programme runs smoothly, by arranging guests and ensuring that the show runs to time by talking to the presenter on air from a production room. They may also write scripts to be read out on air and edit packages (radio speak for pre-recorded features).

. Broadcast journalist – A completely varied role, which can be anything from preparing and reading bulletins to going out and interviewing for a particular show. A broadcast journalist, commonly referred to as a ‘BJ’ will usually have made the step up from a reporter and be flexible working both live or pre-recorded.

. Reporter – Like in any type of journalism, a reporter will be needed to source stories for both bulletins and radio programmes. They may need to vox-pop the general public (where lots of people get asked their opinion on a particular subject), attend press conferences or find guests to interview.

. Broadcast assistant – A ‘BA’ will spend their time assisting the production team in a variety of ways. That can range from arranging and researching guests for a particular show or answering the phones during the programme. Becoming a BA is a common way for many people to make their first career step.

. Broadcast engineer- Even with the best team of journalists in the world, without working equipment then all that hard work will be wasted. An engineer installs and maintains all of the broadcasting equipment and computer software, plus helps with any outside broadcasts that take place.


But I haven’t got the confidence...

Even if you feel you don’t have what it takes to be star of the airwaves, there’s no reason why you can’t make the most out of a radio course. Radio studies is a chance to analyse how radio programmes are put together, while writing for radio courses allow you to learn how to write in a style suited to be read out on air. You don’t necessarily need to commit to radio, as there are more generalised media courses and broadcast studies programmes available if you want to keep your options open.


Your next step

Unsure whether you’d like to make radio a full time career? To boost your chance of breaking into the industry, there are radio production undergraduate and postgraduate programmes available to study. Still not inspired? Then read our getting into journalism and journalism study guide articles for more information about what life in the radio industry is like. Even if you decide a radio career isn’t from you, the improved communications and organisation skills you will have developed from your radio production course can be transferred and used in almost any other industry. 

Similar Subjects

Find Radio Journalism courses near you