Working in radio
About the Radio Industry
The UK Radio industry is unique, in the fact that it is split 50/50 between publicly funded stations, run by the BBC, and commercially owned stations funded by advertising. Both of these market areas share the common goal of retaining and increasing their audience share and together deliver radio coverage at a local, regional and national level across multiple platforms including AM/FM, DAB, digital & cable television and online.
There is a lot more to radio than just speaking on a mic and playing music. In fact, most roles are not on-mic but within editorial & journalism, business management and advertising and communications. Progression in today’s radio industry requires people with a range of skills and knowledge across station departments.
The radio sector can be split into 5 main job areas:
Broadcasting & Production
On-air and pre-recorded presenting, live show and audio content production (podcasts, adverts, reports), content scheduling and playlist management, in-house documentary and specialist show production and voice over work.
Compiling news and traffic bulletins, researching and gathering stories from across the coverage area.
Promoting station brand in the press and online via web and social media strategies, graphic design for station branding and the web, copy and script writing for on-air reads, web and adverts.
Selling air-time for adverts, sourcing content sponsorship and online promotions.
Technical set-up and maintenance of broadcast platforms (FM/AM antenna, DAB, streaming platforms and mobile device integration), managing live links from remote locations via multiple channels (phone line, satellite, internet connection etc.), setting up live music sessions.
17% of the radio workforce is freelance, with broadcast journalists, voice over artists and audio producers being among the most common freelance roles. The increase in digital and communications technology has enabled more and more freelance professionals to produce and deliver audio content to brief via home studios or on location.
Develop your skills
In addition to academic qualifications, employers are looking for skills and experience you will have been developing over many years. They seek energetic people and those with passionate interest in something they have pursued. They want to see what you’re capable of and how you might develop, and the best indication of that is what you have already achieved. Think about how you can display your talents and your ability to work as part of a collaborative process. As well as a physical portfolio, you can create an online portfolio, or build an interactive community as a swarm on Hiive, the professional networking site for creative people.
Most people who work in the broadcast side of radio started out gaining experience as volunteers in community, hospital or student radio. Getting involved at this level enables exposure to a broad range of practical broadcast and media skills required to progress in the industry, from presenting and audio editing to content scheduling and broadcast journalism through the covering of local events. There are over 200 community stations currently licensed by Ofcom and many more operating online.
Student magazine, online reviews, local events reporting and blog writing are all key elements that will help in attaining a broadcast journalism entry role. A knowledge of various radio playout systems, computer operating software and how digital is shaping the radio market is also essential.
Developing a range of multimedia software design, editing and social media management skills is advised for most roles in radio but especially if you’re looking to fulfil a marketing or advertising position.
Good knowledge and communication of station brand values is also key if you want to negotiate airtime and sponsorship deals in a sales role.
Facts and Figures
With 89% of the population listening to radio across the UK every week, consuming 22 hours of output on average, Radio remains one of the most popular and flexible broadcast mediums available. The industry contributes a healthy £600m GVA to UK economy. In order to compete with other forms of media and entertainment, Radio is increasingly looking for multi-skilled talent with strong digital awareness and creative ideas to attract listeners, grow audience share and devise new revenue streams that add value to their brand.
There are over 17,000 people currently employed in the radio industry, with nearly half the workforce working in London.