A programme researcher provides support to the producer and production team. Researchers contribute ideas for programmes, source contacts and contributors and collect, verify and prepare information for film, television and radio productions. A researcher can work on a wide variety of programmes or within one subject area.
The work involves organising, planning and researching everything that will happen during the programme - who will be interviewed; location; will the film crew fit; does the budget stretch? The researcher has a responsibility for fact checking, writing briefs for presenters and ensuring that there is adherence to appropriate legislation relating to the production.
The role may also be known as a specialist, live-footage or picture researcher, broadcast assistant or assistant producer. The job can be seen as an apprenticeship for the producer role and a chance for ambitious recruits to show their potential.
The variety and type of work carried out by a researcher depends on individual producers and the companies that employ them. Depending on the size and type of employer, researchers may carry out specific research-based tasks or their job might expand into more production-based activities.
In radio, broadcasters will do elements of their own programme research, assisted by the producers and researchers. Researchers in radio will contribute to the development of websites that enhance programme delivery. In television and film, researchers may be involved in a wide variety of activities and the role may be roughly divided into two: factual research (checking all the information used in making a film is accurate, e.g. period costume and architecture), and picture research (examining archives for film, video and photographic material to be used in documentaries).
Typical work activities are, therefore, extremely varied but may include:
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