A good radio producer is just as important to a radio show as the presenters, keeping it all working in the background, remaining calm under pressure and coming up with creative ideas
Working as a radio producer, you'll be responsible for the audio content of broadcasts via radio, the internet and other mobile platforms. This will involve the entire process, from generating ideas to managing the audience response after a programme.
You'll also manage and work with broadcasting assistants, presenters and DJs, engineers and IT staff. Making sure that shows run as planned and that they're tailored to key audience demographics. You may also be responsible for the business and commercial management of a programme.
Your responsibilities may vary depending on the programme and station, but in general, you'll need to:
- generate and research ideas for programmes and pitch for commissions
- develop content, including writing material for scripts, bulletins and links, and in some cases online content and podcasts
- produce and make use of user-generated content
- use technology, such as Cool Edit Pro, Pro Tools and Adobe Audition, for editing and production purposes
- select music appropriate to the programme, the audience and the station
- work closely with presenters for both pre-recorded and recorded output and in some cases you may be actively involved in the presenting within the studio while the show airs
- source and book contributors and interviewees
- produce pre-production briefings for presenters, reporters, technical staff and other contributors
- manage the logistics of getting people, resources and equipment together at the right place at the right time
- carry out editing, interviewing and reporting duties as necessary
- check that copyrights are cleared and understand media law
- convert text, graphics, video and audio files into other formats
- contribute to, and make use of, an archive of audio resources which can be re-used
- respond to audience feedback, referring on to other departments as necessary
- manage budgets, staffing and supervisory responsibilities.
- Starting salaries for radio assistants usually start at around £17,000.
- Radio producers earn in the region of £28,000 to £45,000, according to experience and seniority, though this may be lower with some smaller community broadcasting stations.
- Freelancers negotiate their own rates, which are usually between £150 to £300 a day, depending on experience.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours may be long and unpredictable and can include early starts, late evenings and weekends.
What to expect
- Radio producers are generally based in offices or recording studios, working as part of a small team, or sometimes as part of a much larger programme unit, but they also work on live events and outside broadcasts.
- The radio industry is not very diverse, but there are some moves to increase diversity and equal opportunities and to better reflect and reach out to the lives of BAME audiences. Including initiatives such as Tuning into Diversity. The regulator and competition authority Ofcom, requires broadcasting stations as a condition of their licence to promote equality and report workforce statistics each year. The expansion of community radio stations representing ethnic minority groups also offers an opportunity to address this.
- Producers generate and create content for their radio shows, including writing scripts, and work closely with the presenter. They are sometimes known as content creators.
- Radio is less London-centric than other media, and posts are available throughout the UK with local BBC, commercial, community and voluntary stations. National radio stations are usually broadcast from major cities such as Manchester and London.
- Conditions can vary widely depending on where you work. For instance, a staff contract with the BBC offers well-defined and protected conditions, whereas this may be less the case with a smaller community radio station employer.
This area of work is open to all graduates, but a degree in radio or media production may increase your chances. Degrees in broadcast journalism or media studies may also be useful.
Although a postgraduate qualification is not essential, a postgraduate diploma or Masters in radio production may be helpful, particularly if your first degree is in an unrelated subject.
Many radio workers have a degree or Masters, so it will put you in a better position if you also have a relevant qualification.
Details of courses at degree and postgraduate level, which have been approved by the radio industry and ScreenSkills, the industry skills body, are available at ScreenSkills - Select college and university courses.
It may be possible to gain an entry-level role without a degree and work your way up to the level of radio producer. However, you'll still need to demonstrate that you have the relevant skills to get your first job.
You need to have:
- excellent written and oral communication skills
- the ability to work as a part of a team and independently
- highly effective organisational and planning skills
- an ability to cope under pressure
- an awareness of current affairs and good general knowledge
- a real interest in, and curiosity about, people and their lives
- a bright mind, able to make connections between different ideas and subjects
- the ability to get to grips with new subject matter quickly
- the confidence to use technology and equipment, and to learn technical skills
- self-belief, persistence and determination to overcome rejection
- a passion for working in radio and a willingness to keep up to date with changes in the industry.
It's important that you get practical experience, which you'll be able to find through student, hospital or community radio stations. The BBC also offers a range of work experience programmes that cover radio production and broadcast. Find out more about Work Experience at the BBC.
You may also be expected to demonstrate your interest in radio via a portfolio of 'user-generated content' such as podcasts, blogs and on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Be sure to research the station you are applying to and demonstrate enthusiasm and knowledge for its specific style of production and audience.
Try to establish industry contacts and make speculative applications for work experience and placements. Useful resources include:
Look for help with basic skills. Masterclasses for people wanting to get into radio and an online guide, that gives advice on working in the industry, are available from The Radio Academy.
Radio producers can work in the publicly funded, commercial or voluntary sectors of broadcasting. Digital radio has increased the amount of available radio stations and programmes.
- the BBC
- large commercial radio groups
- large media groups, which own many stations, for example Bauer Media, Global Radio and the Wireless Group
- independent radio groups and production companies
- community radio stations.
The BBC has a structure of 39 local radio networks, as well as its main central network. Both the BBC and independent radio stations broadcast live, as well as producing pre-recorded programmes.
In general, BBC local radio is mainly talk-based, while independent radio is usually more music-focused, using mainly pre-recorded music. As a result, the demand for producers in independent radio is low in comparison with BBC local and national radio.
Independent production companies tend to specialise in making pre-recorded programmes, which are sold on to the broadcasters.
In commercial radio, only larger stations tend to have a production department.
The growth of digital radio has also created new opportunities with the establishment of new stations.
Look for job vacancies at:
All BBC vacancies are advertised but not always externally. Vacancies for commercial radio are not always advertised and may be filled by people on voluntary or work experience placements.
The BBC runs a Production Advanced Trainee Scheme, which helps people break into the industry.
Training is usually on the job, with individual training needs agreed at an annual appraisal.
Producers are increasingly involved in all aspects of radio, including presenting, editing and sound recording. You will most likely learn these skills from experienced colleagues or by attending short, in-house training courses.
If you're a freelancer, you'll be responsible for your own professional development and will need to consider the cost and time taken to complete courses.
It's important that you keep up to date with technical and multimedia developments, especially following the expansion of digital radio.
Relevant online articles, videos and recordings on themes such as making radio features and connecting with listeners, are available at BBC Academy.
For its staff, the BBC has a system of attachments through which individuals can gain experience in other jobs for set periods of time. This is a common route for progression from broadcast assistant to producer.
Progression within this career is usually self-driven. Many producers work on a freelance basis and move from one employer to another.
Making contacts within the industry is essential, particularly at the start of your career. Think of creative ways to make links with potential employers and to gain relevant experience.
Career progression may be gained by moving to a more prestigious network, programme or presenter. For example, a local radio producer with several years' experience may apply for a post on national radio. As you gain more experience, you may also focus on a specialist area of interest such as news, drama or documentaries.
Various professional bodies hold annual awards for the radio industry. Gaining an industry-recognised accolade will help to progress your career.
On news and current affairs or magazine-type programmes, where there's likely to be a team of producers, progression may be to a role at senior producer level and then to programme editor. You may then progress to a managerial role, such as network controller.
Ongoing continuing professional development (CPD) is important in an industry such as radio, where technology and the media is constantly changing. Taking courses in voice training, website editing, news writing or media law, for example, may help you keep up to date, and the industry body ScreenSkills is a useful resource for seeking out training opportunities.
A small number of radio producers make a move into teaching or lecturing in related subjects.