Occupations at large broadcast stations and networks fall into five general categories: Program production, newsrelated, technical, sales, and general administration. At small stations, jobs are less specialized, and employees often perform several functions. Although on-camera or on-air positions are the most familiar occupations in broadcasting, the majority of employment opportunities are behind the scenes.
Program production occupations. Most television programs are produced by the motion picture and video industry; actors, directors, and producers working on these prerecorded programs are not employed by the broadcasting industry. Program production occupations at television and radio stations create programs such as news, talk, and music shows.
Assistant producers provide clerical support and background research; assist with the preparation of musical, written, and visual materials; and time the production to make sure it does not run over schedule. They also may operate cameras and other audio and video equipment.
Video editors select and assemble pretaped video to create a finished program, applying sound and special effects as necessary. Conventional editing requires assembling pieces of videotape in a linear fashion to create a finished product. The editor first assembles the beginning of the program, then works sequentially towards the end. Newer computerized editing allows an editor to electronically cut and paste video segments. This technique is known as nonlinear editing because the editor is no longer restricted to working sequentially; a segment may be moved at any time to any location in the program.
Producers plan and develop live or taped productions, determining how the show will look and sound. They select the script, talent, sets, props, lighting, and other production elements. They also coordinate the activities of on-air personalities, production staff, and other personnel. Web site or Internet producers, a relatively new occupation in the broadcast industry, plan and develop Internet sites that provide news updates, program schedules, and information about popular shows. The producer decides what will appear on the site and is responsible for its overall design and maintenance.
Announcers read news items and provide other information, such as program schedules and station breaks for commercials or public service information. Many radio announcers are referred to as disc jockeys, playing recorded music on radio stations. They may take requests from listeners; interview guests; and comment on the music, weather, or traffic. Most stations now have placed all of their advertisements, sound bites, and music on a computer, which is used to select and play or edit the items. Technological advances have simplified the monitoring and adjusting of the transmitter, leaving disc jockeys responsible for all of the tasks associated with keeping a station on the air. Traditional tapes and CDs are used only as backups in case of a computer failure. Announcers and disc jockeys need a good speaking voice; the latter also need a significant knowledge of music.
Program directors are in charge of on-air programming in radio stations. Program directors decide what type of music will be played, supervise on-air personnel, and often select the specific songs and the order in which they will be played. Considerable experience, usually as a disc jockey, is required, as well as a thorough knowledge of music.
News-related occupations. News, weather, and sports reports are important to many television stations because they attract a large audience and account for a large proportion of revenue. Many radio stations depend on up-to-the-minute news for a major share of their programming. Program production occupations, such as producers and announcers, also work on the production of news programs.
Reporters gather information from various sources, analyze and prepare news stories, and report on the air. Correspondents report on news occurring in U.S. and foreign cities in which they are stationed. Newswriters write and edit the news stories from information collected by reporters. Newswriters may advance to positions as reporters or correspondents.
Broadcast news analysts, also known as news anchors, analyze, interpret, and broadcast news received from various sources. News anchors present news stories and introduce videotaped news or live transmissions from on-the-scene reporters. Newscasters at large stations may specialize in a particular field. Weathercasters, also called weather reporters, report current and forecasted weather conditions. They gather information from national satellite weather services, wire services, and local and regional weather bureaus. Some weathercasters are trained atmospheric scientists and can develop their own weather forecasts. Sportscasters are responsible for reporting sporting events. They usually select, write, and deliver the sports news for each newscast.
Assistant news directors supervise the newsroom; they coordinate wire service reports, tape or film inserts, and stories from individual newswriters and reporters. Assignment editors assign stories to news teams, sending the teams on location if necessary.
News directors have overall responsibility for the news team of reporters, writers, editors, and newscasters, as well as studio and mobile unit production crews. This senior administrative position entails responsibilities that include determining what events to cover, and how and when they will be presented in a news broadcast.
Technical occupations. Employees in these occupations operate and maintain the electronic equipment that records and transmits radio or television programs. The titles of some of these occupations use the terms “engineer,” “technician,” and “operator” interchangeably.
Radio operators manage equipment that regulates the signal strength, clarity, and range of sounds and colors of broadcasts. They also monitor and log outgoing signals and operate transmitters. Audio and video equipment technicians operate equipment to regulate the volume, sound quality, brightness, contrast, and visual quality of a broadcast. Broadcast technicians set up and maintain electronic broadcasting equipment. Their work can extend outside the studio, as when they set up portable transmitting equipment or maintain stationary towers.
Television and video camera operators set up and operate studio cameras, which are used in the television studio, and electronic news gathering cameras, which are mobile and used outside the studio when a news team is pursuing a story at another location. Camera operators need training in video, as well as some experience in television production.
Master control engineers ensure that all of the radio or television station’s scheduled program elements, such as on-location feeds, prerecorded segments, and commercials, are smoothly transmitted. They also are responsible for ensuring that transmissions meet FCC requirements.
Technical directors direct the studio and control room technical staff during the production of a program. They need a thorough understanding of both the production and technical aspects of broadcasting, acquired as a lighting director or camera operator, or as another type of broadcast worker.
Network and computer systems administrators and network systems and data communications analysts design, set up, and maintain systems of computer servers. These servers store recorded programs, advertisements, and newsclips.
Assistant chief engineers oversee the day-to-day technical operations of the station. Chief engineers or directors of engineering are responsible for all of the station’s technical facilities and services. These workers need a bachelors’ degree in electrical engineering, technical training in broadcast engineering, and years of broadcast engineering experience acquired in less responsible positions.
Sales, promotions, and marketing occupations. Most workers in this category are advertising sales agents, sometimes known as account executives. They sell advertising time to sponsors, advertising agencies, and other buyers. Sales representatives must have a thorough knowledge of the size and characteristics of their network’s or station’s audience, including income levels, gender, age, and consumption patterns. Sales work has expanded beyond the traditional role of simply selling advertising to a wide range of marketing efforts. Stations earn additional revenue through broadcasting from a business, such as a dance club. Businesses also sponsor concerts or other promotions that are organized by a station. In return for sponsorship, the business may set up a booth or post large signs.
Continuity directors schedule and produce commercials. Continuity directors carefully schedule commercials, taking into account both the timeslot in which a commercial is to be played, as well as competing advertisements. For example, two car dealership advertisements should not be played during the same commercial break. Continuity directors also create and produce advertisements for clients who do not produce their own.
Large stations and networks generally have several workers who spend all of their time handling sales. Sales worker supervisors, who may handle a few large accounts personally, supervise these workers. In small stations, part-time sales personnel or announcers often handle sales responsibilities during hours they are not on the air.
General administration. General managers or station managers coordinate all radio and television station activities. In very small stations, the manager and a bookkeeper may handle all the accounting, purchasing, hiring, and other routine office work. In larger stations, the general administrative staff includes business managers, accountants, lawyers, personnel workers, public relations workers, and others. They are assisted by office and administrative support workers such as secretaries, word processors, typists, and financial clerks.