TV and radio station production staff produce and release live media.
Live broadcast media is a huge part of contemporary culture. News, weather, game shows, sports coverage, reality shows, and more all rely on a team of workers dedicated to their creation, production, and technical output. This team includes the managers who oversee individual broadcasts and general studio operations, the directors, editors, and producers of each show, lighting, sound, and camera technicians, and an array of specialty engineers who get it all onto the airwaves. Many of these production roles are not unique to station production environments, and appear in different settings where media is recorded. The constants in live broadcast production are camera operators, broadcast engineers, and those who supervise their work.
Not all radio and TV stations broadcast live content exclusively; some pre-record shows several hours in advance in order to add banners or censor profanity. Continuous live programming requires dedicated coverage and impeccable timing; cameras must be switched to give the broadcast more perspectives, and links between external and local sources must be set up properly. Some television stations receive ready-to-air pre-recorded content from production companies, which can be cued up and sprinkled with commercial spots as it airs. In settings that use live content sparingly, a television or radio broadcast station may consist only of an engineering team and a host, anchor, or DJ. These days, a lot of live media has made the transition to digital, with certain events being livestreamed to web hosting sites. However, there are still plenty of stations doing things the old fashioned way, and many consumers of traditional media appreciate that!
Work in radio and television production may include...
- Using and configuring specialty broadcast and taping tools
- Automating and queuing content for broadcast
- Coordinating with different departments on projects
- Solving problems as they arise
- Ensuring sound and picture are synced with no delay
A live broadcast station's production schedule depends on the air times of its content; many radio stations play 24/7, and TV stations start some of their programming early in the morning. Most station staff work regular shifts, which might cover day, night, or somewhere in between. As reliable as things may seem, it's important to be flexible and approach problems with a level head, which can make the difference between a successful broadcast and one that never makes it out the door.
Preparing to work in radio or television production can look any number of ways, and the skillset varies from job to job. Some station staff have undergraduate degrees in broadcast media, which can be a direct path to a career in the field, since it involves so many specific technical skills. Volunteering or interning at a local station is a great way to learn some of the specifics of station work; some high schools and colleges have broadcast gear or run dedicated programs that teach students the basics of live production. Aspiring broadcast engineers can benefit from training in electrical engineering. This might involve independent study, trade school, a guild apprenticeship, or an engineering degree. In any case, broadcast engineering makes use of a wide array of skills, and there's no shortage of things that could be learned on the job, such as mixing or recording.
If you're solutions oriented and want to make your mark on live media, check out radio or television station production work and see if it's the career for you.
The Society of Broadcast Engineers amplifies the voices of broadcast engineers with professional certification, educational opportunities, and speaking out on technical regulatory issues.
The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians is a Communications Workers of America union branch representing more than 10,000 workers in broadcasting and related industries.
The National Alliance of State Broadcasters Association is a group of regional broadcast trade associations that exists to help its members better serve their radio and television stations.