My work experience placement took place from Monday 22nd July- Friday 2nd August 2019 at BBC Radio York, Bootham, North Yorkshire. I found the two weeks I was there challenging however incredibly interesting and I feel lucky to have had this experience at the BBC, a difficult area to find work experience as applications are only open twice a year. This synoptic reflection will look into how I got the placement which was through networking with industry professionals and will also analyse the actual work experience itself which lead to me learning a range of different skills I can use in the industry once I graduate from University.
Researching and applying to work experience opportunities
I attended the SRA Conference in Swansea in the April of 2019 where I met and networked with a range of different industry professionals (including BBC and commercial) which is where I met Stephanie Hirst. (https://www.studentradio.org.uk/category/conference/) She did a presentation on her radio career and briefly spoke about her time at BBC Radio Leeds and mentioned how she would have some great contacts for students wishing to seek work experience at the BBC. I spoke to her afterwards and she then gave me the contact details for Anna Evans, the editor for BBC Radio York as she believed it would be a great experience for me, as I have contacts and relatives in the Yorkshire area.
I was in contact with Anna within a week of receiving her email address and we spoke about the possibility of gaining some work experience at BBC Radio York, which I later completed in the July and August of 2019. This contact has proven to be incredibly useful when it comes to university work, as I originally pitched my ‘Individual Audio Project’ idea to Anna, who then suggested that I get in contact with BBC Radio Sheffield which was more suited to my project (a day in the life of the police, including members of South Yorkshire Police who featured in my documentary). From this, I was in contact with Katrina Bunker, the editor for BBC Radio Sheffield who eventually commissioned my documentary for my individual audio project.
I believe that the research that took place to gain a work experience placement at BBC Radio York was a valuable experience which encouraged me to talk to industry professionals which I may not have had the courage to do so before being set the task of finding work experience. I have gained a number of contacts at the BBC, stretching from York, Humberside, Sheffield and Leeds. This was a significant help when finding a commission for my audio documentary, and the words of advice from the industry professionals encouraged me to do the best I can do and go outside of my comfort zone in order to better my work.
What I learned from the work experience and commissioning process?
My work experience consisted of 2 weeks (2 lots of 5 days, Monday to Friday) so I got a full understanding of what a typical week is like when working in local radio, specifically BBC Radio York. I got full training on the ‘Dira!’ playout system and the ‘Highlander’ editing programme which I got to use on a daily basis during my time at BBC Radio York. This training was completed on my first day as it was an essential tool and the skills learned from this will help me get a career in the BBC post graduation.
I made a critical mistake on my first day, whilst acting as a broadcast assistant, I was instructed to phone up an interviewee by the producer as part of the drive time show and let them know that the live interview will be going out later than planned. I made the mistake of not wording the reason why we were calling them correctly, leading onto the confusion of who I was and why I was contacting this particular person. This not only looked bad on myself, but also looked unprofessional on the BBC’s behalf and I regret not doing my research and planning what I was going to say beforehand. I have taken the advice given to me by the producer on board and I believe that I have learnt from this mistake.
During my first week, I was shown how a live outside broadcast was made and I got to experience this for myself twice during my time at York. I got hands on experience talking to guests, presenters and also the general public who had stopped by to watch the live show happen. We also got to experience the health and safety side of things when we had to take down the satellite attached to the BBC van when a thunder and lightning storm broke out mid broadcast…
I shadowed the sound and trails department also which is a highlight for myself as I got to create a 5 minute long package for ‘Yorkshire Day’, ‘Cake and a Cuppa’ (where I acted as a reporter for the first time) and a trail for ‘Loving summertime in North Yorkshire’. I am extremely proud of these and I will use them to show potential future employers however I am unable to link them online as they belong to the BBC and not myself.
The final highlight from my time at BBC Radio York was looking at the online side of things and going out to record a short documentary about a young drag queen based in Scarborough. This gave me the opportunity to use my video editing skills and put them into practise.
I learned many valuable skills at BBC Radio York, many that I will take away to use in future job opportunities (such as video editing, sound editing and reporting). I have experienced what it is like to make a mistake for a live programme and I learned that honesty and learning from a mistake is what needed to be taken away from that experience. I gained multiple contacts from throughout the BBC and I tried out things that I never would have had the confidence to do (in this case reporting alone). I was proud to have made numerous pieces of audio that made it onto live radio and I can proudly take that away from this experience.
Finding a commission proved very difficult, not only because of the niche topic I had chosen to do my audio project on, but the fact that I had chosen 2 locations to explore (Thames Valley and South Yorkshire).
Thames Valley were unable to commission my audio piece due to it being too sensitive. This was because of the (at the time of recording, recent) passing of PC Andrew Harper which lead to me asking Anna from BBC Radio York as she was my most relevant contact (due to her being based in Yorkshire). She encouraged me to reach out to BBC Radio Sheffield which was a challenge. It took numerous emails to get hold of Katrina and at first she was unable to do a mock commission due to it not actually going out on the station. Eventually, after speaking to my tutor (Aasiya) she agreed to listen to the piece once it was ready and gave me permission to produce the audio documentary.
From this experience, I have learned to not leave the commission to the last minute and to always plan ahead. If I was to do this next time, I would definitely reach out to an organisation or station before making the documentary and take on ideas that the commissioner had to say and work together with them to produce the final piece of audio. However, I am proud of myself for eventually getting a commission from a BBC local radio station that had a direct link to the content that was in my final audio project.
Where do I hope to go next?
Radio wise, I am unsure of where to go post-graduation. I love the idea of local radio and my time at BBC Radio York has widened my knowledge of how local radio is run, and more importantly works perfectly for myself as I hope to look for opportunities outside of London, and I believe local radio is the step forward in doing this.
If I was to go down this route, do the following steps.
- Finish my degree, once I have this qualification I think it will open doors to more opportunities.
- Maintain a healthy relationship with Anna from BBC York and Katrina from BBC Sheffield and ask them for further opportunities at these local stations.
- I will also keep an eye out and monitor the BBC Careers page and look out for any jobs that are being advertised on there, I may already have the correct skills for a role being advertised however I still think further experience in the BBC is needed for me to complete this step. I could also look at sites such as media.info which post commercial radio paid and unpaid jobs which will help me gain a successful career in the radio industry.
- Look out for more work experience and use examples from my university work as a step forward in doing this. Conferences such as the SRAs will help me network with new people and maybe help me reconnect with previous ones as well. I will also look on sites such as Linkedin which post opportunities and paid work along with having a direct link to people who work in the industry and people who I canget in contact for further experience/ work.
- Keep on top of my online portfolio, and make sure that any work I do produce is on there for potential employers to look out for. This includes some examples from BBC Radio York and also projects I have done whilst at university.
However, since doing my individual audio project, I have discovered a great love and passion for the police. I would love to work as a serving officer however this will take many years to complete due to the nature of the role. Having friends and family in the police have encouraged me to pursue this career path if radio doesn’t work out for me after a certain amount of time. The following steps (I hope) will help me achieve this career.
- Finish my degree, it is a requirement to have a degree to be a serving officer to this is a must.
- Learn to drive, this is also a requirement and is needed for me to be a police officer.
- Look at other police staff roles, such as PCSO’s and Call Handling. This is good experience when looking into the police world and what the police have to deal with on a daily basis.
- Keep an eye out on police recruitment pages and look out for opportunities that would suit me, not necessarily working as a police officer but in staff roles also.
- Keep in contact with the people I already know through doing university coursework such as the contacts I have through South Yorkshire Police.
In conclusion, I am unsure which path to go down but I have a plan for both which should help me be more prepared when the time comes to make the decision once I graduate in summer. However, I believe I want to go down the policing route to explore the opportunities and if it isn’t for me then I can always come back to radio and use the contacts I already have in this industry.