Programme researchers are vital cogs in the media production engine. These resourceful people conduct research, fact-check information, and present their findings to producers, scriptwriters and presenters in a clear and concise manner to make sure radio shows, TV shows and films are as interesting, entertaining and well-informed as possible.
These dynamic research professionals, however, don’t just bury their heads in books, dusty archives and internet resources, looking for facts, figures, footage and other fascinating titbits of information – they also get heavily involved in the planning side of production.
Using their creative flair and talent for research, they work with producers and scriptwriters to generate fresh and interesting ideas for new shows and existing productions.
Programme researchers don’t only conduct research to enhance the content of the production they are working on. They also conduct functional research into possible shooting locations, equipment hire and freelance staff, selecting the best options—based on price and suitability—and then making the necessary arrangements to get everything organised.
When sourcing photographs, music and video footage from third parties, programme researchers must obtain permission for the use of copyrighted material. They may also be required to carry out routine administrative duties from time to time.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level programme researchers tend to earn between £18,000 and £23,000 per annum, while those with more experience can earn up to £35,000 a year.
Freelance programme researchers can earn anywhere between £120 and £350 a day.
Evening and weekend work is common. You may occasionally be required to work seven days a week during busy periods. Travel, both domestically and internationally, is a regular fixture for many programme researchers.
To enter this line of work, you will need an undergraduate degree in any discipline. However, studying a subject such as journalism, broadcast journalism, English, comparative literature, politics, history, marketing or PR may boost your chances of securing an entry-level position.
Alternatively, you could complete a postgraduate qualification in broadcast journalism.
This is an incredibly competitive area of work. Consequently, it’s essential that you gain relevant work experience before you apply for entry-level positions. People often work as a runner before making the leap into a programme researcher position.
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be completed ‘on-the-job’ under the supervision of a producer. However, many organisations, such as the Indie Training Fund and Scottish Screen, offer training courses and workshops for programme researchers.
Programme researchers have plenty of options when it comes to career progression. For instance, you might simply move from a local media to national media, increasing your salary and getting the opportunity to work on more exciting projects in the process.
You might progress into a senior programme researcher position with additional team leading responsibilities. Alternatively, you could move into other areas of the industry, such as presenting or production.