Media sector: Overview
- job profiles
- entry and progression
- typical employers
- opportunities abroad
- future trends
- jargon buster
- case studies
- contacts and resources
The boundaries between the broadcast, film and interactive media sectors are not always clearly defined. Animation, for example, is a growing part of the film industry, TV programmes may have interactive websites and films often have spin-off electronic game versions.
Since December 2003, there has been a new, single regulatory body for the media and telecommunications industry, The Office of Communications (OFCOM).
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Working in the broadcast, film and interactive media sector can be very demanding. You may be required to work long hours and spend periods away from home.
Approximately 23% of the workforce are employed on a freelance basis (as shown in the table below) and this is common throughout the sector.
- Over 50% of people in the broadcast, film and interactive sector work in London.
- 16% of people work in the south east, but this varies with the industry.
- The rest of the workforce is spread pretty evenly across the rest of the UK, with around 2,500 people working in Northern Ireland.
- 8% of people working in the industry are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
- 39% of the industry are female.
- 1.3% of people in the industry have disabilities.
- 62% of the industry are under 35.
These figures vary according to industry and job role.
It is clear that the mix of staff in this sector does not represent the audience it serves. However, recruiters are trying to redress this imbalance and broadcast organisations, especially, are trying to recruit a more diverse staff.
The Broadcasting and Creative Industries Disability Network (BCIDN) (Employers’ Forum on Disability) and the Cultural Diversity Network are organisations that work to improve the diversity of the workforce.
More information on media careers can be found on the following websites:
- The Skillset (Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries) website has an excellent careers section, which covers many aspects of what it is like to work in this sector.
- The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic and Theatre Union (BECTU) website has examples of recommended earnings and pay scales.
(All figures from: Employment Census of Audio Visual Industries, Skillset, 2004)
2004 Skillset Employment Census
Sector summary Numbers employed – employees and freelancers % working freelance
Broadcast television is one of the largest industries in this sector. There are two basic areas in television:
- broadcasters who transmit programmes;
- programme makers who supply the content.
A large part of the television industry is made up of independent production companies (indies). Indies make programmes but do not transmit them.
Many television programmes have interactive elements and websites. This means that the new media industry has become heavily involved in broadcast television.
Over the past few years the genres of programmes have become less defined. Instead of drama, entertainment and factual programmes there are also docu-soaps, docu-dramas and reality dramas.
The radio industry employs nearly as many people as broadcast television. Although the airwaves remain dominated by the BBC and music channels, radio is a growing industry, with over 500 radio services. OFCOM awards new licences for stations.
Film (including animation)
Film is a small and competitive industry. The large number of freelance workers means that word-of-mouth recommendations are crucial for finding employment. The UK Film Council oversees the British Film Institute (BFI). It is currently addressing skill shortage areas via training and investment funds and it is supporting schemes for new entrants.
Most of the people who work on feature films will also work in other areas during more ‘lean’ times.
Short films are often made on a freelance basis, sometimes with support from regional agencies. Films are showcased at film festivals or entered for competitions.
Animation is very expensive to produce, whether by cell techniques, clay modelling or computer animations.
Commercials are generally made by teams of freelancers who are assembled by advertising agencies. Agencies select staff carefully as the production is often very high budget.
No specific background is required, so working on commercials can be a good way to develop your business and marketing skills. Commercials can also be a good entry route for feature film, although they are very competitive in themselves.
There are approximately 2,500 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that undertake corporate productions. These SMEs are generally based in London. Projects include using film, CD-ROM or DVD formats for training, PR and sales. There is also work on live events and business TV, including interactive elements. The professional institute for corporate production is the International Visual Communications Association (IVCA).
Facilities houses are mostly London based. They own and maintain high-value ‘kit’, which they supply to all sectors of the audiovisual industry when needed, either ‘wet’ (with technicians) or ‘dry’ (without technicians).
Working for a facilities house is a key route into freelance work as a technician. Trainees (runners or drivers) are expected to go freelance on completion of training. The main jobs are in maintenance, preparation of equipment and a small number in ‘out with the kit’ positions, especially in lighting. Televisual is one of the main magazines for the industry. There is a new scheme designed by industry to help post-production companies train junior staff called First Post. You need to be employed by a company to be eligible for this course. See the Skillset website for more information.
Interactive media is the largest industry in this sector. It comprises a loose collection of activities, used for a wide range of purposes. In broad terms, the industry covers:
- web and internet;
- off-line multimedia;
- electronic games;
- interactive TV.
Sometimes, there is overlap between these activities.
Like many other areas of this sector, most of the interactive media companies are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). However, there are fewer freelancers in this industry. Instead, companies seek to establish teams who can create and develop ideas.
Rather than passive watching or listening, interactive media enables the consumer to interact with the media they are experiencing. It is a fast-changing area, which includes IT, telecommunications, broadcasting, design, communications and publishing.
The development of broadband and digital technologies has increased the scope for interactive media. More information about this new and emerging industry can be found on the following websites:
- New Media Knowledge;
- British Interactive Multimedia Association (BIMA);
- Skillset (Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries).