Television Broadcasting, Careers in

views updated


Careers in television broadcasting range from studio production to newsgathering to administration and sales. Likewise, the necessary educational training and experience differ according to position, as well as according to the size of the market that a television station serves. Market size further influences the staff size, and, consequently, the breadth of positions that are available at a given station. However, several positions remain staples of the typical television station, including the general manager, the controller, the accountant, the general sales manager, the account executive, the program director, the master control operator, the chief engineer, and the news and production personnel.

The general manager, who holds the highest position in a local television unit, works long hours overseeing a station's financial management and budgeting, short-range and long-range planning, administration and morale, and compliance with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations. The typical general manager usually has a bachelor's or master's degree in a field such as communication or business, although the overall college experience is generally well rounded. The typical career path for most general managers can usually be traced through television advertising sales, although a few general managers are appointed from managerial positions in programming, news, or production. In addition, most general managers are selected from inside a television company, although some are lured from management positions at different broadcasting stations or from other business arenas in sales or marketing.

The controller is in charge of administration, budgeting, accounting, and forecasting the financial future of a station. Duties include the management of accounting personnel, general administrative staff, administrative operations, and office equipment. Controllers typically hold a bachelor's degree in a business-related field and have prior experience in sales. Consequently, most controllers are promoted to their positions from the accounting department within a television station.

The accountants at a television station are responsible for the bookkeeping, billing, and other logging of financial transactions. Furthermore, the accountants keep records of unused facilities and equipment, FCC-related correspondence, insurance claims, and tax-related reports. The typical accountant holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and obtains accounting experience either from other fields or from a communications operation.

The general sales manager manages the advertising accounts that a station has with local businesses and supervises the practices of the account executives. The general sales manager also monitors the activities of local competitors and creates rate cards, an airtime pricing schedule by which the account executives will sell air-time. General sales managers usually hold degrees in business-related fields and are former television station account executives. Many also have previous experience in retail or door-to-door sales, which provides a good background for selling airtime.

Much of the account executive's long day is in dealing with local businesses or advertising agencies and negotiating the sale of airtime. At some stations, the account executive will also help create a client's advertisement or promotional spot. For these positions, the account executive needs production or writing experience as well as sales experience. However, most account executives have retail or door-to-door experience only and some also hold academic degrees in business.

The duties of the program director range from the acquisition and scheduling of programs to the supervision of locally produced programming and promotional spots. In addition, program directors in small stations may also be responsible for creating daily logs, which detail the day's programming minute-by-minute. Job requirements for the program director usually include academic training in a business-related or media-related field. Adequate job experience is also needed and is usually gained from previous employment as an assistant programming director, programming staff member, or, less frequently, as a syndicator or network employee.

Master control operators put the programs on the air according to the daily logs, monitor the transmission quality, and record incoming program feeds. Master control operators do not necessarily need prior experience or academic degrees. In fact, all operators receive on-the-job training. However, competitive positions do require prior experience or academic training in a technical field.

The chief engineer purchases, maintains, and repairs the transmission, master control, studio, and other station equipment. The chief engineer also ensures the compliance of a station with FCC rules and keeps abreast of technological developments in the industry. Beyond these duties, the chief engineer supervises the broadcast technicians and master control operators. Almost all chief engineers have a degree in engineering or technology. Most chief engineers also have prior engineering experience and hold a broadcast engineering certification. A few engineers have additional training in business administration or a related field.

The news director directs the news programs and supervises the various actions of the news personnel. Assignment editors assign stories to the various news reporters, who create news packages with the help of the photographers. The packages, edited by editors, are presented with other scripted stories by the news anchors. For news or other locally produced programs, the production manager will assign and monitor a production crew. The crew consists of camera operators, audio operators, videotape operators, technical directors or video switchers, floor managers, videotape editors, computer graphics operators, teleprompter operators, and editors. A crew will produce the local programs, and it may also create promotional spots or client commercials. Directorial, managerial, and news positions are usually won with prior experience and perseverance in job advancement. Academic training in a media-related field can be attractive in securing these positions. However, a résumé tape and references usually have more weight in this competitive area than does a degree without experience. Crew positions require moderate to no experience depending on the market size and competition, and all provide on-the-job training.

Outside of the local station, several employment possibilities exist. For example, national sales managers are needed to win advertising contracts from national or regional companies for local stations. These salespeople usually begin as account executives, local sales managers, or as advertising representatives. Another option is syndication, in which programs are obtained from networks or production companies and are then contracted out to local stations. The obvious alternative providers of employment, however, are the networks, who have job opportunities that both encompass and expand the offerings of the local television station.

See also:Cable Television; Cable Television, Careers in; Television Broadcasting.


Brown, James A., and Quaal, Ward L. (1998). Radio-Television-Cable Management, 3rd edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Sherman, Barry L. (1995). Telecommunications Management: Broadcasting/Cable and the New Technologies, 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Francesca Dillman Carpentier

About this article

Television Broadcasting, Careers in

Updated About content Print Article