Interviews – Media – Ben Backhouse

Ben Backhouse has recently joined London-based Talk Radio as a production assistant. Backhouse graduated from Bristol University in 1999 with a degree in English. Like many graduates he was keen on a career in the media, but unlike the majority, he has managed to achieve this. We asked him about the new job and whether working in the industry is everything it is cracked up to be

Title: Production assistant, Talk Radio

Date of birth: 28 March 1977

How did you get the job?
I left Bristol University with a 2:1 in English. I did clerical temping for the London Ambulance Service for a couple of months. I then got in touch with a friend whose sister used to work at Talk Radio. She put in a good word with one of the managing directors, who gave me an interview. He sent me to Mike Parry, the sports editor, who ended up giving me a job.

How much did having a friend-in-the-know help you?
It definitely helped having contacts. I probably wouldn’t have tried to get a job there unless I had heard all about it through my friend.

What do you do at Talk Radio?
A bit of everything on the production side. My job involves some editing, researching, and booking guests for shows. At the moment I’m off to cover a press conference, where I will do some interviews – they’re all sports based obviously. These are then converted into ‘wraps’ – small clips that go out on air as part of a show.

What skills and credentials do you need for radio production?
Experience is the key. If you have no relevant experience it’s hard to get in. However the most important thing is your ability to communicate effectively with people. Whether on the phone or in an interview it’s absolutely vital if you are going to be good at your job. It involves persuading people to give up their time to go on air for free – usually people who have better things to do with their time.

What is the money like?
The money’s bad I’m afraid. At the moment I’m on a training contract so I get 20 a week plus overtime and expenses. This is with a view to getting a contract once I’ve proved myself.

What will that be?
Probably 9,000 or so – but there is the chance to fast track if you’re good.

Job security?
You need to be on the ball 100 % of the time. If you don’t cut the mustard there’s always another person waiting in the wings who does.

How tough is the work?
That depends. Today for example, there was a good chance I was going to have to go to Heathrow airport to meet the England football team at 6am. That would have meant getting up at 4am, before coming back to a full day’s work. You have to be flexible, but overall the hours are pretty sensible. I normally get in about 8.30am and leave around 5pm.

What is the highlight of your job?
The opportunity to meet and interview your idols. Yesterday for example I was at Chelsea football club and chatted to England footballer, Graeme Le Saux, for fifteen minutes followed by the team’s manager, Gianluca Vialli. You’re getting the opportunity to rub shoulders with some very cool people.

How important are contacts?
Essential. They’re the life-blood. The more contacts you have in your book, the further ahead of the game you are. If you can ring up former England soccer manager Glenn Hoddle and get him on the show because he trusts you, you are obviously that much more valuable to the company.

What is your ambition for the future?
Right now I wouldn’t mind being paid properly. I wouldn’t say my ultimate ambition is radio, but it will be in the media somewhere, probably in magazine journalism, in a sporting capacity. Right now though I’m getting some great experience and I’ll just take it from there.

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