My time at the BBC

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For any journalist, aspiring or qualified, the opportunity to work at one of the worlds most renowned and recognised broadcasters is simply one too good to be missed. For me ambitions and aspirations of seeing the ‘beeb’ in its full glory were fulfilled on a two-week work placement earlier this month. And what an exciting and thrilling two weeks they turned out to be.

There is something simply surreal about walking into a glass-fronted office tagged with the famous BBC logo from the outside throughout to the inside of the MediaCityUK building. The complex in Salford is superbly stunning. Visually, the array of BBC and other media buildings create a modern and fresh environment. On the inside, the offices are minor in comparison to the stunning panoramic views of Salford Quays. It truly is a wonderful working environment.

Having had experience in newspaper journalism, it was an opportunity to see how television news and journalism actually works. So often, as a viewer, we take for granted the end product of a news programme, forgetting the long hours that have gone into producing a regional programme. I approached with moderate expectations – journalism is an industry where deadlines must be met and where journalists often have their own job to do. However, I was surprised at how warm and engaging some of the staff, producers and journalists alike, were in talking about their roles and offering sound advice.

Much of the fortnight placement involved research, a key component in the journalism and media jigsaw. Working with the BBC’s Sunday Politics team, it was an eye-opener to understand how much research has to take place in order for a report or programme to look and sound professional. Doing research, to some, may sound boring, yet it doesn’t have to be. Selecting and compressing opinions, ideas, facts and figures really helps understand a particular story and in turn gives the average viewer a broad sense of the story they are interacting with.

My enjoyment of simply working in an office and doing something I am passionate about made what could be a tireless and repetitive role become alive. So you would understand my overwhelming joy of shadowing some of the journalists of leading regional news programme North West Tonight. My time spent with the reporters was invaluable. Never before could I ever guess it would take up to three hours to simply film and interview for a 1 minute 45 second piece. Visiting a man who had collected one thousand music albums, an urban artist in Manchester and the cast of Peter Pan certainly gave me flavour of the lighter side of journalism, whilst input, discussion and research into stories such as fracking and ‘troubled families’ emphasised the variation in this fascinating sector.

I did begin to learn and understand some interview techniques. Simply asking questions in everyday life is evidence of probing and journalistic skills. In the modern multimedia environment, I was both surprised and un-surprised at the changing roles that journalists have to play. Surprised, I was in awe that journalists, reporters and correspondents are simply more than the question asker and the person who speaks to the camera; their roles consist of editing their pieces, choosing library footage, adding music and writing scripts, something I presumed was conducted by another member of the team. The journalist of today also plays the role of the editor and, at times, the role of the camera person. When reflecting, it wasn’t really a surprise at all. The level of new media and technology must be used and so it makes sense for editing to be done all by one multimedia, cross-platform journalist.

Work experience at the BBC is notoriously hard to get and so I was very surprised to have received a phone call from the recruitment centre. The way to succeed on any journalism placement, not just at the BBC, is to show passion and interest in the sector you are working in. Ask questions about a journalists role, speak to the producer and ask about doing specific things, such as sitting in the gallery of a live news programme. Always ask for advice on how to make a good career out of the industry, but know when to take a back seat. Engage in ordinary conversation. It could be as trivial as something about the weather or as serious as a little bit of input into a production meeting. If you are assigned a piece of research, go above and beyond what you’ve been asked, and if there is a deadline to meet, then meet it.

I talk of asking about advice and what follows is the general consensus of advice I was given by a whole host of journalists and producers.

Work Experience. Possibly the most important factor. The more experience you have, the more shaped you are to the job and perhaps the more passionate you appear.

Qualifications. Previously not really essential, but today journalism postgraduate courses are highly recognised by a number of universities and courses by the NCTJ. Some undergraduate courses are good, but are perhaps a little too narrow.

Connections. Using social media and emails to connect with journalists, editors and producers. Sometimes having an email contact you can update can make all the difference.

Above all, to me, aspiration and passion is what is essential. Being persistent, determined and strong-minded is all essential not just for a career in journalism and the media, but for anything in any walk of life.

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National Trust’s Big Brother Embarrassment

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Without doubt it has changed the landscape of television culture and has circled many conversations, but is Big Brother, more specifically ‘The Big Brother House’ worthy of National Trust status? The charity acquired the property on the Elstree Studio complex last weekend for two days, allowing members of the public to step in the footsteps of many Z-list celebrities who have appeared on the programme since its launch in 2000.

Bosses at The National Trust stated that the house is “special” whilst adding that the programme has become a part of culture in the UK. The press release for the announcement actually stated that by opening the house it could pave the way for a “wittier” future for The National Trust. Hardly to be welcomed by many of its long-standing members, stereotypically an older, more intelligent individual.

There is no concern that Big Brother’s infamous house is a part of a celebrity and TV culture in the UK. Big Brother undoubtedly began over a decade of reality television; the same television flair we are accustomed to today. The television certainly has its followers with million tuning in every week for their programmes; having visited television studios, there is some kind of excitement and suspense when standing on a set of a programme you have seen broadcast to many millions of viewers. The National Trust certainly seems to be moving with modern times, encouraging more and specifically younger people to join the charity. But the house seen by so many millions seems out of place alongside properties of real history and heritage.

Whilst many enjoy the reality brainwasher, the show is not unfamiliar with controversy. Scenes that saw MP George Galloway parade the house in a red leotard are certainly an embarrassment and cowering, whilst more seriously the programme has been associated with racism following allegations of bullying involving the late Jade Goody and Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. It does, therefore, gallivant the mind as to why people would want to walk in the footsteps of such controversy. The trust certainly seem to have lost their edge and perhaps credibility from allowing members to visit history rather than a modern TV programme. But if this is the road that the UK’s National Trust wants to head down, why start with Big Brother?

The recent closure of the BBC’s Television Centre in West London is of real heritage. Creating some of the UK’s best known programmes including The Two Ronnies, Blue Peter and Parkinson, the centre has welcomed political leaders, world-famous stars and even transformed, on numerous occasion, into an event host itself. Iconic is the only real word to describe TVC. Built and in operation for over 50 years, there has been a vast amount of history and heritage created in that very building.

Today, production of the next generation of iconic television programmes has moved away from the studios that have brought BBC News to TV screens across the world to new homes including Media City UK and New Broadcasting House in Central London. TV Centre has been sold on and the end of an era has arrived upon us. The National Trust could have taken a giant leap in its appeal to a new market by acquiring the iconic BBC headquarters rather than a flimsy reality TV show.

Saying that, the 500 tickets that went on sale were snapped up by members of the trust within an hour, according to The National Trust. Karl Smith, executive producer of the show, said it was a great idea to link up the show and charity, however, former MP and culture figure Ann Widdecombe said the idea was “ridiculous”.

There is no doubt that the TV and celebrity culture is becoming the norm within UK society and many charities, such as The National Trust have to adapt to welcome those with new and evolving interests. Perhaps the trust could have avoided embarrassment and controversy by choosing a setting slightly less divisive as their marker for the way forward.