A radio presenter hosts and broadcasts music or talk shows on a variety of media.
The job of a radio presenter is to host shows on radio or the internet which revolve mainly around music, conversation, interviews and stories. A radio presenter is the introductory voice of the broadcast and also keeps the show flowing in order to entertain an audience. The job activities can range from interviewing, introducing, reading news and sport, informing the listeners about the weather or creating and controlling conversation.
Radio presenters work mainly in a studio, but the exact environment may vary. Some presenters work for national radio stations meaning large commercial studios, whereas presenters who work for local radio stations, university radios, hospital radios etc, usually work out of small basic recording studios. Radio studios are small rooms filled with sound recording technology and equipment and are usually run by a sound team who will work alongside the presenter.
Hours vary depending on the airing of a radio presenter’s show. ‘Airtime slots’ are typically around 3 hours but this can be anywhere on a 24 hour schedule depending on the popularity, genre of show, and the type of radio broadcast.
Salaries are extremely varied when it comes to radio presenting. Earnings are dependent on a whole host of factors, including experience, the type of radio station, the popularity of the show, and the radio medium. For example, radio stations online which are less popular will pay their presenters far less than national mainstream radio stations on ‘fm’ frequencies.
Experience is a key factor for radio presenters looking to increase their salary. Employability for more mainstream, well paid radio slots comes with having presented a vast number of shows, preferably varying in style. This gives a chance to showcase a portfolio of work to potential employers. Large mainstream radio companies, such as BBC Radio 1, pay anything between £100,000 and £600,000 a year to their radio presenters. Less experienced radio presenters on less well-known stations can earn as little as £14,000 a year.
Many radio presenters work on a freelance basis and therefore income is calculated per show executed.
Radio presenters are responsible for being the ‘voice’ of a radio station. This gives them a variety of responsibilities relating to engaging their audience and representing the station in a respectable light. These include:
- Researching features that will come up during the radio show
- Planning the general direction of the show. This may include writing and scripting in preparation.
- Meeting guests for the radio programme beforehand and discussing the outline of interviews
- Working with a sound technology team and assisting them in sound check
- Introducing music, guests and other features throughout the show
- Ensuring the smooth running of the radio programme
- Conducting interviews with guests in person (either live or recorded beforehand) or on the telephone
- Selecting a playlist suitable for the audience and time of the day
- Reading news, weather, sport, traffic or other reports
- Reading from a script or autocue, or improvising
Academic qualifications are not strictly necessary to become a radio presenter but as the career path is becoming increasingly popular, it is advisable to embark on formal qualifications in order to increase employability. There are a variety of degree programmes, foundation degrees and HND courses which provide a background knowledge and relevance to radio presenting which employers may look for. These include:
- Performing arts/drama
- Media studies or any media related course
- Music technology
- Sound technology
- Public relations
Training is also an important aspect of becoming a radio presenter as most jobs will expect candidates to be previously fully trained. On-the-job training or work experience is a good way to learn the basic skills needed, and these positions can usually be gained via a position assisting radio hosts or working within the sound technology or direction team. Alternatively, organisations such as Radio Presenter Training and Radiocentre run a variety of courses to establish skills in the trade.
Radio presenters have to have skills which enable them to engage a varied audience and create an original show each time they host. This means they have to have an extremely creative and outgoing skills set, including:
- Possessing excellent oral communication and presentation skills
- Having the capacity to work to a rigid schedule and manage their time effectively
- Being able to work efficiently within a team
- Being able to make decisions under pressure and to improvise to a high standard if necessary
- Being up to date with current affairs and possessing research skills which can ensure accuracy of the information they are discussing on radio
- Having a bubbly and outgoing personality which people are drawn to
- Holding a strong work ethos and being prepared to work hard to succeed
- Being articulate
- Having the ability to create dynamic and original shows consistently
- Having an easy-going sense of humour which appeals to the masses
- Understanding media law and legislation and following it meticulously in their work
Radio presenters mainly work in broadcasting studios which are small rooms, usually with a sound desk and a microphone, attached by a glass window to a sound technology room. This enables them to be in contact with the sound team constantly but also have control over the running of their own show. Broadcasting studios vary depending on the popularity and budget of the radio stations, i.e. large national radio stations will have bigger and more high tech broadcasting rooms, whereas a hospital radio station is likely to have just one small studio room.
Radio presenters usually only present for between 2 and 3 hours a day, but the hours depend on the popularity and purpose of the show and can include the middle of the night. This can cause disruption to sleep patterns for some broadcasters. There is little travel involved in the job, unless the radio presenter freelances. Freelancers will be required to travel to the studio destination of the particular station, which could be anywhere in the UK.
There are very few physical demands in radio presenting but aside from sleep disruption, fame brought on through mainstream presenting can lead to loss of privacy and having to maintain a certain public image at all times.
Experience is essential when moving up the ladder in radio presenting. Most presenters start by broadcasting small shows on hospital radios, university radios, community stations or online streaming devices, which they usually volunteer for. Youtube has become an excellent medium to practise presenting and hosting and has become a source for many talent scouts and employers.
Experience in a studio can often be gained from working alongside sound technicians and crews and progressing through broadcasting teams.
Large radio stations and mainstream channels will not normally consider a radio presenter with no previous experience. A wide plethora of previous shows and versatile presenting is preferable.
- Independent radio stations, both national and local
- Private institutions such as hospitals and universities
- Independent production companies
Many radio presenters freelance
There is no clear career path in radio presenting and there are no set rules to advancing to the next stage. Most radio presenters consider a career path towards mainstream and popular radio to be the most successful route but it is also one of the hardest.
Most presenters start by volunteering for small radio stations and then attempt to move to more popular local radio channels. From there, the next step is to have more mainstream time slots and then hope to move up to international shows.
Other presenters attempt to become known for their personality through online blogging, streaming and websites such as Youtube. Through becoming a public figure, radio presenters hope then be noticed by more mainstream stations.
Also known as…
- Radio Broadcaster
- Radio Presenter
- Radio DJ
- Television Presenter
- Public Speaker
- News Reader
What’s it really like?
Chris Arnold is a 23 year old radio presenter from Sheffield. As the founder of the popular local radio show ‘Cool Beans’, here is what he has to say about radio presenting:
So Chris, what got you interested in being a radio presenter?
People say I’ve got a face for radio; I didn’t realise it wasn’t a compliment until it was too late! But seriously, I’ve always been a talkative outgoing person, so when someone suggested trying radio presenting, I thought it’d be something I could flourish in.
How long have you been doing it and who for?
Altogether, I’ve been presenting on the radio for about a year and a half. I first had a slot on Forge Radio, which is Sheffield University’s radio network. That was whilst I was still studying at university. Once I graduated, my radio show, Cool Beans, moved on to have some air time on Burngreave Community Radio, which is where I am at the moment.
What’s a typical day like for you on the radio? What do you do?
Firstly, I have to plan out the show. It’s not exactly scripting, but I have to know roughly the direction the show is going to take. Then I begin prepping for the show which can include setting up equipment, or having a brief rundown with anyone that I’m planning on interviewing, and then we go on air. On the show we play music, do some silly competitions and I interview people, so there’s always a bit of variety to my day.
What do you like best about being a radio presenter?
It feels so great when a good show comes together. For some reason, some shows flow better than others; you have guests that are more comfortable or competitions that get a better reception and things like that. When you get a show like that, you come off the air feeling pretty good!
What do you dislike about the job or find particularly challenging?
I honestly don’t dislike anything. It’s what I love doing and I get to work with so many great people that I don’t really have any flipsides.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of being a radio presenter?
I’d say to just stick at it. Sometimes it can be hard to get into but just try as many different avenues as you can and eventually you’ll get there. Make sure you plan your shows, don’t delve into in-jokes too much as you need to connect with the wider audience. But mostly I’d say, just be yourself but be original.
What career progression is there for someone looking to move into this field?
I think the hardest bit is the beginning of the career. Getting yourself noticed or into a studio at the very least can be draining and expensive sometimes. But once you get things rolling it can really pick up for you. Employers are looking for previous work in the field so try and get as much experience as possible as this can help you progress. Also, making sure you have a good range of skills is really useful; teamwork, communication, public speaking, creative ideas – all these things help you progress up to the bigger, more mainstream jobs.