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HOW MEDIA STUDIES HELPED ME GET WORK IN TV

If you’ve been following this site you’ll know we’ve been debating the value of a degree when trying to get into television and in particular the value of a media studies versus an academic degree. 

Vicky Edmonds got in touch to add her voice to the pro-media studies supporters. Here is her story: 

Vicky Edmonds

“I wanted to work in television from the age of about 9, but not having any contacts in anything remotely media related it seemed like a bit of a closed shop to me (I remember my mother saying something about “pipe dream” but was supportive none the less). I applied to all the local TV and radio companies when I had to do work experience in Year 10 but was told that I was too young for their insurance and also that they would only take students on a ‘relevant degree’. For my local ITV company, Meridian, this was as specific as only being one course at one institution – the BA (Hons) TV Production degree at Bournemouth University – and so I made it my aim to get onto this course.

At college I took Media Studies A-level, along with English Language and History and a City & Guilds in TV Production where I learnt a few practical skills. I was generally advised by many around me to do a ‘proper’ degree like English, and after gaining 3 A grades I certainly had the option to do so at very strong universities should I have decided to listen to their advice.

However, I realised that if I wanted to get into television, I would need to have some practical experience and the only way that that seemed open to me at the time (not having any means to live in London doing unpaid work experience even IF I had been able to secure some) was to get on that local intern scheme – for which I needed the media degree.

Thankfully I got into Bournemouth (which is actually pretty selective and is only a small course) and was able to get onto Meridian’s intern scheme in the summer of my second year, as well as gaining some other work experience placements as part of my course. This all meant that by the time I graduated in 2004, I felt I had a reasonable chance at actually being able to earn a living in TV. So I made the leap of moving to London and secured my first proper telly job, which I was told I got directly because I’d studied TV production and had got some experience.

The other reason I think my media degree helped me was that Bournemouth had great facilities and a fully functioning TV studio. We were encouraged to try out all the different roles and it was by doing this that I discovered the job of Gallery PA. As the BBC only offered PA training to staff members (but stopped this around 2007) and most other companies weren’t investing in training FTC staff I ended up funding my own training with Avril Rowlands in early 2007, partly assisted by Skillset.

I am now working as a freelance Gallery PA, with credits including Newsround and Match of The Day, but I don’t know if I would have taken the (costly) risk of funding my own training had I not had a chance to actually try the job out whilst I was at Uni.

It is annoying to have to defend your decision to study a media degree and take comments about “Mickey Mouse” or “cushy” courses on the chin. On our course we had around 22 hours of lectures a week plus studio/filming days and editing which often spilled over to late evenings and weekends. Although enjoyable, it didn’t feel cushy at the time but we all got a lot out of it and consequently the vast majority of people from the course are working in TV or video production now.

I can see why some people are dismissive of ‘meeja’ degrees – there are certainly some students who graduate feeling that they are established directors with a raft of arty ‘films’ under their belt and should therefore be able to bypass the lower levels of production jobs like Runner. However, this slightly deluded attitude and unwillingness to start at the bottom can also sometimes be applied to people coming in just because a family friend who happens to be a Head of Production has got them a job.

What I’m saying is, it’s all about your attitude and approach to working and finding work, rather than what you did or didn’t study at university.

If any criticism can be raised about media degrees, then it should be directed not to the graduates, but to the course leaders and universities who offer more places on courses than there are jobs available and market their courses as guaranteed entry into a career in the media, which encourage some students to feel like they are ‘above’ the entry level jobs.

But ultimately if a media degree has helped open the doors to someone who then works hard and does a great job then how can they be a waste of time?

I for one don’t think that I would have had the opportunities that I’ve had without my degree”.

Well said, Vicky, and thanks for sharing that. Good point about the responsibilities of those leading the university and college media courses. Graduates must be prepared for the real world!

Any thoughts? Leave them below.

You can find previous articles on this subject here: http://wanttoworkintelevision/category/how-to-get-into-television

4 comments

  • Laila Issa says:

    I only found my interest in media whilst at high school, to me the subject intised me more so than others. However at this stage I wasn’t too sure of a career within media, or in fact anything else as there wasn’t much guidance given to us from the school I attended. The only guidance given and was persistently said was to how important university is alongside our grades to get in to university. I naturally thought I need to go to university to get a good, successful career.

    Going on to college, I also find it hard to defend my decision to study Media Studies throughout those two years. The importance of going to University was also hardly driven into student’s heads. It was in college where I eventually found out that I was passionate about media and journalism, especially news journalism and would potentially want a career within it.

    I got the grades I needed for university and now in my final year studying Journalism and Broadcasting at Salford University. It is within my first year that the tutors broke the reality to me, a degree wouldn’t be enough to get a career in the industry as work experience is just as essential as the degree. Naturally I started to panic and with a number of my friends, even my brothers constantly say it is a ‘mickey mouse’ course or describe it as a ‘doss off’ course I wasn’t feeling very confident at all about my future prospects.

    My course consits of 9 hours a week, understandably I can see why people would class this as a ‘mickey mouse’ course, I also got the comment ‘you should do straight journalism, as it is better’ many times. Eventually I realised, through many guest speakers in university and my tutors that Journalism and broadcasting offered the skills that you would use within the broadcast industry. Within my course I have been a researcher, runner, PA, developed radio packages, TV features, sub editor, web designer and also a few print articles. Being at university made me realise, news journalism wouldn’t be the career path for me as I find broadcasting such as radio and TV much more interesting and fun.

    Also, without being at University, studying the degree I chose, I wouldn’t have got the work experience I have so far obtained at Key103 news room, Channel M and Title Role Productions. Also most work experience I do apply for, do ask for a journalism related course, so I do believe I wouldn’t have got the opportunities and luck I have had without the degree I am studying.

    Regardless of the work experience I have obtained, I am still worried about starting my career when I graduate, or hopefully soon after. Whilst working for Title Role Production I found that I loved being on location shoots, I had absolutely no problem being a runner as I understand that is where you have to start to work your way up and I am completely determined to do that. I also experience being a shot logger and researcher. Whenever I went to Title Role I always found myself thinking, I could see myself working here (or another production company, TV or radio) and happily start at the bottom and try to progress in that career path.

    I am graduating in July (hopefully) and hoping one day to (as well as Vicky and yourself) have a successful story to tell about trying to get a job in television, or radio. (It is the excitement of making and editing packages as to why I love them both).

    • Wow, Laila, that is a blog post all of its own! Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us.

      Everyone has a different tale to tell and they are all useful to others in a smilar position. I am sure any experience, whether in a job or at college, will prove valuable. It’s what you do with the experience and the opportunities that really counts.
      Those contacts you are making through work experience will also be very useful to you.

      Good luck in the job market when you graduate and I hope you’ll be offering us an article about how you got your first job in telly before too long!
      Shu

  • Jake Morton-Miles says:

    Hi I am Jake (16) and I have spent all this year writing, emailing,dropping off personally and phoning tv companies, Radio Stations national and local and theatres to try and get some work experience int he industry that I love. I do act and sing and am on Spotlight but am looking at a career path on the other side of the camera in production/gallery/radio broadcasting.
    I have a massive file of rejections and cannot believe that no one will give me even a day!
    How am I supposed to choose A Levels and a Uni course when I can’t seem to get any practical work exp to help me decide?
    I hope someone reads this and can help.
    Thanks desperately
    Jake Morton-Miles

  • Jess says:

    I have the same problem as Jake and i think all of us have something in common We all ay least once doub about our carriers It took me 4 years and an study abroad to spain to realize that spanish was not the major i wanted. Now am depress and cant really decide if a ddouble major its a right choice. I like media comunications and the jobs you might get but NO BODY WANTS TO LET US PRACTICE OR EXPLORE THE ÁREA how will We know how to swim if We never touch the water?? Most of the required courses of media do not required any cámara OR something like that in my university most of the clases are about theory thats borring and does not help you with experience :/

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