How to Make the Most of Problems in TV

There will always be problems – especially when making television. Life is full of problems and they never stop coming so get used to it! Knowing how to approach problems and go about solving them is a key skill in television production.

Here’s how to make the most of problems in TV:

A problem is an opportunity to make yourself useful and appreciated.  A problem-solver in television is quite possibly the most popular and potentially successful person you can have on a team.

  • The most hated phrase a producer hears is “we have a problem”. After that the very best thing they can hear is “but I have a solution”.
  • Even if your solution is not the best one that producer is going to feel very warm towards the person that suggests they can fix it.
  • DON’T say ‘what shall I do?”  You’ve just given a stressed TV producer another problem – finding an answer for you – and you’ve put them on the spot.
  • DO say “here’s some ideas on what we can do.”


A problem is not a problem – it is a challenge. And a challenge is an opportunity to hone your problem-solving skills.

  • First off identify the problem (celebrity guest is running late for a slot in a live show).
  • Then anticipate the outcome if the problem is not solved (embarrassed, stressed presenters trying to fill a gap in the show).
  • If you are the only person with knowledge of the problem share it immediately with the relevant people (the producer and director – this allows them to inform the presenters and set about a plan to fill any potential hole).
  • Set about solving the problem or at least keep abreast of it (call the car company, explain the urgency and ask for an estimated time of arrival).
  • Keep calling them until the guest arrives.
  • Share all updates with the relevant people to they can adjust the schedule accordingly.


NEVER HIDE A PROBLEM.  This is possibly the worst thing you can do in television production, especially in live television. Hiding a problem, whether it’s because you are hoping to find a solution before anyone else discovers the issue, or because you’re afraid of getting into trouble, prevents others from making the necessary decisions.

Hiding a problem could potentially be fatal and at the very least can leading to embarrassing gaffes on air.  Whatever your role on the production there is always someone more senior and experienced than you. Always refer upwards if in doubt.  Identifying the problem allows others to adapt as necessary.

Remember TV is teamwork. You are not expected to know exactly what other members of the team are doing (although you should make every effort to learn) but you can sure that they need information. Make up have a schedule of guests to keep to, sound needs to know if the number of guest to be mic’d up in the next item has changed.


Always try and anticipate problems. Think scenarios through.

If you are a runner in charge of looking after a contributor on a show what are you going to do if they don’t turn up? Do you have their telephone number to hand? How will you handle them if they declare at the last minute they don’t want to do it?

If you are a researcher and a producer or presenter turns to you and asks for some information (what is the capital of Mongolia?) what are you going to do? Have you worked out how you will find information or check the accuracy of a statistic?

You are NOT going to guess. Giving the wrong information is worse than not knowing.

If you don’t know, you’ll say “I’m not sure but I’ll check immediately and get right back to you”. And do it FAST and ACCURATELY.  Do you know where the nearest computer is if you need to check online? Do you know who to call to check a fact? Do you have a list of relevant contact numbers from organisations you used in your research?

If you are the work experience and someone says they need a pair of women’s size 9 Irish dancing shoes within the hour, what are you going to do? Where will you start?  And I am not making these scenarios up!

Like every good Girl Guide and Scout – you need to be prepared!


Don’t let little niggles become Big Problems.

ALWAYS listen to your inner warning bells.  Voice any worries or concerns, however silly or small they may seem, to someone senior. It’s the small things that you may brush aside that can often lead to bigger problems on the production itself.

Never assume a problem will simply go away. It rarely does. A Problem ignored is a problem enlarged. If you’ve booked an expert, a guest or a contributor and something doesn’t ‘feel’ right. Check it out.


Thus endeth today’s lesson…. if you found this useful please do consider sharing it via the buttons below.


  • Lisa Murray says:

    I am in my second year studying Media at College. I do not have any experience working with the media which unfortunately goes against me when I apply for work experience. How can I persuade a tv company to let me have work experience with them?

    • Shu says:

      Work experience – as opposed to paid work – is an opportunity for students to get experience in a real working environment so your lack of work credits should not have anything to do with it. If you mean actually getting paid work then that again is slightly different but everyone has to start somewhere – usually as a runner. Have you read these articles about work experience?
      I am going to do another soon about ideas on finding work experience.
      Let us know how you get on.

  • A lesson in looking after guests on TV & Radio | So You Want to Work in TV says:

    […] reading a previous post about dealing with the myriad problems that pop up when working in TV, writer Jean Buchanan sent me this true story. It is such a great illustration of how best to […]

  • Leave a comment

    Want to express your opinion?
    Leave a reply!

    Leave a Reply to Shu Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *