CAREER IN TELEVISION AND BROADCASTING

When you think of television, the faces that flash upon your mind are Dr Pranoy Roy, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Cyrus Broacha, Larry King, Oprah Winfrey, Rajat Sharma, Jaaved Jaffrey. Yes, television is a medium that spells glamour with a capital G, big money and instant fame. It’s also the medium that brings virtual reality into your home-events as they happen, when they happen. In fact, television creates its own reality by seizing the inner space of the viewer’s mind and dominating it. Undoubtedly the most powerful medium of modern technology, it determines the success or failure of political campaigns, the battle of economic ideas and the launching of new products and events. Such is the power of television that what does not appear on television does not exist for the new generation. Why, even the seating in most Indian homes is arranged the idiot box!

The unprecedented boom in the Indian television and broadcasting industry caused by the proliferation of channels and entry of multinational media networks has created a great demand for skilled talent at all levels; on the creative side as well as on the business front, both in front of the camera as well as behind it.

Opportunities are unlimited both for the flamboyant extrovert and the shy introvert, for actors, performers, designers, marketing and management whizkids, political pundits, economic forecasters, writers, news commentators, engineers and technicians. This industry offers careers for anyone with the desire and ability to succeed.

If you are creative, enterprising, tenacious and a good team player, you can become a celebrity basking in the limelight.

On the other hand, you could opt for equally interesting and varied jobs behind the screen. Just run your eyes through the array of career opportunities that exist and choose the one that best matches your talents, temperament and aspirations: Producer, Director, Announcer, Cameraman, Correspondent, Costume Designer, Dressmaker, Floor Manager, Graphics Designer, Lighting Director, Make Up Artist, Music Composer, News Reader, Presenter, Production Assistant, Programme Coordinator, Researcher, Script Editor, Scriptwriter, Set Designer, Sound Operator, Studio Manager, Recording Operator, Transmission Controller, Videotape Editor, Vision Mixer (online editor)...

In the early 90’s when Zee TV was launched, nobody thought it would become a force to reckon with in the Indian satellite television industry. Today not only does the group have multi channels in its fold but it is also set to launch many more. Also, Zee TV has been launched in the US and UK to cater to the growing demand in these markets throwing up some exciting opportunities for overseas jobs.

The other interesting case is that of the Murodoch-owned News Corp group which has been sinking money in the Indian market with Star Plus as its main channel. They have realized that language is a very critical factor in order to sustain operations in the country and hence moved to the usual soaps and entertainment format to break-even.

When a second Hindi entertainment Channel Sony Television was launched following the success of Zee TV, nobody gave it a chance, in the light of the clout that Zee had garnered in the few years of its existence. Not only did the channel survive, but it has also managed to make a tidy profit. Nonetheless, most of the channels are pay channels and hence create new employment opportunities in the area of distribution and collection.

Nothing can be sustained in perpetuity; television is no exception.  With the rise of the great television boom, market dynamics too have changed.  The war has begun.  Some years ago when television experts talked about the many choices available in a multi-channel world, little did they realize that all those channels would be owned by just a handful of players battling it out for supremacy.  Consolidation is now the name of the game.

Having explored the vast gamut of opportunities in television and broadcasting, we shall now explore the working conditions and the essentials required to succeed in this booming industry.  So, if you’ve got what it takes, fasten your seat belts and get going......!

Before deciding upon a career in television and broadcasting, you must critically evaluate your personality and aptitude to make sure you’ve got what it takes.  It would be unwise to get swayed by the impression of glamour, money and stardom that television creates.  Remember that a great deal of hard work goes into each project.  The standards are exacting and the pressures immense.  Individualistic styles of working do not find acceptance here and considerable time, even years, must pass before you are acknowledged as a professional in your field.  The competition is intense and only the best win.  Errors could cost you very dearly.

If you believe that you are cut out for a career in television or broadcasting, go for it.  But only after matching the area of specialization which will suit you best. As we have seen, television programmes, come in a variety of styles and formats.  Working for a game show or a soap opera is vastly different from contributing to a news and current affairs programme.  It would be unwise to stray into an area too far removed from your aptitude and interest. Examine the programmes screened, decide on the genre which fascinates you, and then zero in.  If any grey areas remain, do not hesitate to check them out.  And at all times, be open to learning: remember that even a spot boy or a lighting assistant could teach you a thing or two. 

Working in television and radio is as demanding as it is exciting. As against the standard 8-hour shift in the film industry, a TV shift consists of 10-12 hours.  You would have to work while the world sleeps or relaxes on holidays.  But it would be a very different kind of toil.  Labouring with you would be the entire team and the studio which is a world in itself, manned by production professionals tirelessly piecing together the programme, soap opera or documentary feature with exacting detail.  If you thought these crazy hours are a bane, you thought wrong; dead wrong.  Because at the end of a hard day/night you will be bone tired, but very pleasantly so.  The sense of creative satisfaction, of fulfillment, the sheer joy of seeing your name recorded forever in the credits, would more than amply make up for stiff backs.

Another wonderful aspect about working in television, is the democratic, equitable atmosphere.  There are no formal “Yes Sirs” here.  Everybody, no matter how young or old, senior or junior, is addressed on a first name basis.  The world of television is a world of excellence tempered with informality.  Not that hierarchies don’t exist.  They do, and in a very will defined sequence.  But they are not overpowering; they are enforced in a subtle fashion.

Since ideas dominate this business, you can always be sure that your views and opinions will be encouraged and may even merit acceptance and implementation if they make sense.  It is the idea which reigns supreme here, and ideas are never dull or boring.  No matter how many decades you spend in this industry, you will find yourself doing something new, something different ever so often; a different story, programme, set graphic or a different voice-over. Now compare this to that of a stiff corporate job and the contrast is uncomfortably sharp.

In the electronic media, your success is determined predominantly by one thing-how good you are. If you prove your ability, you could be on an upward spiral which would multiply your rank and compensation package far quicker than any other career.

To keep pace with technical advancements in this field, formal training has become a necessity although in some cases, on-the-job experience would suffice. Besides, with the entry of the private sector into radio and televisions, the prospects for aspirants have multiplied. It is estimated the television industry will require at least 90,000 trained professionals. Television jobs are rarely advertised. So, try and crack an entry by approaching studios and production houses, even well know television personalities companies and talent scouts directly. Networking is the name of the game. If you don’t have personal friends in the business, tap family friends and acquaintances to see if they have any connections, however remote. All the Central and State Ministries have their independent Public Relations and Audio Video Departments. From time to time, these departments advertise their requirements for empanelment of independent Producers, Directors and Storywriters.

Consequently, several institutions offering short and long – term courses have emerged. One way to start is to first undertake a suitable course. Alternately, you could try and directly find work as an assistant. For those of you who are in a hurry to get a job, you could bypass the formal training and straight away seek apprenticeship, provided you are prepared to accept the slow and steady movement up the ladder.

For FM, it is a good idea to temper your CV with a C.D. of your voice in different styles and speeds. Languages too, if you can. But don’t sham your voice; be natural, be yourself. Speak clearly, precisely and naturally. Make sure that your CV expresses you sufficiently as a person; do not skip details in an effort at appearing modest or considering certain details as trivial. You have a right to be proud of your abilities and achievements.

As you continue to advance in your profession, it would be a good idea to compile a C.D carrying recorded copies of your work. This will be quiet helpful since every project you work on, will carry your name in the credits. In this industry, your showreel matters far more than your C.V. An Impressive showreel makes all the difference since it is the most tangible proof and testimony of your professional competence.

If you are serious about a  career in this industry you’ve got to be in one of the major centers; preferably Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta or Bangalore so be prepared to move to one of these cities if you are really keen about getting your foot past the door.

A final word: every success, no matter how big or small, is built on unflagging will. During World War II, the Allies raised crack troops called the Special Airborne Squadron  (SAS) who had an inspiring motto; HE WHO DARES, WINS. And win they did! To taste victory, you must realize your potential in the fullest possible measure, try your hardest and never give up. In this industry it’s not the lack of talent that trips people up, but lack of tenacity. So good luck in your quest.

Patrick Braggs Cap Cell coordinator and Nodal officer.

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