Breaking into Broadcasting: The Challenges and Triumphs of Community Radio

By Dawn M. Sanders

Persistence pays in unlocking doors of opportunity – if the door is locked, grab the key and open it.

“Your team make you sound ‘amazing’ – Love your team, love your audience.”

Breaking into broadcasting is more challenging than it seems. Just getting a foot in the door sometimes means breaking it down… Months was spent in hot pursuit of my opportunity as a Sheffield Live co-presenter, but then it happened.

Dawn Sanders on air, Studio 1 at Sheffield Live
Dawn Sanders on air, Studio 1 at Sheffield Live

A good presenter

Philo Holand, forty-seven, a broadcast journalist at the BBC and lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University said, a good presenter needs to have a supple mind, and constantly engage their audience in what they say – quick to respond and able to take what comes their way.

He said: “The worst kind of presenter will say exactly what you would expect them to and never surprise you.”

Sounding the part is often more easily said than done, especially if you haven’t found interesting material for a show.

Different people like different things.

Jenny Cork, broadcast journalist/producer for BBC radio Sheffield, said: “If you look at someone like Chris Evans, he’s just ridiculously popular – so he certainly would have some kind of X-factor. For me, the X-factor is someone who is warm, maybe I might want to go down to the pub with.”

She talked about marmite presenters who rub someone the wrong way – which she said, might be good, showing strength of character.

Dawn Sanders to the right, Jenny Cork at centre.
Dawn Sanders to the right, Jenny Cork at centre.

Mark, 52, from the LP record store, stressed a presenter should be passionate and know their facts.

When sampling the opinion of students, Harry said he didn’t like presenters who shouted a lot and played sound effects, dissolving the notion that all young people want obnoxious animated presenters.

Kerry liked someone with a nice voice, interested in things around them and didn’t talk about themselves too much.

Yet, several students subscribed to the expectation of their generation by saying they did not listen much at all to the radio – favouring Spotify.

A dying medium?

Despite the Spotify contingency, radio as a traditional medium remains strong. Lynn Cox, arts coaching trainer and visually impaired entrepreneur, said: “Otherwise why would you have BBC radio 4 extra’s back catalogue of old comedies?”


Philo pointed out, presenting music depends on the programme. Some programmes have more time to delve into detail, such as the production or who played bass.

He cites BBC 6 Music as an example: “They know their audience are musos, they want that slightly raincoat knowledge about the artist…

“But this is a special niche, most listeners of mainstream radio, just want it as a companion.”

But broadcaster Jenny Cork spoke of how Sheffield Live had a privileged position in showcasing local bands, connecting with and celebrating music of various communities.

She said there was a luxury in being in such a musical city and how BBC Sheffield were fairly restricted in presenting music as they provide a public service of news coverage.

Seemingly, there are two main camps of listeners: those who just want background music and the more serious listener, who appreciates talk radio – addressing various issues.

Tackling issues means conducting interviews which is another one of the many heads of multi-tasking Jenny mentioned.

Lynn Cox, an experienced interviewer, thought open-ended questions are important, allowing the guest to elaborate, rather than being confined to yes or no answers.

Jenny Cork emphasised the necessity for cohesive relations between presenter and team: “Don’t upset your team. Your team make you sound ‘amazing’. Love your team, love your audience.

Breaking into community radio has been a huge step for me in creating a multi-media platform as a budding journalist.

In the first weeks it was hard to relax and I said “you know” too much, but I’m gaining confidence and getting there…

© 2016

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