TV course tackles lack of current affairs skills

City University has launched a postgraduate course in television journalism that it hopes will plug the gap in the demand for journalists specialising in current affairs programmes rather than hard news.

The twice over-subscribed course is backed by the BBC, Carlton Television and independent producers of documentaries and factual programmes, including Juniper Productions, Brooke Lapping Associates, RDF, Roger Bolton Productions and Wall-To-Wall Television.

The first intake of 24 students will begin the 10-month postgraduate diploma course in television current affairs journalism next week, spending one day a week with the broadcasters, according to course director Lis Howell, a former managing editor of Sky News.

“The [established] postgraduate broadcast journalism course [for radio and television] tends to train people who go into the hard news end of journalism.

But there are an enormous number of opportunities in topical television. We were finding that an awful lot of people in the television world were taking people from the world of print or the world of magazines because there is no training for basic television current affairs journalism,” she told Press Gazette this week.

“The broadcast course was getting wildly oversubscribed and the jobs on television and radio newsdesks were prized,” she added.

“And on the other hand we were turning away lots of people who perhaps didn’t have the ambulance-chasing gene, but who could have done a fantastic job working on any form of television journalism you can think of.”

The course would also seek to mirror the diversity of topics that exists within print journalism, Howell said. “Journalism in print ranges from the Financial Times to women’s magazines.

Television is like that too, but you still need the same journalistic qualifications and abilities to work on Trisha or Kilroy or any daytime programme as you do to work on Newsnight – it’s how you apply it.

“It’s still all about prioritising, accuracy, balance, the law, the regulatory systems, irrespective of which sort of programme you are working on. As long as the programme is topical and factual, the best people to work on it are journalists.”

Skills taught on the course will include how to research topics, write briefs, construct film treatments and compile studio running orders, as well as media law, journalism and society and the structure of Government.

The course costs £5,000 for EU residents and is currently awaiting BJTC accreditation.

By Wale Azeez

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