Why Consider A Career in Television?

Television bookmarks our lives, preserves moments in time that trigger memories of where we were and what we were doing when historic events occurred. Its images and sounds touch our emotions, connect us with world events, and help us prepare for natural disasters with weather reports using equipment so sensitive, it tracks storm movement block by block. We are entertained, informed, influenced and motivated to action by TV. As an industry, television is an exciting business that continues to thrill. Look around when a camera crew arrives on a scene and the lights come on. Even the most conservative people may be swayed by the allure of TV and clamor to be in that spotlight. This book, published by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), a full-service trade association representing the interests of free, over-the-air radio and television broadcasters, and the NAB Education Foundation (NABEF), an organization dedicated to the training and enhancement of the nation's broadcasting community, is intended to provide a general overview to persons considering a career in this dynamic and exciting field. It has been written specifically for entry-level job seekers with little or no experience in the industry, and includes general descriptions of job opportunities in the field and how these jobs interface with each other. Whether your goal is to be on air or behind-the-scenes, this book will help you familiarize yourself with the workings of a TV station and understand how the various parts fit together to make the whole. The better educated you are about the business, the greater your chances of gaining entry to and succeeding in an industry that has produced the likes of Walter Cronkite, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Pauley, Diane Sawyer and Tom Brokaw.

In terms of employment, station ownership may not affect entry-level position job seekers. However, as with any company, a station’s resources (financial, technological, etc.) and structure will have an impact on the various positions at the television station – from what positions are available to the job responsibilities of each position. Thus, it is important to know and understand the differences in station ownership. Most commercial television stations are owned by large media conglomerates. Smaller, family-held stations are the exception rather than the rule today as mergers and acquisitions have brought many stations under one large corporate umbrella.

There are several types of commercial stations. These include stations that are owned and operated by the networks (O&Os), stations that are network affiliates of a network (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision, PAX TV, WB, etc.) and independent stations that are not affiliated with any network. Large media groups often own affiliates of several different networks. Network-owned and operated stations carry network programs, have a good deal of local autonomy and ultimately report to their network’s station group management. Network affiliates also enjoy local autonomy and have a contractual relationship with a network for the network to supply them with programming.

Both affiliates and O&Os carry syndicated programming supplied by vendors such as King World and Twentieth Television, among others, which are either independently owned or exist as companies within the same corporate family. Independent stations carry syndicated programming and/or locally originated fare. Public television stations are often owned or managed by local governments, universities and/or school districts. The majority of these stations are members of PBS receiving a large portion of their programming from this service. The remainder of their programming day is filled with syndicated and locally originated programming. Public stations cannot air advertising and depend on the funding they receive through viewer support, corporate underwriting and government funding. Whether the entry-level position you find is with a small station or a large conglomerate, your job performance, in large part, will ultimately determine your upward mobility. It is also important when considering a career in television to know that the industry is mobile and relocation is often a reality.

In terms of employment, station ownership may not affect entry-level position job seekers. However, as with any company, a station’s resources (financial, technological, etc.) and structure will have an impact on the various positions at the television station – from what positions are available to the job responsibilities of each position. Thus, it is important to know and understand the differences in station ownership. Most commercial television stations are owned by large media conglomerates. Smaller, family-held stations are the exception rather than the rule today as mergers and acquisitions have brought many stations under one large corporate umbrella. There are several types of commercial stations. These include stations that are owned and operated by the networks (O&Os), stations that are network affiliates of a network (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision, PAX TV, WB, etc.) and independent stations that are not affiliated with any network.

Large media groups often own affiliates of several different networks. Network-owned and operated stations carry network programs, have a good deal of local autonomy and ultimately report to their network’s station group management. Network affiliates also enjoy local autonomy and have a contractual relationship with a network for the network to supply them with programming. Both affiliates and O&Os carry syndicated programming supplied by vendors such as King World and Twentieth Television, among others, which are either independently owned or exist as companies within the same corporate family. Independent stations carry syndicated programming and/or locally originated fare. Public television stations are often owned or managed by local governments, universities and/or school districts. The majority of these stations are members of PBS receiving a large portion of their programming from this service.

The remainder of their programming day is filled with syndicated and locally originated programming. Public stations cannot air advertising and depend on the funding they receive through viewer support, corporate underwriting and government funding. Whether the entry-level position you find is with a small station or a large conglomerate, your job performance, in large part, will ultimately determine your upward mobility. It is also important when considering a career in television to know that the industry is mobile and relocation is often a reality.

The GENERAL ADMINISTRATION Department

General Manager

A station’s general manager (GM), who often holds the additional title of president or vice president in larger station groups (and may also be the owner in a small cluster), is the chief operating officer at the station. All departments typically report directly to the general manager. The general manager sets the work ethic, tone and pace of the station. TV general managers predict market trends; set budgets and performance expectations; ensure the station is in compliance with all equal employment opportunity (EEO) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements; and have overall responsibility for maintaining a station’s reputation and market image. TV general managers have final say on station hires and keep both on-air and behind-the-scenes talent in step with overall station directives.

They create a clear vision for the station and the blueprints for success that every staffer is expected to follow. The bottom line stops with the GM, who is charged with growing the station’s profitability.. Advertising revenue is crucial to a television station’s financial security and, as a result, relationship-building with advertisers and potential advertisers is a significant area of the GM’s responsibilities. The GM is heavily involved in the station’s sales efforts and is generally expected to participate in sales presentations along with executive members of the sales staff. GMs find creative ways to profit and succeed despite obstacles. Every television station cultivates its own public image, based on its local market and community needs. As a result, general managers are committed to involving the station in community events and public affairs. Television stations are visible leaders in their markets, and a many choose to deliver on-air editorials to voice opinions about community issues at large.

General managers are typically recruited from within the advertising sales department, although news directors – especially those with experience in other aspects of the business – are also potential candidates for this position. The average length of stay in a market for a GM is five years. A traditional advancement path for a general manager is to leave a smaller market station for a larger market, either within his/her own company or by competitor recruitment (outside the company). General managers are often recruited from their stations by corporate offices for positions at company headquarters. Station Manager The position of station manager was originally designed to alleviate some of the pressures placed on the GM. Many stations are eliminating, or intend to eliminate, this position, thus the number of job opportunities for this title are diminishing. Station duopolies (stations that operate in markets where two television stations are owned by a single owner) may be an exception, where given the increased demands on the GM, the position of station manager remains necessary.

In these instances, the GM focuses on long-term strategies, budgets, community networking, business building, advertiser relations and policy making, while the station manager concentrates on the day-to-day operations, interfacing with department heads and handling personnel issues. Human Resources In those stations where there is a station manager, the station manager often oversees the day-to-day human resource (HR) functions. Otherwise, the HR functions will fall to the general manager, who at larger stations will have a human resource staffer. Years ago, stations often had a senior human resources professional in this role, but this senior position is now often found at the corporate level, leaving more junior people at the individual stations within a group.

Executive Assistant

Executive assistants handle executive/senior-level correspondence and phones; field viewer questions and complaints; manage the executive appointments calendar; process billing; handle the paperwork related to EEO and FCC reporting and, in general, try to make the day go more smoothly for the GM. Don’t confuse the abundance of clerical duties with a lack of importance in this position. The executive assistant is often the person who determines who gains access to the GM, and thus this administrative position can be a powerful role at the station.

Business Manager and Controller Some stations have separate positions for business manager and controller while other stations may combine these two positions since the duties for each position are similar: maintaining the station’s financial well-being. These financial experts report directly to the general manager and at larger stations manage a business staff that oversees a station’s accounting.

They also make decisions in concert with the station’s department heads and the general manager about large equipment purchases and expenditures. Most business managers are Certified Public Accountants and many hold MBA degrees. All have high degrees of financial acumen in accounting and financial management as well as the necessary computer and data processing skills.

The SALES and MARKETING

Department Director of Sales

The term general sales manager (GSM) is sometimes substituted for director of sales (DOS). In large markets, the DOS may supervise a team of GSMs and/or hold a dual title for one of the stations within the group. Along with the news director and business manager, the director of sales is part of the general manager’s “inner circle.” This is an extremely demanding position and requires exemplary management skills. A DOS has daily contact with the general manager, and works with other sales managers to ensure the station is maximizing all available traditional revenue opportunities in the market – from both local and national ad agencies – while developing new business opportunities from both. Directors of sales price and manage the perishable inventory; do budget forecasts; issue sales projections; coordinate projects with other department heads; motivate the team; and inspire everyone to give 150 percent. General Sales Manager At some stations, the general sales manager (GSM) is a distinctly different position than director of sales. GSMs have complete knowledge of sales forecasting and planning and are strong motivators. Along with the DOS, they are long-range thinkers, have excellent presentation and interpersonal skills and excel at client networking.

GSMs develop monthly and quarterly revenue-generating proposals, establish individual sales goals and hire and manage the sales teams. National Sales Manager National sales managers (NSM) manage a television station’s sales accounts. A national sales manager “works the phones,” deals with the sales representatives at national advertising firms and travels to the advertising epicenters including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas. National business is very fast-paced. Sales representatives at advertising firms working with NSMs handle a host of stations and must make decisions quickly, thus it is imperative that national sales managers have all the station’s updated information, are on top of all pending business and are accessible at all times to negotiate buys. Stations lacking a national sales manager give the responsibilities of this position to the GSM.

Marketing Director or Director of Non-Traditional Revenue The position of marketing director or director of non-traditional revenue is a more recently created position within television stations, added as more stations seek non-traditional revenue sources. The performance bars for these positions continue to rise. Marketing directors continually develop and implement creative, out-of-the-box ways to generate revenue. One successful example of a non-traditional revenue source is staging an “Ask the Pharmacist” day during which pharmacists associated with a professional network come into the station and dispense advice to callers. This group discussion is not broadcasted, but promotional spots encouraging viewers to call the station are, and the pharmaceutical client pays for the promotional costs. The marketing director may also work with a local charity, sponsoring an event with commercial TV tie-ins and/or printed collateral materials. Depending on the station, marketing directors may have a support staff and/or one or two account executives assigned to help in their area, and also may work with the production people in creative services to produce commercials for new advertisers.