There is nothing like a fresh eye to put things in perspective. Over the past few months I have been helping young people work with BBC programmes to see what really goes into making quality content. It is all part of the BBC Outreach Programme Maker for a Day project which has already worked with the likes of Eastenders, the Asian Network and Match of the Day. We normally have groups of around twelve teenagers, who get a real taste of what goes into making BBC programmes.
No matter what the genre of the programme, there have been a number of recurring observations made by the teenagers. Here are the four main thoughts I have heard from young people about what makes a programme audiences will love.
1. Know your audience:
One of the first sessions in the one-day workshops deals with understanding the programme's audience. If you take BBC Three's 60 Seconds news bulletins as one example, the producers need to constantly keep in mind what their viewers want to know. This news service would differ from BBC London News because both are trying to tailor their content to make sure they give audiences what they want. So the message that has been getting through to the teenagers on the project is: ignore your audience at your peril!
2. It is a team effort:
Perhaps the most surprising thing for teenagers on the project has been how many people work behind the scenes. There is usually a team of people working hard to make sure what goes on air looks and sounds good. What this means is there are plenty of opportunities in the media for people who do not want to be on-air presenters. This realisation has spurred a number of young people on the project to renew their interest in one day working for the BBC. For example, being interested in design could be an invaluable skill in graphics for news programmes or designing sets for a drama.
3. It is the way you say it:
With teenagers stepping into the shoes of real-life presenters and actors they must master the necessary communication skills. No matter how good the script, the delivery must be equally good for it to work. The groups have been coached on how to use their speech and demeanour to present themselves in a way audiences will respond positively. This is a skill that is incredibly useful in all aspects of life.
4. Attention to detail:
Another thing that surprises many young people in the groups is how programme-makers pay such close attention to detail. Whether it is the way a set is built on Eastenders or the choice of words on a news script, there is an incredible attention to detail. Programme producers have repeatedly stressed that by doing lots of little things very well, it all combines to create a quality programme. To make a great programme you clearly cannot cut too many corners or rest on your laurels.
So those are four learnings that many of our young people have taken from the Programme Maker for a Day project. I think this shows that if we are aiming to get the teenagers to think like real BBC programme-makers, we are succeeding.
*BBC Outreach’s Programme Maker for a Day project works with TV and radio production teams to create one day workshops, each focusing on a particular BBC programme. During the workshop, participants meet staff working on the programme and take part in activities designed to develop skills and confidence, before starring in and producing their own short version of the show.