Teamwork is the key to making a successful TV news programme.
Newsroom: where the journalists work
Studio: where the programme is filmed
Gallery: where many of the technical team work, in a room next to the studio
In all of the job descriptions below, the connections with other members of the team are highlighted.
One of the aims of the BBC News School Report project is to develop students' communication and teamwork skills, mirroring what happens in a real newsroom, studio and gallery.
Programme, or output editor
The programme editor has overall control of the journalistic aspects of the programme.
They lead the news team and decide:
All of this information is contained in the programme running order, which is the plan of the whole programme.
- Which stories will be covered
- How long the individual reports will be
- What visuals (video or graphics) are needed
- Who will present them
- Which order the reports will appear in the programme
In its most simple form, the running order is the order the stories appear on the programme. It often contains key details about each of the news reports.
Everyone involved in making the news has the copy of the final running order so they can see how their role or report fits in with everyone else's.
Although the programme editor has overall control of the running order, it is prepared by the rest of the news team, usually in the team meeting.
The programme editor also has overall responsible for the accuracy, legality, suitability and style of the reports.
Story producers are reporters who write short news scripts for the presenters to read.
They work with the programme editor, each taking care of different stories in the running order.
Story producers find out about the story, check the facts and write the story clearly.
They also find video and photographs which helps to explain the story and make it more interesting. If these haven't already been recorded, the story producer will go out to get them.
Package producers work with the programme editor on stories which are usually longer than the story producers' reports. These are called packages.
The package producers work with reporters, to plan how they will join together video clips and the reporter's script.
They choose the best video clips from interviewees and pictures which help tell the story. As well as deciding what to put in the report, they also decide what to put in the report and what to leave out.
After planning how all the video clips will fit together, making changes to the script and recording it, the package producer joins everything together with the help of the video or picture editor.
The director is the person who links the editor's news team and the technical crew.
The director decides how the cameras and the rest of the studio equipment will be used. Imagine putting the picture frame around what you see. This is how the director thinks of the shots the camera crew will film. They brief the camera operators about the framing to use in the news programme.
The director works out how he can follow the running order and scripts in way that maintains the smooth running of the programme, gallery and studio.
The job of a director also involves adjusting cameras, loading videotapes, moving presenters, guests or reporters and changing graphics.
Vision mixer (VM)
Under instruction from the director, the vision mixer, uses the vision mixing equipment, or panel, to select pictures from a number of sources. These include cameras, video tapes and graphics.
Chroma-key: Equipment which allows you to film the presenter in front of the blank screen and add in different pictures, making it look as though they are somewhere else. It is sometimes called greenscreen or bluescreen.
They look at the running order and listen to the director to know when to put them live on air.
The vision mixer uses the panel to cut, mix or wipe between the sources depending on the director's decision.
- A "cut" is the straight jump from one source to the next
- A "mix" blurs the jump so one source dissolves into the next
- In the "wipe", the second source pushes the first one out of the way. It can be the straight line, so the effect looks like the sliding door, or the shaped wipe e.g. the circular image starting small in the middle of the screen and getting bigger as it pushes the first image towards the edges of the screen.
The vision mixer has to know time of each report and the whole programme. They find out this information from the production assistant.
Sound mixer (SM)
Under instruction from the director, the sound mixer uses the sound mixing desk to select the different sources. These include microphones, video tape and CDs.
They look at the running order and listen to the director to know when to put them live on air.
They use the "faders" on the desk to make sounds louder (fade up) or quieter (fade down).
They can do by mixing, balancing or cross fading:
The sound mixer has to keep an eye on the time and know the length of each report and the whole programme. To do this, they talk to the production assistant.
- A "mix" is a move from one sound source another by fading one up and the other down
- A "balance" is move between sound sources so that the overall sound level stays the same, in other words, the sound doesn't get any quieter or louder
- A "cross fade" is a move from one source to the other where the sound overlaps
The prompt operator controls the device which allows presenters to read their script without having to memorise it or look down at a piece of paper.
The scripts are loaded into the computer in the same order as they appear in the running order.
As the presenter read the scripts from a screen in front of them, the operator controls the speed of the words, matching it to the presenter's natural pace.
It is the job of the prompt operator to update the scripts, under direction from the editor, director or presenter. Sometime they have to do this while the programme is live on air!
Production assistant (PA)
The production assistant (PA) is responsible for keeping the running order and scripts in shape.
They follow the progress of the scripts and talk to the programme editor's team to make sure they are completed in time to load them into the prompt system for programme rehearsals.
There must also be enough time for the production assistant to print out and deliver a copy of the running order to everybody in the gallery and studio. The production assistant does the printing and passes them to the floor manager who distributes them to the studio and gallery team.
The production assistant is also responsible for timing. They time the length of each report and the whole programme. They warn the editorial team if the programme is likely to run over or if it's under the allotted time.
The production assistant uses the stopwatch to time the length of each video clip played out by the vision mixer.
When the programme is on air, they count down in seconds (usually 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) to warn the gallery and studio team the next section of the programme is due to start. If the crew have ear pieces, the production assistant can count into a microphone. If not, the production assistant can signal the time using hand signals.
Video tape operator, VT operator, server operator
The video tape operator is responsible for playing all the pre-recorded visual material at the right time. If they don't do this correctly, it will affect the pictures the vision mixer puts on air.
Under instruction from the director, they load the video tapes (including the packages made by the package producers) in the sequence written on the running order.
After the programme rehearsal, the VT operator makes sure they have rewound the tapes to their start position, otherwise the wrong images will go live to the audience!
The VT operator has to keep an eye on the time and know the length of each report and the whole programme. To do this, they talk to the production assistant.
Under instruction from the director, the camera operator frames the shots required for the programme. The camera operator can zoom in or out, making the picture bigger or smaller.
Together with the floor manager, they are responsible for the safety in the studio. They have to think carefully about how to move the cameras around the studio to get the best shots, without causing an accident.
During rehearsals, the camera operators suggest a variety of different shots, angles and ways of framing. The director selects the best ideas to use in the live programme.
The camera operator follows the running order the timings and countdowns from the production assistant.
Floor manager (FM)
The floor manager has overall responsible for the safety of everyone in the studio.
The floor manager is effectively the "eyes and ears" and "hands and feet" of the director in the studio.
They take the running orders and scripts from the production assistant and distribute them to the studio and gallery team.
They listen carefully for any changes and pass them onto the director.
During early rehearsals, while the presenters are busy re-writing their scripts, the floor manager will "sit in" for the presenters, so the director can get the sense of how to film the programme.
Presenters and reporters
The presenters and reporters look towards the camera as they read their scripts from the prompt or from printed pages.
The director may tell them to look at one camera or another.
While reading, they also have to follow instructions from the director.
This is usually done via an ear piece, through which they can also hear a countdown to the next section of the programme from the production assistant.
They need to be alert to any changes that may occur, for example: script updates; a reordering of the reports or a completely new report added at the last minute.