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My job explained: TV channel controller

tv channel controllerZai Bennett works for ITV2, commissioning, scheduling and planning programmes. Find out why he thinks he has the ‘best job in the world.’

Could you tell me a bit about your job.

I am responsible for all of the output – commissioning and acquiring new programmes, and scheduling when they will go out. Essentially I think about – what do we want to show? When do we want to show it? It’s a really varied role, though. I can be doing anything from planning budgets to helping choose the presenter for 'The Xtra Factor'.

Could you describe a typical working day?

I work with a huge number of people from every department. I spend time with the commissioning department, deciding which shows we are going to take. I work with the finance department, setting up the budget for the year. I also work with press and PR, deciding which shows we’re really going to try and promote and how we’ll promote them

What’s the best thing about your job?

Winning awards is good! We won ‘Channel of the year’ last year, and we’ve won BAFTAs, and various other things. It’s good that I’m under continuous assessment. I can come into my office in the morning and look at the ratings for the night before and see how many people watched each show. It’s wonderful.

And the worst thing?

Long and unsociable hours – you work a lot of evenings and weekends. I probably work two or three evenings a week and at weekends sometimes too. Think about how much there is on TV, and bear in mind that we have weeded out a lot of stuff to narrow it down to those programmes, so we have to watch a lot of telly!

Another bad thing is having to say no to people a lot of the time. ITV2 commissions everything except for news and sport, so there are a lot of drama and comedy programmes sent through to us. Obviously you can’t commission everything, and I’d say that for every 500 ideas, only about 10 get a yes. And even a ‘yes’ isn’t unequivocal. When I say ‘yes’ to something, it usually means ‘hmmm, we’ll see’. And one of those ten ‘maybes’ will eventually get made.

How did you get into the media?

I’ve wanted to work in TV since I was at school. I studied maths, history, politics, and economics at A-level, and history at uni. After uni I did work experience with different advertising agencies, and a week’s work shadowing at the Daily Mail.

I also applied for lots of traineeships, with people like the BBC and ITV news. Eventually I got a temporary job in the post room at Carlton TV, and from there I moved to the presentation department. The job itself wasn’t that exciting, but I got to learn lots about how a TV station is run.

Any advice for people wanting to become a channel controller?

Yes - watch TV and have an opinion about it. Watch lots of different programmes, don’t be a snob. There are good things about lots of shows which you might miss if you’re not genuinely interested.

To get your first media job, I advise you speak to people in person. Carefully pick where you want to work, then keep contacting them! Only someone who’s incredibly tenacious, as well as good, will get anywhere.

Remember also that lots of media people are incredibly nice, and will be happy to give you ten minutes of their time if you’re really keen. One of the programmes I commissioned, 'WAG’s Boutique', came from a meeting with this tiny company – just two people. They asked me for a few minutes, I met with them, and we ended up making their programme. It’s all about getting noticed.

Do you enjoy your job?

Yes! I was told by my boss when I was working for a newspaper – “most jobs are 90% boring, but media is only 80% boring, which is why it is fun.” But I think I’ve got the best job in the world. Media can be a bit more relaxed and informal than other jobs. You might not have to be in until 10am, but you work really hard and you’ll probably be there until late at night.

If you were hiring someone, what would you look for?

If I were hiring someone I’d be looking for passion, commitment, competence, intelligence. Lots of people can do jobs, but you want someone who can be dynamic.

It’s worth remembering that the media industry is a meritocracy. The hard work weeds out people who aren’t very good. Get in at a low level, be really good at what you are doing, and make sure people notice you!

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