Your guide to jobs in UK radio and audio



Also known as: Commissioning Editor, Commissioning Executive
Career Level: Management


What Do They Do?

Commissioners are in charge of bringing new programming to a network or radio station.  Working closely with other senior team members they will decide on a broader strategy around what programming they’d like to see on the station and then will write briefs based on this.  These briefs are then circulated to programme makers who are invited to pitch ideas in a commissioning round.

The Commissioning team will then decide which programme makers they’d like to commission and are given a budget to distribute to production teams to make this content.  The Commissioner will then act as a sounding board for the production team, making sure that the programming is as successful as it can be.

Across the radio industry Commissioners work across almost every facet of programming – from drama to documentaries, comedy to long-running programme strands on music radio. Further afield, podcasting has become a booming marketplace with Commissioning Executives sourcing audio content for major companies outside of the linear radio world.

A Commissioner's workload will vary depending on where in the commissioning timeline they are, but it roughly follows this trajectory:

  • Working out what their audiences want, and what new audiences they want to reach
  • Writing briefs and circulating that information with programme makers
  • Listening to ideas from programme producers
  • Shortlisting (and yet more shortlisting!)
  • Commissioning pilot programmes to check the ideas work
  • Managing budgets, admin and paperwork
  • Working with suppliers on their final commission – trouble-shooting issues, providing an editorial sounding board, and setting measures of success
  • Pulling together the launch and promotion of any new programming, and providing a point of contact for marketing and press
  • Offering regular editorial feedback to the programme producers, and assessing the success of project
  • Deciding on which programmes to recommission
  • Responding to adhoc programme pitches out of commissioning rounds (for example if there’s a breaking news story that requires and indepth programme in response).

Who Do They Work With?

  • Commissioners will work closely with rest of commissioning team, programme producers (in-house and indies), and will sometimes talk direct to talent.
  • Commissioners report to station management, which may be a Head of Network, Controller or Programme Director.
  • More widely, Commissioners will liaise with the Insight and Audiences teams, and with the Marketing and PR teams.

What Skills Do I Need?

  • Commissioners need to have a deep understanding of audio so they can visualise whether a pitched idea will work on the radio or not. This grounding will also help them if they need to help a supplier structure their ideas, and will help them provide feedback on the final programme/s.
  • Commissioners need to be able to think strategically when it comes to the programmes they commission – taking into consideration the audiences they are serving, any network priorities, the broader industry and the competition.
  • Commissioners are responsible for bringing content onto the station, so they need excellent editorial judgement and to have detailed knowledge of the Broadcasting Code and Editorial Guidelines.
  • Commissioners need strong interpersonal skills, as they manage stakeholder relationships and will need to be able to feedback clearly and sensitively to programme makers.
  • Commissioners need to be confident communicators, as they need to write detailed commissioning briefs and provide a liaison point throughout the production cycle.
  • Commissioners will have excellent forward planning, production management and budgeting skills.

How Do I Get This Job?

You don't need to have any particular qualifications for this job - but you will need many years working in content creation before taking on this role.  Commissioners will have a breadth and depth of experience of programme making so they can visualise whether an idea will work or not.

Generally, Commissioners will have spent some time as an Executive Producer/Editor before being promoted into this role, although some people will come through a marketing and communications background.