Management and Staff
Management performs a crucial day-to-day role in the organisation and has a major impact on the success of the station. The management team is ultimately responsible for implementing the station’s strategic plan and vision as well as ensuring that its daily operations are successful. A strong management team is essential to ensure that the station is able to fulfil its obligations as a broadcaster and that it remains viable. In this chapter, we will unpack some of the key elements required for successful management, including positions, roles and how it all comes together.
Management performs a crucial day-to-day role in the organisation and has a major impact on the success of the station. The management team is ultimately responsible for implementing the station’s strategic plan and vision as well as ensuring that its daily operations are successful. A strong management team is essential to ensure that the station is able to fulfil its obligations as a broadcaster and that it remains viable. In this chapter, we will unpack some of the key elements required for successful management, including positions, roles and how it all comes together. We will also look at other issues of staffing, particularly with regard to volunteers.
1.Structure, accountability, recruitment
A station requires some core capacity to enable it to be functional and operationally solid – a management team. The team should cover various departments and areas of the station’s operations. It is the core capacity that ensures effective training and skills transfer to the station’s volunteers and staff as well as its year-on-year development and the transfer of its organisational culture. It is critical that the station is able to grow and build on what went before and the management team is the core capacity that ensures that this is able to happen.
It is important to ensure that there are clear lines of accountability. The management team is accountable to the board for the day-to-day operations of the station. However, this does not mean that the board should involve itself in micro-management. The board should measure productivity, and ensure that performance targets are met and that strategic plans are implemented (further details of board role and function are discussed in Chapter 1.) There should be a disciplinary policy that dictates how non-performing managers can be held accountable. Managers should refer to the board only for major policy or strategic decisions. Management should submit quarterly reports to the board and these should be reviewed against the annual plan.
As the representatives of the community, the station’s board should be ultimately responsible for the recruitment and appointment of the management team. Usually, they will handle the appointment of the station manager directly, but may delegate the appointment of the rest of the management team to the station manager. If this is done, those appointments should be subject to board ratification. It is important that a clear and transparent recruitment and appointment process is set up and followed, and that documents which outline the recruitment procedures should be created, followed and made available. It damages the community’s confidence if somebody is simply placed in a position, leading to suspicions of favouritism. In concrete terms, this means advertising vacancies with clear deadlines and criteria. Job descriptions, including the key performance areas of each job, should be advertised and made available. All applications must be reviewed against the criteria and shortlists compiled in a fair and objective manner. Successful candidates should be contracted to the station by a clearly defined contract that sets out the scope of the position and expectations of performance.
Different organisations may structure their management teams differently. The size of the management team will depend on the size of the organisation as a whole, as well as the finances available. The overall number should never be so large as to make the organisation top heavy: there should generally not be more than ten managers. In all cases, the management should be competent and skilled with clear guidelines as to roles and responsibilities.
In the following section, we will briefly describe the roles we believe to be crucial to the successful operation of a community radio station. Obviously, other approaches are available. For instance, Jallov identifies four key roles. Besides the station manager/coordinator, she lists a ‘community mobiliser’, who leads a series of editorial groups that are responsible for various theme areas, an ‘administration and partnership co-ordinator’, and a ‘technician’ (2012: 73 – 76). However, we follow a structural approach that is more closely in line with mainstream radio stations.
The station manager is ultimately responsible for the effective management of the entire station. The person must ensure that the station is a functional and sustainable broadcaster, driven by a common vision and based on the principles of community ownership and participation. S/he does this through effective professional management. The station manager is responsible for all areas: infrastructure, programming, liaising with partners, finances and staffing. It is particularly important to ensure ongoing training and support for staff, both volunteer and paid. The station manager should possess excellent communication and people skills. The person should have strong leadership skills, diplomacy and patience as well as an ability to work with people from a diverse range of backgrounds. It is important that the station manager is able to take the initiative and work independently.
The programme manager is responsible for what goes out on air, and has to ensure the development, implementation, maintenance and evaluation of the station’s programming strategy. The programming content should be relevant and reflective of the community it serves, allow maximum room for community involvement and be editorially independent. Responsibilities include overseeing programming strategy, and managing programming resources and the programme teams, producers and presenters. The programme manager should have knowledge of broadcast rules, regulations and guidelines, programming techniques, procedures and standards. This person should also possess excellent communication skills, people skills, leadership, diplomacy and patience. It is essential that the person is able to take the initiative and work independently as well as work under pressure and meet deadlines. Time management is essential.
The technical manager has to ensure high professional standards in broadcasting as well as the effective development, maintenance and management of the station’s technical resources. This means maintaining and managing the studios and other technical resources, managing technical production, and ensuring the station has strategic plans around technical needs. The technical manager should have knowledge of the legal framework of broadcasting.
The marketing and sales manager’s role is twofold. Firstly, s/he must represent, promote and sell the station, its activities and opportunities to existing and potential clients in order to attract advertising or sponsorships, while building and maintaining relationships. And secondly, the person must protect, promote and develop the station’s brand in order to support the station’s strategic objectives. Responsibilities include developing sales and promotional strategies, selling advertising, and preparing and implementing promotional plans. It is important to protect the station’s name and brand in the public domain. The marketing and sales manager must be creative and possess artistic flair as well as having excellent communications, people and leadership skills. S/he must be able to work under pressure and meet deadlines and be an active problem solver.
The finance/administration manager is ultimately responsible for accurate record keeping and ensuring that the station operates according to its procedures and structures. This will include ensuring that the station complies with various reporting requirements, such as around music rights usage and payments, the regulator’s requirements and others. It also ensures running an efficient billing system to ensure that money owed is actually collected. This person should have knowledge of bookkeeping or accountancy, financial systems, financial regulations and record keeping. The finance/administration manager must demonstrate attention to detail coupled with a good head for numbers, systems and processes.
There are other positions that can be created, depending on the particular station. This can include a music manager, who ensures the management, development and implementation of the music strategy for the station. This person will ensure that music played takes into account the range of tastes and interests among the community of listeners, and should have wide knowledge of music regulations, rules and guidelines, music and programming techniques, procedures and standards. Stations may also have a deputy station manager, or deputies for other management positions. They usually have a news editor, who oversees the news operation. The news editor may report to the programme manager or be part of the senior management team.
It is important that the station’s resources are operated by staff who are able to maximise their potential and enable the station to produce a quality product that is relevant to its community. Leadership at the station is very important to its success as it defines the direction the station takes. Good leadership also breeds good staff.
Staff should be recruited from the community and be representative of the community. Staff members are critical to the development of good programming and to ensuring that the station’s resources are maintained and operated correctly. The staff define the sound a station will have and how well it will work. They also influence the perception and image of the station through their association with the station within the community, and can make the difference between success and failure. The station should have strong recruitment and selection procedures to ensure that recruitment is fair, transparent and unbiased.
Newcomers to radio often think of radio stations only in terms of the voices behind the microphone, but in fact there are many other important roles that are needed to keep the station on air. In general, these jobs tend to be clustered around the managers mentioned above. Content producers work with the presenters to prepare material for a particular show, generating ideas for inserts, setting up interviews and researching background information. Technical producers are the wizards of the production studio, creating magic in jingles, advertisements and pre-produced elements. Bigger radio stations, or more complicated shows, may require their assistance during a live show, too, but this is not common any more. (More detail on how production teams may work can be found in Chapter 4 on Programming.)
The news team will need both reporters, who go out to gather news stories, and newsreaders, who present the bulletins on air. In many stations, there is no clear distinction between these two roles, partly because so much news is simply lifted from the Internet or other media. There may also be stringers or correspondents, people who are based in particular areas and send information through to the station. Within the news team, there may be specialist reporters in areas like sport.
Members of the sales and marketing team work with the relevant manager to sell airtime to advertisers and sponsors, and are therefore crucial to generating the income needed for the station to stay viable. They also develop and implement innovative plans to promote the station among its community and other groups. They are the people who organise outside broadcasts, fun walks, blanket collections in winter and the like.
If music plays an important role on the station, there is likely to be a music team, whose members are constantly listening to new releases, liaising with distributors, compiling playlists, and working out how to meet the musical interests and tastes of the audience. There may be roles for IT specialists and technicians, who look after the technical infrastructure, although these roles are often played by the technical producers. Finally, the finance and administrative team ensures that the station complies with all the various legal reporting requirements, runs the financial systems, acts as the reception, keeps records and much else.
This is not intended to be a full list, and should be read mainly as an indication of the kinds of roles commonly needed. There are many variations possible, and the reality is that stations will not always be able to find people with all the skills they would ideally like to have. In all cases, though, it is good to give staff some kind of contract (some suggestions about an HR policy were given in Chapter 1). It becomes very difficult to maintain discipline when practices become loose and informal, and a lack of clear expectations on issues like working hours can lead to major problems and disputes. There should also be a disciplinary policy to ensure that staff can be held accountable.
Staff may be paid a salary, a stipend or work on a completely voluntary basis. In some cases, sales staff may earn a commission, while some contributors may be paid per contribution. Stations will decide on these arrangements largely on the basis of their financial means: there will always be pressure, and a desire, to put as many people as possible on a salary, but this has to be done within budgetary constraints. In making these decisions, stations should be fair and transparent – perceptions of unfair practice can cause huge unhappiness and jealousy among staff, and be very disruptive.
Volunteers, or people who work without payment, play a crucial role in community radio stations. They are often the core of the staff complement, working long hours and contributing enthusiasm and skills to the project of building a community radio station. However, dealing with volunteers can sometimes pose real challenges. Because they are working voluntarily, they may not feel as much of a sense of obligation to the station as paid staff, and may easily take time off for various reasons. Maintaining discipline becomes very difficult under these circumstances. Many volunteers are young people, for whom the station represents an opportunity to learn skills and then move on to a ‘real’ job. This means they may disappear with minimal notice if a better opportunity presents itself. This can be very disruptive: a show may collapse when the presenter disappears, while a crucial invoice may remain unsent because the administrator has accepted work elsewhere. Under the circumstances, stations struggle to find the stability and the skills base they need for viability. Often, community stations complain that they are caught in a vicious circle, constantly training people who then abandon them for mainstream jobs. In some discussions in South Africa, there have been calls for volunteerism to be abolished.
It is unlikely that community radio stations will be able to put all volunteers onto full salaries any time soon. But healthy approaches to volunteerism should be developed. Essentially, it means making clear and fair arrangements: volunteers should not be exploited, and expectations should be clearly set out. This includes issues like hours of work and the kind and standard of work the volunteer will be expected to carry out. It is perfectly reasonable to draft a contract, even if it is brief, which could also insist on reasonable notice being given if the volunteer decides to leave.
It is also important to identify the non-cash benefits available for volunteers, which could be something as simple as a word of appreciation or an occasional party. Radio stations are sometimes offered opportunities for staff to travel to an event or conference, and this could be used as a reward for a volunteer who has been working well. Training needs to be an ongoing activity, both because of the fact that there will be turnover of people, and because it represents a tangible benefit that volunteers will appreciate. Community radio stations need to be training organisations.
In general, it is important to recognise that the opportunity to learn and work is a significant benefit for young people, and also benefits the society more broadly. It is better to manage the turnover of volunteers in a way that minimises disruption rather than to try to prevent it.