Young radio journalists face tough work conditions, but continue to connect strongly with the medium – World Radio Day 2015

Radio journalism is an unstable profession where you start young and leave young. In the lead-up to World Radio Day on Friday, Laurent Poillot writes that young journalists are enduring worsening work conditions in radio in the face of an unstable job climate.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | February 10, 2015

In 2013, the Commission responsible for issuing identity cards to professional journalists (C.C.I.J.P) issued 36,823 press cards. Out of this total, 9,363 cards were for freelance journalists and journalists seeking employment. Journalists in these situations currently represent over 25% of the profession as a whole.

This instability evidently concerns young people entering the job market. A study carried out in 2013 by the French media industry observatory revealed that 68% of those under 26 years old were working freelance, a number which is constantly rising, having passed from 50% in 2009 to 60% in 2010. The current fragility of the status of journalists is equally reflected in the radio industry. Of the 37,000 press cards issued in 2012, 3,563 were for radio journalists, 61% of whom work in the public sector and 39% in the private sector.

It is also in the radio industry that we see freelance journalists who have press cards with the lowest income, the vast majority of whom are under thirty. Their incomes are in the range of around 1,500 euros per month before tax. Often these payments are made late. A young female radio journalist working for a major private radio station with national coverage told me that she once worked a full week and was still waiting to be paid five months later.

When entering the profession today some young journalists develop a specialization strategy for a specific type of media, but most must be versatile as they are obliged to work simultaneously in television, radio, online and the written press in order to pay the bills. This situation causes them to confront a real question: what is my actual availability, in each medium, to produce consistent, quality work?

A study carried out in 2013 by the French media industry observatory revealed that these days 68% of those under 26 years old are working freelance, a number which is constantly rising.

I remember what a regular freelance journalist working for a radio station in Auvergne told me. She had seen more and more students joining the station. Young people provide a fresh perspective. They breathe new life into the station and they listen to a lot of radio themselves. They start working out of passion, attracted by the “hot” news media profession. But after a few years of work, other young people arrive and the earlier arrivals who are not shown the door find themselves with less work. Under these conditions, the inclusion of young people in the radio business is both fragile and unsustainable. In order to protect themselves and their future prospects, young people do not dare address the problem openly. They want to work in radio, so they put up with it.

These days, we enter the profession at a young age, but we leave it at a young age too. In France, by the age of 40 one journalist in two will leave their job. We see it in our association, where few members are above that age. In a separate study published by the Civil Society of Multimedia Authors (SCAM) in November 2013, the main grievances of the journalists interviewed regarding their profession were instability, isolation and a lack of recognition. It is an issue we want to raise in our association Profession Pigiste. Journalists have to, or the younger ones will have to if they have not already, consider updating their skills. They may do so by training, maintaining diversified networks and opening the profession up to people who are not necessarily journalists.

Radio as a social mobiliser for young people

Youth Radio in Action: The Syrian Hour

Your radio station may be youth-inclusive and able to address issues that affect young people directly through programmes that air youth voices and opinions. But what about content actually created by young people? This guide helps adult radio teachers and industry mentors to equip young people to produce their own content, that is, radio shows by young people for young people.

NOTE: This post represents edited content that was originally originally published by UNESCO for World Radio Day 2015.

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