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Defining what is meant by the ‘radio industry’ is becoming challenging as audio content can be distributed through a range of platforms as media and telecommunications are converging across the board.

Independent stations and other companies are shared broadly among four sub-sectors, including: BBC Radio (which is publicly funded); around 120 commercial radio groups and independent stations; around 180 community radio stations; and up to 50 independent radio production companies. The industry is characterised by a small number of large radio groups and a large number of smaller groups and independent stations. The BBC, Global Radio and Bauer dominate the landscape of larger businesses and between them account for a high proportion of the radio workforce.

Radio is undergoing a digital revolution which is having a rapid and profound impact on the industry and future prospects. It is seen as an exciting period of development. Job vacancies in the industry are not generally hard-to-fill, as there is no shortage of people wishing to work in radio. However, there is a particular concern regarding the shortage of radio engineers with the breadth of skills and versatility required to meet the demands of a changing industry.

Key statistics:

  • 22,800 people are employed in the radio industry, which is estimated to be 5% of the entire Creative industries workforce.
  • The industry comprises around 350 organisations, of which 23% employ between 2 and 4 people, 35% between 5 and 10, and 17% between 11 and 20 people.
  • 25% of companies have more than 20 people working for them, which includes just 2% with a workforce of 250 or more.
  • 52% of the workforce is male.
  • 42% of the workforce is under 35 years.
  • 7% of the workforce is from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background.
  • 6.1% of the workforce considers themselves to be disabled.
  • 64% of the workforce has a degree, of which 34% are media related.
  • 25% of the workforce is freelance.
  • Radio has a highly skilled and well qualified workforce of which almost two thirds are graduates.
  • About a quarter of the workforce is freelance or employed on contracts of less than a year.
  • 58% of freelancers working in the industry hold a graduate qualification, compared with 66% of employees in the industry.

There is no simple direct route into the radio industry. However, for broadcast journalism there are specific courses available and for other jobs in radio school, access, further and higher education courses are available. Undertaking work experience is considered essential for those wishing to enter the industry and move into the industry from another career. Volunteer work for student radio, hospital radio and/or community radio stations is recognised by the mainstream industry as a good starting point to develop the skills needed to get a paid job in the industry.

BBC and commercial radio offer some new entrant training options and bursaries according to business needs. Community radio stations are expected to provide training as part of their remit.

Employers in the radio industry tend to rate post-entry qualifications higher than those taken pre-entry. Post entry continuing professional development (CPD) was the most popular type of provision amongst large radio employers, and around eight in ten rated other types of post entry training as important including management, technical and business training.

The most common skill gaps reported by employers in the industry are: engineering; production; radio broadcasting; and commercial awareness. Future skill gaps are anticipated by half of large radio employers, with specific skill areas relating to technical equipment, communication and project management. The common skills shortages identified within particular occupational groups range from radio specific skills to general management, business and IT skills.

The radio industry workforce is divided into the following occupational roles:

  • 29% work in radio broadcasting specific roles
  • 25% work in finance, HR, IT, marketing and general management roles
  • 21% work in journalism and sport roles
  • 10% work in production
  • 8% work in producing

Certain occupational groups within the radio industry have a greater reliance on freelancers than others. Those working in radio broadcasting and production are the most likely to be working as freelancers, whilst those working in producing broadcast engineering and sound are the least likely to be freelance.

Although the majority of the workforce is based in London, the nature of local and community radio services means that the radio workforce is more widely dispersed throughout the UK than other creative industries. The largest number of employees in the radio industry is located in: London; the South East; the North West; and Scotland.

Source: Skillset AACS LMI report 2010 and Radio Labour Market Intelligence Digest 2009

Occupational profile of the radio workforce, 2006


Source: Radio Labour Market Intelligence Digest 2009, Figure 2. Data from Skillset’s 2006 Employment Census.