BBC business broadcast journalist Katie Prescott joined us this week to share her insights on producing and presenting on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Discussing everything from pitch tips to BBC pay, and a clarion call for businesses to have a point of view, here are five things we learned:
Today still sets the agenda
In an on-demand world, Today remains one of the UK’s must-listen news programmes. When asked why, Katie believes this is down to having the highest quality production and being able to draw on the best from across the BBC to deliver a truly agenda-setting view.
Crucially, key players across business and politics recognise this, and attracted by its large audience and profile, are keen to appear on the programme.
Business speak up
Under Sarah Sands’ editorship, Today has a renewed focus on business. However, Katie believes business is increasingly scared to offer a view on the big issues of the day. She finds this frustrating, arguing that the views of business leaders on key issues such as Brexit resonate and cut through far better with listeners than an interview with a politician or lobby group. Businesses are understandably reticent to step out above the parapet on this issue but will be rewarded if they are able to frame their messages carefully in the context of Brexit.
Katie also called for entrepreneurs to step forward. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she finds that they often make more interesting business interviewees, bringing energy, passion and a clear story to tell, unconstrained by the corporate shackles of bigger businesses.
Brexit’s not the be all and end all
Brexit will of course continue to dominate the agenda until a deal is agreed (or not) in October, but Katie is clear that it is not the be all and end all for Today. Within the business team there is a growing interest in stories on corporate governance, pay, gender and fairness.
Sustainability has also jumped back to the top of the news agenda and the Today programme will be looking closely at what businesses are doing for the environment. This comes with a health warning, though, as the bar for meaningful action is growing higher and journalists are increasingly sceptical about greenwashing.
The pitch tips to get you on Today
Katie generously shared her top tips for getting your business story on Today. Beginning with the basics: if you have a good, but not agenda-setting, story, then best pitch it in before the daily editorial meeting between 11.30-2pm. Obviously the rules change for breaking news, and the schedule will shift right up until the programme goes live.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that for business, they’re rarely looking for commentators; they’re looking for players – so make sure you are an active part of the story. Finally, asked where she gets her news, Katie revealed she is a strong believer in the all-important old-fashioned journalistic skill of getting out there and meeting people.
What about BBC pay?
Speaking on the day the BBC released its latest stats on its highest-paid stars, Katie welcomed the decision to publish the figures. She believes that the scrutiny and criticism of stars’ earnings are also helping to shift fairness and standards for the thousands of BBC employees lower down the ladder.