You can’t learn the television business in a classroom, but there’s plenty that new recruits at a network can’t possibly know when they first drive on the lot.
To help nurture the next generation of great broadcasters, execs at Fox a few years ago devised a curriculum known as “FBC 4 U” designed to educate less-experienced staffers about how the network works and a bit about the history of the smallscreen biz. It’s usually offered once or twice a year, during lunchtime over 12-13 weeks.
“We basically give them a course in broadcasting 101,” said Preston Beckman, Fox’s exec veep of strategic program planning and research. “If you went to UCLA or USC you’d spend $4,000 for it. Senior executives give up their time, but we figure we’re investing in the future of the business. We need to get ’em while they’re young.”
The FBC 4 U program is modeled after a similar initiative Beckman spearheaded at NBC in the 1990s.
“It’s important that people understand this business and how their job relates to other aspects of the business,” Beckman said.
At Fox, the course is run by Caroline White, the net’s senior veep of broadcast operations, marketing prexy Joe Earley and Beckman, who has a doctorate in sociology and taught at Adelphi U. and other New York schools before joining NBC’s research department in 1980.
FBC 4 U (or “FU,” as Beckman colorfully calls it) is a hot ticket at the network, but the class size is held to no more than about 20 people in order to make the discussions manageable and meaningful.
The subject matter ranges from the basic fundamentals (what is a rating? what is an affiliate?) to the nuances of Federal Communications Commission policy and how it impacts the company.
Applicants have to get a sign off from their supervisors, as the classes occassionally run 90 minutes or more. At the end, there’s even a graduation ceremony where drinks are served and diplomas bestowed. The process has the added benefit of allowing top brass to get to know younger members of the staff in a setting that invites two-way conversation.
“We try to make them feel like from the top of the organization on down we care about developing them as employees,” Beckman said. “We encourage them to come by and say hello and ask questions even after the class is over. We want them to do well.”