I am typical of a lot of factual presenters (science, history, etc), in that I have a profession that links me to the subject material. I just happened to be the right Uni and year to feature in a docu-soap called ‘Vets School’ and ‘Vets in Practice’ that got me noticed. Lots of professional people appear on TV for all sorts of reasons, interviewed as experts, asked for opinions, and if they fare well then they’re asked again and then when a program maker is looking for a presenter they may get the nod. Lots of academics find themselves in a presenting role this way. It has the benefit of ‘having a proper job’. This has helped me keep grounded and given me the security of an income when TV work that I want to do gets a little thin on the ground.
So if you have a qualification or area of expertise then use it. News and current affairs are always looking for opinions. Don’t have to be extreme but do have to be interesting. BLOG, tweet, write - whatever. Contact your local radio station with interesting stories. Write articles or letters to specialist magazines. Phone Jeremy Vine and tell him to wind his neck in. This gives you a chance to build a profile and gain experience of ‘broadcast’. If you’re good, you may be asked again. If you’re not, work better at being ‘good’ (attend a presenter workshop at Wildscreen in the Autumn in Bristol).
I have no idea if this will work. For most it won’t, but enjoy the process. I still love doing late night interviews for Five Live when they have some conservation / veterinary story. It pays very little (or sometimes not at all) but it’s nice to be able to give an opinion on a subject that you care about passionately.
A lot of the current stable of wildlife presenters took the behind the lens approach. Martin Hughes-Games, Kate Humble, Chris Packham, Steve Backshall, Simon King all started TV behind the lens as researchers, cameramen, producers etc. Not all of them wanted to present from the start but when they did they were in the ideal place to give it a crack. Understanding how programmes are made, how to tell a story, how to write pieces to camera. These are the skills presenters need, and working in TV, even behind the lens is a great way to get them and also get access to the decision makers when they are looking for new talent. Getting a job in TV is not straightforward I know but, nobody said it was gonna be easy.
Key thing to remember is that TV doesn’t matter. it’s easy to think that the Idiot Lantern is the Daddy but there are many ways to communicate to the masses - radio, internet, out your bedroom window. Just enjoy the experience.