Local government task: guidance

Assessment CW1 requires students to make a radio package or a two-way on an aspect of local government. The cue (or cue and script, for a two-way) must be submitted on Moodle. In deciding how much time to spend on this assignment, bear in mind that it is worth 40% of the overall mark for a 20-point module. 

For examples of radio packages and two-ways, students are advised to listen to BBC radio at the main news times (on Radio 4, these are 6-9am, 1-1.45pm, 5-6.30pm, and 10-10.45pm). Note that packages and two-ways do NOT feature in the news bulletins at the start of each hour.

A radio package is a self-contained report last a few minutes, of a kind often to be heard on the main news programmes on BBC Radio 4, 5 Live, the World Service and BBC local radio. Ideally it will include one or more sound effects, as well as “actuality” such as snatches of interview, a vox pop, or one or more clips from a council meeting. An extract from a written report could be voiced by another person and incorporated in the package in the same way as an audio clip.

All these components will be linked by the reporter, with a script or with narration recorded “in the field”. A good device is to ask interviewees to introduce themselves (“I’m Fred Smith, and I’m the councillor for Foleshill.”), to give the option of using this self-introduction in the piece.

Interviews might be recorded with councillors, council officers, experts outside the council, or members of the public who are affected by an issue. A vox pop might canvas views of the general public who are asked a single question.

Two or three pieces of actuality/interview might be expected in a typical radio piece; possibly more, depending on the length of the clips and the range of interviewees available. Unusually, a good piece might feature only a single, very strong interview, supported with some script and possibly sound effects.

A two-way is a conversation between a radio presenter and a reporter. Normally, the presenter’s questions are scripted by the reporter, who may also script or semi-script his own answers.  To meet the requirements of this assessment, the two-way must be “illustrated”, meaning that it must contain at least two interview clips and/or other audio such as a vox pop, or one or more clips from a council meeting.

If submitting a recorded two-way, you will need it will be necessary to ask another student to take the role of presenter. The two-way could be recorded in a studio by a third student; or the recording could be made on a portable device such as an Edirol, with the clips edited in afterwards.

Click here for an example of a two-way (5.54 minutes into the recording). Note that the reporter’s name has been deleted from the cue in this recording.

The cue is the short piece of script written for the presenter. It is usually one or two sentences, plus a line of introduction for the reporter. There may also be a back-anno, giving further information for the presenter to read at the end of the piece – such as details of a website, or a development that came in after the package had been recorded.

For this assignment, your cue must be submitted on Moodle, with the catchline, the “out” words and duration. For a two-way, the full script must be submitted on Moodle, with the out words and duration for each clip (you will need to write this in any case). For an example of a two-way script, click here.

The target duration for a package (not including the introductory cue, which is submitted as text) is 3-5 minutes. Students who go slightly over this length will not be penalised if the duration is justified by good content. A very short piece is unlikely to provide enough evidence of understanding of local government to secure a high mark; on the other hand, a tightly-edited piece lasting three minutes, with a good variety of clips, might score higher than a rambling five-minute piece that actually contains little information.

The target duration for a two-way is similar, but the cue will have to be recorded as part of the finished piece, and so it can be slightly longer. A two-way that lasts only three minutes, including the cue, will be deemed too short.

A local radio feature would normally be about three minutes long and consist mostly of clips, rather than the reporter’s voice. A good piece following this example will secure a healthy pass. However, to achieve a distinction, students are likely to need a longer piece with more script, as commonly heard on BBC Radio 4 news programmes (Today, PM or The World Tonight) or the BBC World Service (Newshour). This would allow more scope to demonstrate high-level understanding and some element of analysis or evaluation.

Read on for an indication of the content required to achieve various grades.

What is being assessed?

Remember, the purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate understanding of local government (and local democracy) through a case study (a news story or feature).

The aim is to meet the following learning outcome:

[Students shall demonstrate] appropriate knowledge of the structure and functions of local government in England and Wales and, where appropriate, compare these to local authorities in other countries.

Students are not being judged on their ability to deliver a radio piece to a professional standard.

However, 20% of the mark will be based on the effectiveness of the submitted piece – as was the case for the national government presentation. Poor editing – for instance, “clunky” edits in which word-endings are cut off, or background noise that makes speech inaudible – might lose one or two marks.

You will be assessed on the quality of the information provided, and for the highest mark, analysis and evaluation.  This analysis might refer, say, to:

  • the relationship between central and local government;
  • the impact of national government decisions at local level;
  • openness in local government;
  • the difficulties faced by local authorities in delivering their services when their funding is being cut;
  • the range of work councils do;
  • or the value of council meetings and reports as a source for journalists.

Audio of councillors speaking in a meeting may well be of poor quality. This is accepted and as long as the councillors’ words can be heard, marks will not be lost for this.

What are the marking criteria?

Marks will be awarded as follows:

  • 40% quality/depth of information on the chosen topic – including interview clips etc
  • 40% understanding/analysis/evaluation of local government
  • 20% effectiveness of the presentation of information. Note the comments on sound quality and editing, above.

Students might demonstrate good-quality information by finding strong and highly relevant interviewees.

Marks will be awarded on the basis of the university’s Written assessment criteria. The following points are most likely to apply:

To score 80% upwards: 

The work will demonstrate an excellent  level of originality, creativity, understanding, and critical analysis. Presentation will be clear, well-structured and professional.

To score 70-79%:

The work will be entirely relevant  to the assignment set. It will demonstrate a clear understanding and evaluation of issues. Responses will be presented in a clear, well-structured way, in an appropriately professional manner.

To score 65-69%:

Work which demonstrates a very good  understanding and evaluation of relevant issues. The work will be creative, accurate and appropriate, well organised and clearly presented, with few errors. There will be some evidence of independent critical  evaluation.

To score 60-64%:

A good understanding, with few errors. Demonstrating a good understanding of relevant issues. Well organised and clearly presented, with some creativity.

To score 55-59%:

Response demonstrating a good  understanding of relevant issues. Some errors and inconsistencies of approach may be evident and there may be the inclusion of irrelevant material. May not be particularly well-structured, and/or clearly presented. There may be some evidence of creativity, if limited.

To score 50-54%:

Response demonstrating a reasonable  understanding of issues. Work is likely to show some errors of understanding. May be significant amount of irrelevant material. May not be well-structured and presentation may be unclear at times .

To score 45-49%:

A piece of work demonstrating sufficient understanding to pass. Limited use of material. May be poorly structured, not well-conceived and inconsistent. Irrelevant material likely to be present. Little evidence of creativity.

To score 40-44%:

Basic understanding demonstrated, with some correct description. Work is likely to be incomplete with substantial errors or misunderstandings. Little use of material and limited research on the topic is evident. May be poorly structured, poorly conceived and poorly presented. Little evidence of creativity.

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