This commentary responds to an article by Melissa Grant, Lucy Vernall and Kirsty Hill in Research for All (Grant et al., 2018) that assessed the impact of broadcast programming through quantitative and qualitative evidence. In that piece, the authors attended exclusively to the uptake by, and attitudes of, end users. But viewer or social media statistics can paint a patchy picture, and feedback groups recreate an unusually attentive mode of reception. This commentary argues for an alternative or complementary emphasis on the participation of academics in producing broadcast programming for the purposes of writing REF impact templates. In highlighting the process of programme-making rather than the reception of a completed output, the commentary seeks to 'read' academic impact on the media in a more dynamic way, and speaks to the sometimes substantial and substantive involvement of academics prior to a programme's broadcast and its ultimate effects in the public sphere. Indeed, a focus on the 'front-loaded' impact by academics in the media, and on their longer-term institutional ripple effects, offers evidence that is more easily captured than establishing the attitudes of audiences. The latter are notoriously difficult to determine and, as Grant et al.'s (2018) data show, do not always do justice to the importance of media work as part of impactful academic activity.