Note: This is a list of commonly used radio program production terms in North America, and a few other terms that are used at Farm Radio International that might be useful in understanding how to produce effective radio programs for a variety of audiences. African broadcasters have also revised and included terminology common to their work. Its purpose is to provide guidance and clarity both for FRI team members, and also for rural African broadcasters interested in improving their service to listeners.
Radio program production includes the skills, activities and resources involved in the creation of:
- a radio station program schedule, which is made up of:
- radio programs, which are made up of:
- episodes, which are divided into
- segments, which are made up of:
- radio program elements.
The lexicon includes:
- the name of each radio production term defined,
- its definition and, where appropriate,
- a tip for broadcasters about how the term can be used to effect.
Actives – Radio listeners who actively contact the radio station for requests or contests.
Actuality – Program material that exists and is incorporated into a radio program, including interviews, songs, wild sounds, etc.
Adjacencies – Programs that are adjacent (follow or precede) to another program at a certain time period; commercials that are purchased to be specifically aired immediately before or immediately after a feature or program such as a sportscast or news program.
Advert (advertisement) – A notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event.
Air (verb) – To broadcast or transmit a signal or a program.
Aircheck – Copy of a broadcast that is recorded on magnetic tape or digitally, often used to evaluate production and broadcasting techniques
Air shift – The length of time that a DJ works on the air at any given time.
Airwaves – The medium through which radio signals are transmitted. Airwaves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Amplifier – A device, often within a console, that boosts sound and sends it to a loudspeaker.
Announcer – An on-air talent personality with the task of reading copy, scripts or announcements on radio.
Antenna (or aerial) – A device that receives radio waves from a transmitter and radiates the energy of those waves through the air so that they can be picked up by radio receivers.
Ask a subject matter specialist – A specific kind of phone-in program or program element/format where callers ask for information about a topic of importance from someone who has expert knowledge, skill or experience.
TIP: Use 'Ask a subject matter specialist' to help listeners learn and understand complex issues and practices based on the concerns of people like themselves.
Ascertainment – A process to determine what a community needs and wants, so that a radio station can try to serve it better.
Audience – The people who listen to a radio station or to a specific radio program.
- The potential audience is all of the people with access to radio receivers who live within range of a radio station’s antenna.
- The target audience is the group of people within range for whom a specific program has been produced (i.e. farmers, youth, women, music lovers, etc.)
- The audience share is the percentage of the potential audience with sets in use that is listening to a specific station or a specific program.
Audio – Sounds that can be used to make radio programs, including talk, music, natural and human-made sounds from the environment, and digitally created sounds.
Audible – Able to be heard. When the audio is not audible, sometimes we refer to it as 'muffled'
Backsell – A term for a technique that a DJ uses to announce the title or the artist of the song he just played.
Back Story (file story) – Important circumstances related to an issue that occurred before the current situation. It helps to put an issue into the proper context.
TIP: Providing listeners with key backstory information will help them understand what is going on now. Check your program archives for Backstory material.
Backtime – Ensure music or other actuality that is being played under another element ends at the same time as the other element. Backtiming is also used to make sure that a program’s extro sigtune ends exactly at the end of the program’s scheduled time.
Banter – Light chat, often humorous, between a program host and another on-air person.
TIP: Banter helps lighten the tone of a program. It can help reveal the personality of the host and help the listener relate positively to her/him.
Bias – Prejudice in favour of, or against, a particular person or group or idea, that can cause the unfair representation of program material.
TIP: We all have biases, some that we grew up with, others that were formed through our experience of the world or the influence of public figures. Broadcasters should be aware of their biases and take every step to ensure that their biases do not interfere with the production of fair-minded programming.
Bills (billboard, heads, opening billboard (OBB)) – Short descriptions of the most appealing items in a program and used to promote the program. Bills can be used in program promo spots and at the beginning of a program episode.
- Program OBB/Intro - Introducing an episode or segment in a radio program.
- Commercial OBB - Announcing the sponsor of the program or segment of the episode.
- CBB - Closing billboard - closing of a segment or episode.
TIP: Bills are worth planning and writing. They can persuade listeners to stay with your program and they can draw new listeners to specific programs and episodes.
Breaking news – A new development in an issue of importance to your listeners, usually brought to air as soon as possible in a News Bulletin. It can also be broadcast anytime it 'breaks' and interrupts any program which is on air.
Bridge – Audio material, usually musical, played between two longer parts of a program that are mostly talk.
Broadcast (verb) – To send information to listeners through electromagnetic waves. (noun) – Any information sent by a broadcaster to listeners. It can be as short as a single audio beep, or as long as the coverage of a multi-hour football match.
TIP: Providing listeners with key backstory information will help them understand what is going on now. Check your program archives for Back story material.
- a person who prepares and presents radio programs
- an organization, usually licensed, that prepares and transmits radio programs
Bumper – A prerecorded audio segment that typically consists of voice over music. It acts as a transition to or from a set of commercials or other content.
Bumper music – Music clips that are used to transition between one programming element into another to avoid dead air or empty pauses.
Clip – An edited bit of program material from an interview or other talk or music. Clips are the building blocks of reports, documentaries and tape talks and are used with scripts to provide the listener with the information, emotion and firsthand accounts necessary to understand a story.
Co-Host – One of two or more people who host a radio program together.
Comedy – A narrative, either scripted or unscripted, that uses exaggeration, vocal sounds, and other humorous devices to lighten the tone of a program and cause listeners to laugh.
TIP: Comedy can be used in the coverage of serious issues to provide relief for the listener. It also provides a different, comfortable way of thinking about events and issues. It is important to remember that you must be respectful and appropriate when using humour in the coverage of serious issues.
Comment – An unscripted opinion expressed by a host or guest. Comments show listeners that different people see things differently.
- A scripted narrative containing both facts and opinions about an issue. Commentaries are used to present different sides of an issue.
- The live, spoken description of an event while it is occurring, such as a sporting match.
Competition – An audience engagement tool where listeners answer skill-testing questions about an issue of concern. A prize is awarded for the best submissions.
TIP: Competitions are a good way to get listeners’ voices to air, and to expose listeners to a range of opinions on issues.
Console (board, mixer, control board) – The main piece of equipment in a radio studio or control room used to control anything that the listeners hear on air. By manipulating the various switches on a console, the operator can control the various live and recorded items included in a radio program. Inputs include live and recorded talk, music, and other sounds. Outputs from the console go to production staff, to ecording devices and to the transmitter.
Content – See Program content
Conversation – A discussion between two or more people. No one guides the discussion, and each person can say what they want.
TIP: Conversations can be enjoyable if the participants are interesting. However it is better to use a guided interview if you want to provide listeners with important information.
Cooking Show – A radio program type designed by FRI that is used to increase nutritional knowledge of a specific crop variety, encourage families to try new ways of cooking that crop variety, and develop a positive attitude towards the integration of this crop variety into their diets. The Cooking Show is a short 4 to 8 (or longer if appropriate) week series of 30 minute episodes that includes:
- the narration by a farmer of a simple recipe (using the five senses) as well as hygiene tips during preparation;
- a description of the ingredients, tools and utensils used as well as timing instructions;
- a tasting with different family members (children, adolescents, women and men, grandparents) to capture their impression of the recipe (taste, texture, etc.);
- an interview with a nutritionist that discusses health benefits of the crop variety being promoted;
- a description of the historical use of an ingredient or recipe when applicable and a comparison and discussion of similarities and differences;
- a discussion of any taboos surrounding the ingredient if applicable;
- a call-in with questions on the recipe of the week, nutritional questions, etc;
- a promo that includes next week’s highlighted recipe.
It can be a special feature inserted into a regular farmer program, or it can be a stand-alone program.
Copy – Content or written material for commercials, promotional or public service announcements, or any other worded information that will be read by a broadcaster.
Credits (acknowledgments) – The list of the people and organizations who helped the program get to air. Credits are usually voiced by the host (live credits) at the end of a program. They help listeners understand that radio programs require the talent and effort of many people.
Cross fade – A technical activity where one source of program sound is faded down and out while the next source is faded up. It provides an interesting aural stimulation as it signals a change in program material.
Cue – A signal given to start an activity within a radio program.
Daypart – One of the time block of the broadcast day, e.g. Morning: 6-10am, Midday: 10-2pm, Afternoon: 2-6pm, Evening: 6-12 Midnight, etc.
- Unplanned Dead Air happens when some expected bit of audio fails and listeners hear no sound.
TIP: Program hosts should always have a plan to deal with unplanned dead air, including unscripted banter and/or recorded music and/or a recorded item that can be brought up easily.
- Planned Dead Air occurs when the producer inserts it as part of the tone of a program, often to stimulate the listeners’ sensitivity to what is going on.
Dead air differs from when a station goes off the air – when there is no transmission at all.
Debate – A discussion involving two or more people providing opposing points of view on a subject of interest and importance. The program host moderates the discussion, asks questions for clarification and ensures guests are given roughly equal time to make their points.
TIP: Debates can stretch listeners' minds on important issues. They can also give you ideas for future programming and identify people who can speak to important issues.
Decibels (db) – A unit used to measure the intensity of a sound or the power level of an electrical signal by comparing it with a given level on a logarithmic scale. A degree of loudness.
Delay (verb) – A technical activity that causes a recorded program to be broadcast at a later time. In some jurisdictions, phone-in programs are delayed by ten seconds, to allow a monitoring person to ensure that illegal or libelous comments are cut out before that material gets to air.
Disinformation – A story or other information designed to persuade people to accept a particular viewpoint, belief or judgment that is not factual.
Diversity (see also “Inclusion”) – The wide variety of characteristics among individuals, and the mix of these in any given group of people. These characteristics can include, but are not limited to, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, socio-economic status, (dis)abilities, migration/legal status, life experiences, etc.
TIP: Diversity amongst program guests, hosts and callers engages listeners because they hear a wider variety of perspectives and ideas!
Documentary – A long-form program format that uses clips, script and wild sound to examine an issue in depth through the experiences of people involved in it. Documentaries can also include subject-matter specialists who provide specialized information. Documentaries often have a perspective and a point of view that news reports do not. A documentary provides listeners with a rich, carefully-constructed perspective on an important issue.
Double ender – A form of interview used when it is impossible for the interviewer and the interviewee to have a face-to-face talk. The interviewee is provided with the interviewer’s questions, either by text or voice. The interviewee records their responses and sends them back to the interviewer to be combined with the interviewer’s questions into a complete interview.
Drama – A scripted, usually fictional story presented by actors. Drama is able to address issues that are controversial, or about which people have strong and often unconscious cultural or religious attachments. Drama is use when it is difficult to address an issue simply by providing good information. Drama engages listeners emotionally. It transports them through stories where they can identify with a character whose behaviour and attitudes are changing. Drama can do this in a way that can disarm a listener's defensiveness, and help them understand their emotional attachments. It helps listeners make clearer decisions, all of which can result in attitudinal and behaviour change.
Drama-plus – A program that begins with a mini-drama (similar to a drama but usually only 5 to 10 minutes in length) highlighting a part of an important issue. This is followed by a phone-in component where listeners engage with a knowledgeable guest about the drama and the underlying issue it addresses.
TIP: An attractive and emotional drama, combined with listener responses, and subject-matter specialist commentary can reveal how your listeners feel about a certain issue, give listeners the opportunity to process information and get more detailed information. It can also give you ideas about what additional programming you should provide on that issue.
Dub (verb) –
- To make a copy of a sound or video recording.
- To add a soundtrack in a different language from the original.
- To add sound effects or music to a recording.
- To transfer a recording from one medium to another.
- To combine two or more sound recordings into one composite soundtrack.
Edit (verb) – Change the content of recorded material, either spoken or musical, usually to make it shorter or clearer or more appealing, or to emphasize important parts, or to provide editorial balance.
Empowerment – Processes that create an enabling environment in which individuals and groups can make choices and influence decisions that lead to their own desired outcomes, often through negotiating power relations to gain greater control over their lives and livelihoods.
TIP: Radio programs do not by themselves empower people. They can, however, provide the information, examples, encourage critical thinking and motivation that help contribute to shifting unequal power dynamics and, eventually, to empowerment.
Edutainment – Programs whose objectives are to both educate and entertain.
Episode – Each of the separate installments into which a radio program is divided. The contents of each episode are different from the contents of the other episodes.
Evaluation, evaluate – An assessment, usually done annually, of the quality of the performance of a radio program or of a radio program host or producer, related to the program (or job) purpose and objectives.
Event – Any activity, natural or made by people that is worth covering to serve your audience. Events include: severe weather, political meetings, musical concerts, demonstrations, specific activities involving farmers, women, youth or other parts of your listening audience.
Exchange (verb or noun) – The process of sending one or more of your programs or reports to another radio station, and receiving programs from that station in return.
TIP: Program exchanges, while sometimes difficult to arrange, can provide your listeners with a wider perspective on important issues.
Extro (or Outro, Back-announcement - see also Intro) – Words usually voiced by the program host at the end of an episode, reminding listeners of the important things they have heard, and then promoting some interesting content in the next episode. The extro also includes credits. It finishes by thanking listeners for listening, and invites them back for the next episode. Some extros are fully scripted. In other cases the program host works from brief notes to ensure that they do not forget to mention any important thing. The extro, like the intro, is often spoken over the sig tune.
Often a program element or an item will also have its own extro, usually a simple reminder of the name of the person who was interviewed and the name of the broadcaster who prepared a report.
Fact – A provable bit of information. A fact is different from an opinion, which is a view or a belief, or a judgment, not necessarily based on facts or knowledge. It is also different from a hoax, which is an unprovable bit of misinformation intended to persuade people to accept a particular view or belief or judgment. It is also different from a myth, which is often a traditional story about the origins of a people, and which may or may not be factual.
Fade – A technical action causing the steady reduction of the volume of program material. A fade can be fast or slow. It usually signals that one part of a program is about to end. 'Fade-in' is the term used when bringing new audio up from a lower volume. 'Fade-out' is used when reducing the volume and completely closing the audio, usually a signature tune or music.
Feed (verb) – To send program material electronically from one station to other stations or networks.
- listener feedback (talkback) – Messages from listeners about programs or about specific program content. It can be on-air, recorded, online, verbal or written. Feedback provides listeners with a way to give their opinion about a topic under discussion or about what they think of the program quality.
TIP: Feedback can also provide producers with listeners’ opinions about their overall satisfaction with a radio program. Producers should listen carefully to listeners’ comments in order to continuously improve their programs.
- technical feedback – The noise created when a program sound from a voice or a loudspeaker is captured by a mic and fed out again endlessly through a loudspeaker, setting up a loop of noise. It can be stopped by distancing or re-directing the mic from program sound.
Format – The structure or architecture of a radio program, or of a program element. Each format is designed to serve the purpose of the specific program or program element. The format of a music program might simply include two segments, i.e. intros, and recorded music, each segment with its specific format. The format of a behaviour change program will include a variety of program segments and elements, including listener and subject matter specialist interviews, phone-ins, quizzes, field reports, phone surveys, mini-dramas and motivational features, etc.
TIP: Listeners usually like the predictability and comfort that a carefully-followed program format gives to a program. Over time, however, it is appropriate to review a program’s format, and question whether the program might serve listeners better with some changes to that format. But don’t change formats without good reasons!
- Program frequency – The rate at which new episodes of a program are broadcast. Frequency is usually daily, weekly or monthly.
- Technical frequency – The numbered place on the radio spectrum that a radio station is licensed to use for the transmission of its programs. The frequency can be on the AM, FM or Short Wave parts of the spectrum.
TIP: Regularly telling your listeners your station’s frequency helps them to know how to tune in to your station.
Headphones (cans) – Devices placed over the ears that provide the user (and only the user) with the sound being picked up by microphones.
TIP: Headphones provide a way for someone in the control room to give guidance to a host or interviewer, without bothering or alerting the interviewee.
Her Voice on Air – Her Voice on Air is a segment that FRI has developed that lasts ten minutes and can fit into any broadcast of any type of radio program. Her Voice on Air gathers opinions, experiences, concerns, and advice regarding the realities of women and shares them on the air. The segment aims to give women more airtime and better access to essential information to improve their means and rights. The goal is to change the attitudes of both women and men to improve gender equality. Women can hear similarities and differences they have with other women, while men hear points of view they do not necessarily hear otherwise.
Hit the post – Often used by broadcasters to describe talking up to the point when the lyrics of a song begins without clashing with the beginning of the vocals.
Hoax (noun) – An act intended to trick someone into believing something false.
Host – The person who presents a radio program to the listeners. Hosts respect and understand their listeners. They speak the broadcast language clearly. They are skilled interviewers. They convey a tone that listeners find attractive and positive. They serve their listeners by presenting the most useful and interesting information and entertainment possible related to the program’s objectives. The host is also often the producer.
I.D. – A station’s legal identification, usually given at the top of the hour.
Inclusion (see also “Diversity”) – Accepting, respecting, and embracing diversity by making sure that everybody feels welcome and is able to contribute to the same extent.
TIP: When trying to reflect more inclusion in your radio programs, take extra steps to make sure that people with characteristics that are discriminated against or marginalized feel welcome and that you want and value their input. This will make their contribution to your program more open and engaging!
Information – The verbal content of newscasts and other radio programs.
TIP: The good reputation of a radio station, a program, or a broadcaster depends on serving its listeners with reliable, timely, important information related to their needs and interests. Information should be based on facts. However your radio station should also give air to a range of opinions on matters of importance.
Intersectionality – Is the idea that systems of oppression intersect and affect the experiences of people based on their multiple, interconnected identities and realities. It is important to recognize that people experience mutually reinforcing and compounded barriers to equality related to gender, race, ethnicity, age, ability, language, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and other factors.
Interview – A guided conversation between an interviewer, who controls the direction of the interview and asks the questions, and an interviewee, who has information of interest to listeners and is invited to answer the questions.
TIP: When an interviewee is inexperienced and uncomfortable voicing their information, a good interviewer will make them comfortable and will encourage them to speak. When an interviewee is in a position of power and/or trust, and who wants to manipulate the interview for their own purposes, a good interviewer will strive to keep them on track and provide the information that listeners need and want. In all cases, the interviewer ensures that complex or unintelligible terms and ideas are explained.
Main kinds of interviews:
- Accountability interview – The interviewer asks questions that reflect the concerns of their listeners. The interviewee, often a person in a position of authority, either answers the questions or avoids them.
- TIP: If the interviewee does not answer the questions substantially, the interviewer should ask follow-up questions that underline the need for the interviewee to be accountable.
- Storytelling interview – The interviewer prompts and encourages the interviewee to tell their story in a compelling way.
- Information interview – The interviewer prompts the interviewee to provide detailed information about an issue of importance to listeners.
TIP: Many interviewers will combine questions that prompts the interviewee to be accountable, tell stories and share information. You can combine these or focus on one at a time depending on the objectives of the interview and overall episode.
Interviewee – A person who possesses information or opinions that the program host/producer considers might be useful for listeners to hear through an interview.
Interviewer – A person skilled at guiding the course of an interview and drawing out important information from interviewees for the benefit of listeners.
Intro – The beginning words of a radio program episode, usually spoken by the program host. The intro is intended to draw listeners in by revealing highlights of the content of that episode. Some program intros are fully scripted. In most cases, however, the host improvises the intro based on some written notes. Often a segment will have its own intro.
TIP: The program intro can also prompt listeners to prepare for participatory elements of the episode, such as a phone-in, or a poll.
Item (or piece) – Any bit of content that has been produced for a radio program, e.g.: a single news item within the newscast; a single interview within a program element.
Issue – A matter of concern to a community and your listeners. It may be related to a deeper concern, such as climate change, pollution, corruption or gender inequality.
Jingle – A brief combination of words (often in rhyme) and music that provide listeners with a simple and enjoyable way to remember important information, such as the distance to space plants, or the personal steps listeners can take to help stop an epidemic.
Journalist – A person who creates program material based on journalistic standards.
Journalism – The activity of producing news reports and other program material based on journalistic standards.
Journalistic Standards – The basic rules a journalist must follow to produce high quality journalistic programming. Farm Radio International promotes the following journalistic standards for rural radio journalists.
- Fairness and balance: My stories and programs are fair and balanced. I present a range of opinions and views, and I respect the right of my listeners to hear all sides of a story.
- Accuracy: The information I broadcast is factual, based on research. I present all available relevant facts, and I distinguish opinion or viewpoint from facts.
- Integrity: I act with personal integrity and do not take a position on issues. If I have any personal stake in an issue, I disclose it on air. And if my radio station has a position on an issue, I disclose that on air too.
- Respect: I respect the listeners who live and work here, often under challenging and difficult circumstances. I respect the diversity of my audience and show no bias based on gender, race, religion, colour, culture, or belief. I treat all guests and contributors with respect.
Level – The volume level of a broadcast.
List – A number of connected items or names, written down.
TIP: A written list of questions can remind a distracted program host of all the important questions they want to ask an interviewee. A list of names can also help the host thank everyone who helped make the program – without forgetting anyone! A list of steps can help a listener understand what they must do to implement a new task or behaviour.
Listener – A person who listens to a radio program. Collectively, the listeners form the audience for the radio program.
TIP: While some people listen to specific radio programs in a group, most radio listening is done by people alone. It is important for the program host to speak as if to a single person who is a member of the target audience.
Live broadcast – A program that is broadcast at same time that it is produced. The process is also called “live to air”. Most daily programs are live broadcasts, even though they may contain some pre-recorded items. Phone-in programs of necessity are live broadcasts. Special event broadcasts such as sports matches, concerts, and political speeches are also live broadcasts.
TIP:While a pre-recorded program can be more polished and is less risky to produce, a live broadcast gives listeners an appealing sense of immediacy and importance.
Loud speaker (public address system) – A device that boosts a program sound to make it more audible, especially for a large live audience.
Manager – The official who represents the owners or controllers of a radio station and who supervises the program staff, including producers and hosts. The supervisory tasks of the manager includes:
- clarifying and communicating the purpose of the radio station to staff.
- working with staff to clarify the purpose of each radio program.
- monitoring programming to ensure annual objectives are being met.
- working with staff to identify the resources (staff, equipment, studio time, field travel allowance, etc.) required for each program, and then provide those resources.
- supporting staff in their work. Support includes providing feedback – positive, constructive and negative, providing training, defending staff from inappropriate criticism, etc.
- evaluating the performance of staff and programs annually, and set new annual objectives for the continuous improvement of the performance of both staff and programs.
Microphone (mic, pronounced like “Mike”)– An electronic device that picks up sound waves and converts them into electrical signals. Those signals are fed into a console to become part of a radio program. They can also be fed into an amplifier and a loudspeaker so that nearby people can hear the sound. Today, most mics used by broadcasters outside the studio are built into their mobile phones or other recording devices. In a studio there are mics for specific purposes, such as:
- Shotgun mic – It is aimed at the speaker, who might be far from the interviewer, in order to pick up the speaker’s words clearly.
- Condenser mic – used in the studio to pick up vocals and instruments where the sound source is not very loud
- Dynamic mic – used on stage and in noisy situations
- Omni (omnidirectional) mic – used to pick up a variety of sound sources at the same time
- Directional (cardioid) mic – used to pick up a specific sound source, especially where there are other sound sources nearby
- Lavalier mic – a tiny mic that is clipped to the speaker’s clothing near their mouth to ensure a clear pickup of their voice. The signal is then sent by wire or electronically to the console.
Mini-doc (poc- or pocket-doc) – A recorded and mixed program element that uses clips and script and wild sound to tell a story about a person doing something for a reason. It is a shorter version of a documentary, but often does not have a particular perspective.
Mini-Drama (skit) – A short, one-scene fictional story using actors (see drama). It is used to prompt a discussion of an issue. It can be a single episode or it can be a serial mini-drama with many episodes.
TIP: Even a radio station with very limited resources can produce a mini-drama. All you need is two talented people who can create and voice a dialogue. It could, for example, be a simulated phone call between a mother and a daughter talking about why their grand-daughter is afraid to walk to school. A mini-drama can trigger a wider discussion of the issue on air.
Miscue (noun) – When one audio element begins too soon and two audio sources play at the same time.
Mix – A piece that includes a range of program material that has been carefully combined.
Mixing – the process of combining audio inputs such as clips, wild sound and music into a packaged piece such as a news report or a documentary.
TIP: While mixing takes longer than simply putting an interview on air, it provides the listener with a concentrated, focused, appealing range of sounds and words on a subject.
Monologue – A verbal presentation by a single person, usually on a single topic.
TIP: Monologues can be a useful way to convey information, especially if the speaker is interesting and has an attractive and clear voice. However long monologues can bore listeners because of the lack of variety of sounds. Use them sparingly.
Music – A sequence of sounds generated by voice, musical instruments or electronic synthesizers.
- full musical pieces – Some programs are entirely made up of musical selections. Complete musical pieces can also be used in magazine programs for cultural or political expression, and to change the pace.
- brief musical clips – snippets of musical pieces that are used in talk programs to provide separation and pause between two dense talk pieces.
TIP: Recorded music, either full pieces or brief clips, provide an inexpensive way to make a talk program more aurally interesting.
Music Director – The person at a radio station responsible for interacting with record company representatives, auditioning new music, and making decisions in conjunction with the program director, about which songs get airplay, how much and when. The music director devises rotations for songs and selects the daily music.
Myth (noun) –
- a widely held but false belief or idea.
- a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and often involving supernatural beings or events. A traditional story might be partly factual and partly made-up.
Narrative – A spoken account of connected events, either scripted or unscripted. A story is a well-used form of narrative.
- A person who narrates something.
- A person who delivers a commentary accompanying a movie, broadcast, piece of music, etc.
News – New factual information about a person, event or occurrence that has significant interest for your listeners.
News Bulletin – A brief announcement about a very recent development in an issue of immediate and vital interest to listeners. The bulletin is usually inserted live into whatever program is currently on air. The bulletin usually promises that more details will be provided in the next scheduled newscast.
Newscast – A collection of news reports that are broadcast at a specific time, usually at the beginning of the hour. A host provides continuity such as intros and extros between items.
News report – A single item about a news event, usually including narrative by a reporter and a recorded clip from a person who was close to the event or was impacted by it.
Opinion – A view, belief or a judgement held by an individual about a person, event or issue, and which may or may not be factual.
Outro – (see Extro)
Pacing – The overall rhythm and flow of a program, created to provide a satisfying listening experience. Good pacing mixes long items and short items, serious items and lighter items, music and spoken word. It also uses content with different formats so that the listener is never bored.
Panel discussion – A discussion about a specific topic by a group of people who have been selected to reflect a range of opinions. The discussion is managed by a moderator who keeps the group focused on the topic and who ensures that all participants contribute.
Participatory Radio Campaign – A program type designed by Farm Radio International. It is produced and broadcast by a radio station that follows a specific, dramatic, time-bound, four-stage process that involves farmers in understanding, considering, deciding upon, and implementing an improved farming practice
- Phase 1 - Understanding - Listeners learn about the subject of the PRC, (the farming problem and the proposed improvement) learn about the PRC series, and are encouraged to participate.
- Phase 2- Discussion - Listeners examine how this improvement has worked in other places and what the benefits and challenges might be for them, the barriers and facilitators are discussed.
- Phase 3 - Public decision - Listeners are encouraged to make a public decision to adopt the improvement (or at least to make an informed decision not to do so).
- Phase 4 - Implementation and celebration - Listeners are provided with detailed instructions on implementation as well as how to overcome challenges as they implement the proposed improvement.
- an act of staging or presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment.TIP: Performances organized by other organizations can provide attractive and inexpensive programming for your radio station. You will need to arrange to record the event and also deal with any rights and payments.
- the action or process of carrying out or accomplishing an action, task, or function.TIP: Performance should reflect the job standards for that specific job. Radio hosts and producers provide an important service to listeners. They should have a performance review every year to help them continually improve their service, with the support of the program manager.
Phone-in – A program or program segment that enables listeners to give their opinion or ask questions about a matter of importance, by phoning the station and going live to air. Listener phone calls are often triggered by an interview between the program host and an interviewee with special expertise or experience with the topic. Listeners learn of the range of opinion about an important issue or get answers to their questions.
TIP: Phone-ins can be dominated by male callers because men own most phones. One way to balance calls is to provide a separate phone-in number for women. Phone-ins can also be dominated by a few persistent callers. This can defeat the purpose of a phone-in, which aims to broadcast a range of opinions and questions. Control this by gently telling regular callers they can only go on air once a month, for example.
Phone-out (also known as a “phoner”) – A phone interview by the host with a person of interest who is not in the studio, but is accessible by phone.
TIP: A phone-out is a good way to get an interview with someone of importance to your listeners, but who is too busy or too far away to come to the studio.
Piece (item) – Any bit of produced radio material.
Playlist – A list of recorded songs or pieces of music chosen to be broadcast on a radio show or by a particular radio station.
Play-by-play announcer – The sports announcer covering a sports event broadcast who is responsible for describing the plays as they happen.
Podcast – An audio production, often much like a radio program, that is distributed over the internet, not by radio transmission. A podcast is heard on computers, tablets and mobile phones. Podcasts are often produced by individuals or by small groups of people with a special interest. Many podcasts are part of continuing series.
Point of view – The position from which something is observed; a particular way of considering a matter. Point of view news reports can be fair and factual. They also reveal the personal and physical position from which a reporter sees what is going on. On the other hand, point of view commentaries usually reflect the opinion of the speaker, and might not be factual.
Poll – A sampling or collection of opinions from listeners, often about a matter of importance to them. The poll involves asking listeners carefully thought-out questions, then consolidating the results and broadcasting them. Polls can be done by telephone, social media, text or mail.
TIP: Poll results can be used to inform people in power of the needs and desires of their constituents. Polls can also give you, the broadcaster, a sense of how important, or unimportant, an issue is, so that you can adjust your programming accordingly.
Preemption – The replacement of a regular program with a different program, usually one dealing with an important timely issue – or a football game!
Presenter (noun) – A person who introduces a program, a program host.
Prime Time – The regularly occurring block of air time during which the radio audience is the largest.
Producer – The person who plans, oversees production, and evaluates a program. The producer is responsible for ensuring that listeners get the program outlined in the program’s purpose statement. The producer is also often the program host.
Program content – All of the information transmitted in a program, including talk, music and other sounds.
Program archive – The searchable written or digital record of the contents of every program produced by a radio station. It includes themes and topics covered, people interviewed, etc. The archive sometimes also includes a complete audio recording of the program.
TIP: A program archive requires a bit of extra work at the end of each program to keep it up-to-date, but the archive will provide you with a rich source of material for future programs.
Program design – A statement that outlines the purpose, objectives, format, intended audience, and length/frequency/time of a radio program.
Program elements – The produced pieces, each with a different format, that are placed in each segment of a radio program. Program elements include: intros, interviews, music, bridges, debates, town halls, mini-docs, quizzes, jingles, mini-dramas, monologues, news bulletins, panel discussions, phone-ins, polls, etc. Program elements are crafted from the basic aural resources available for radio use such as talk, singing, other vocal sounds, music, wild sound, (environmental sounds) sound effects, computer-generated sounds, and silence.
Scheduling – The process of establishing the broadcast schedule and frequency of programs. For example, newscasts and weather reports are broadcast daily, or many times a day. A program meant to reinforce positive attitudes among women farmers should be run every weekday. An after-school program for young people should be run daily, Monday to Friday after school. A religious service might be run weekly.
TIP: The frequency should reflect the needs of the listeners. It can be enhanced by running a repeat broadcast at a different time of day, or on a different day of the week, to capture more of the intended listeners.
1. A regular program has new episodes broadcast daily or weekly or at another regular interval and it continues over a long period of time. Regular programs are the mainstay of a radio station’s program schedule.
TIP: A regular program may contain an episode of a limited series. For example, a regular current affairs program may include a special series on climate change.
2. A limited series consists of more than one episode, and covers a specific topic or issue or content over a limited period of time. Examples include: a participatory radio campaign, a series about a forthcoming sport event, a series about a current health issue.
3. A one-off special is a single episode that deals with a single topic, issue or event. Examples include: a sports event, a political debate before an election, etc.
Program length – The duration, usually expressed in minutes, of a radio program episode. Newscasts and weather reports are usually short, between two and five minutes, and provide only the most important new information. They are short to ensure that listeners can focus on the information provided, since that information might have an immediate impact on their work or their lives. On the other hand, a phone-in program might need sixty minutes to capture a wide range of listeners’ comments on the phone-in’s subject.
Program objectives – The specific, measurable results that the program staff should strive to accomplish each year to improve the achievement of the program’s overall purpose. Examples might include:
- increasing the percentage of women who get to air in call-in programs from 30% to 50%
- broadcast the farming program from a market at least once a month
- make sure every program promotes the next program in the schedule.
Program purpose statement (purpose) – A brief, memorable written sentence or short paragraph that identifies what kind of information and entertainment the program will regularly provide, and how that will serve a specific audience and help meet the station’s overall purpose.
Program schedule (Sked) – The sequential arrangement of programs broadcast by a radio station throughout each day of the week to meet the station’s purpose. The sked provides listeners with the predictability that programs they want to hear will be on air at specific times on specific days. (see frequency - program)
Program themes – The major subject matter covered in a program or program series. Themes include topics such as food security, climate change adaptation, poverty reduction, gender equality/inequality, environmental protection, financial literacy, health services, farming practices, etc.
Program time – The time of day and day of week when a program is broadcast.
TIP: Programs should be broadcast at times convenient for their intended listeners.
Promo (trailer, or trail) – A brief message that encourages listeners to listen to an upcoming program.
Public Service Announcement (PSA) – A brief message, usually provided by a government or a non-profit organization, intended to provide listeners with information that could improve their lives or livelihoods. PSA’s that are important to your listeners should be repeated during station breaks throughout the program schedule.
Queue – A number of cuts or commercials that are waiting to be broadcast in a specific, predetermined manner as in a station break.
Quiz – A competition where a host asks guests to answer questions about a subject of importance to listeners.
TIP: A quiz can help convey the complexity of an important subject, while also providing some comic relief.
- A form of wireless electronic audio communication between a broadcaster, which transmits a message, and a listener who receives the message aurally. The broadcaster sends the message over a transmitter and antenna and the listener receives the message over an AM, FM or Shortwave receiver. Radio messages can also be distributed on the internet.
- An electronic device, usually used by an individual or a group, that receives radio signals and converts them into speech and music for listeners to hear.
- A radio station.
Radio Marketplace – A weekly 10-30 minute radio program or segment that FRI has developed to improve the value that small-scale farmers get for their harvest. It provides market prices, identifies market opportunities, trends and challenges and strengthens the capability of farmers to negotiate strongly and fairly with buyers.
It can include a combination of these elements:
- Report of market prices for target crops at the most important markets
- Interview with one or more market players (farmers, vendors, processors, transporters, policy makers) on a specific market-related issue
- Opportunity for farmers to phone in or text in their concerns
- One clear, straightforward guideline for farmers on how to improve their return in light of the evidence provided in the episode.
*See list of potential Radio Marketplace topics in the BH2 on How to Create Effective Programs about Markets and Marketing
Radio program – A broadcast that has a specific design, including a specific purpose, audience and format.
Radio spectrum – The part of the world’s electromagnetic spectrum that governments have set aside for the use of licensed radio and TV stations.
Radio station – An organization, usually with a government license, that has the facilities and resources to broadcast a regular schedule of programs to an audience over an assigned frequency. There are many kinds of radio stations, including: public or state radio stations, private or commercial stations, community and institutional stations, and religious stations.
Radio studio – An all-weather space, usually in a radio station, where elements of a radio program are recorded, edited, and mixed. The complete program is then sent to the transmitter and antenna to be broadcast to the audience.
Ramp – The instrumental beginning of a song leading up to the vocals, also known as the intro.
Research – Investigative activity used to examine a story idea or hunch, to: First, find out if the story idea is worth pursuing for the benefit of your program’s listeners; Second, determine what further research is required to find the material needed to create a program segment. Third: do the investigative activity.
TIP: When doing research online or elsewhere be aware that there is no guarantee that the information you find is factual. This is why you must be vigilant in your research.
Record (verb) – Make an electronic copy of a program or of program material.
Request Program – A music program where the selections are requested by the listeners
TIP: Listeners feel that the radio station is theirs when they are able to influence programming, such as music. However, be careful that requests do not come from a small handful of people! You might have to tell frequent callers that they can only make a request infrequently.
Remote – A program or program segment recorded and broadcast live from a site other than the radio station.
Repeat – The rebroadcast of a regular program episode at another time and day.
TIP: Repeats expose your program to different people and can broaden your overall audience.
Report – A written and recorded account of a news event or occurrence. A report will often contain clips and/or wild sound. Reports are found in newscasts, but can also be inserted into other kinds of programs.
Reporter – A broadcaster who adheres to journalistic standards and who prepares news reports, mainly for newscasts, but also to be incorporated into other programs. (See journalistic standards)
Rumour – A story that is unconfirmed or of doubtful origins that is circulating in your area.
TIP: Rumours can do serious damage to your community. Make it a priority to correct them on air if you have shared them unintentionally.
Runsheet (lineup, running order, run of show) – An organized sequential list briefly identifying the specific contents of every segment of a radio program. The list should include:
- names and contact information of of people to be interviewed,
- the themes and subjects discussed, and
- the start and end time of each item.
It can also include the name of any musical selections played along with start and end times. The runsheet is used three times:
- While a program episode is being prepared, to identify the research and other work required to generate the contents for each program segment, and then to record it.
- During production or broadcast, to provide the producer/host with the order to be followed, and
- After broadcast, to provide an archival record that will be useful in the planning of future episodes, both to ensure fairness and balance and to capture the names and coordinates of good interviewees!
Satire – The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, contrast and ridicule to expose and criticize people's vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings related to their exercise of political power (or other kinds of power).
TIP: Satire is a powerful form of comment and criticism. Use it sparingly and use it to shine a light on an idea, policy or person that could hurt the interests of your listeners.
Script – A planned, written document that includes all the words spoken in part of a radio program. Most talk during a radio program is unscripted. A script is valuable if the subject is complicated or controversial and careful language is required. Scripts are essential for newscasts and reports and for commentaries on political or controversial topics. Scripts are also essential for performers in complex dramas and comedies.
Script and Clip – A program element that incorporates pre-recorded clips with scripted connecting material usually voiced by the program host.
Segue (pronounced seg–way) – An uninterrupted transition from one program segment to another.
Segment – One of the connected parts that together make up a radio program. Each segment has a specific purpose to help the radio program meet its overall purpose. Some of the main program segments are: sigtune, intro, first information segment, bridge, second information segment, promos and extro. Each segment uses one or more program elements, such as interviews, phone-ins, music, promos.
Series – A set of radio programs on a specific theme. The main kinds of series are:
- Continuing series – A radio program that is aired at the same time every day or week, with no end date
- Limited series – A fixed number of radio programs, usually about an important timely issue.
Sideline Reporter – A sports reporter who roams the sidelines of sporting events. The sideline reporter conducts interviews with coaches, players and fans during breaks in the action as well as providing injury updates.
Sign Off – Official statement to end the day's broadcasts. It contains the name of the station/company, the station’s frequency (call numbers) and sometimes the national anthem, etc.
Sign On – Official introduction of the station played before the station starts its daily broadcasts. It contains the name of the station / company, the station's frequency (call numbers), and sometimes the national anthem, etc.
Signpost – A brief announcement by the program host that tells listeners what has happened so far in the program, and what is coming up.
TIP: Signposting is useful in a long, complex program with many different segments, to help listeners understand where the program is going.
Signal – Any sound deliberately broadcast by a radio transmitter and heard by listeners.
Sigtune (signature tune, theme music) – the opening music that alerts the listener that a specific program is about to begin. It sets the stage and creates the mood (e.g. excitement, seriousness, playfulness, etc.) and encourages the listener to get ready to listen attentively. It can be a simple attractive tune, or it can be a song with words that convey a message related to the purpose of the program.
Software – Digital files you can obtain for your computer or control board that will help you make programs more efficiently and effectively. Software is available for editing program material, archiving programs, polling listeners, delaying broadcast and many other functions.
Sonic – Related to sound or sound waves
Sound bite – A brief bit of talk or music or other sound. The bite provides listeners with ear-catching, attractive information and/or emotional content about the featured topic. A sound bite also provides variety in the program’s pacing.
Sound check – The testing of audio equipment, including mics, loudspeakers, console, connecting cables, etc. before a program is recorded or broadcast live, to ensure that everything is working.
TIP: Doing a thorough sound check, especially when producing a remote broadcast, helps avoid having to fix a sound problem once the program has begun!
Sound effect – Bits of audio inserted into a program, usually a drama or comedy, that simulate natural sounds and that flesh out the physical setting and the actions in the program. Dramas make the most use of sound effects, but they can also enrich program intros, etc. Sound effects can be:
- generic (e.g. the sound of ocean waves, the sound of a door closing, the sound of an audience applauding)
- specific (e.g. the sound of a specific animal or a specific engine) or
- synthetic (sounds generated by a computer).
Soundmark – A specific, brief sound, usually musical or electronic, used to announce the beginning of a specific program segment. It helps focus the attention of listeners on a segment they are interested in.
Special – A single radio program or brief series devoted to one important, timely topic or special event. It usually replaces (preempts) a regular radio program.
Splice (verb) – Connect together two bits of radio program material without any fancy fades.
Sponsored program – A program paid for in part or entirely by a government, business or agency. The program content may or may not be influenced by the sponsor.
Spot commercials (Spot, Advert) – Brief paid messages inserted into a program promoting a product or service provided by a person, corporation or agency. The advertiser usually has no influence over program content.
Stager – A musical effect that establishes and holds a mood. It is used for dramatic emphasis.
Station breaks – Brief parts of a station’s program schedule, usually one or two minutes long, usually scheduled between regular programs. In a station break, the station’s name, purpose, call sign or letters, frequency, feedback address, etc. are promoted. PSA’s are also run in station breaks.
Station ID – A short audio clip inserted throughout the station’s programming. It identifies the station and contains the station name and call sign. It can also feature the official jingle of the station as its background.
Sting (stingers) – An audio sound, either musical or electronic, injected into a program to provide emphasis or to maintain a mood.
TIP: Stings provide variety in the sound of a program and are an important part of pacing.
Story – A narrative which follows a three-step dramatic arc, or path, that feeds the listeners’ curiosity. The story can be fictional or factual. The steps are as follows:
- Introduction of the main character, (who listeners find appealing, but not perfect) and the main issue, with contextual information to build interest about both.
- A dramatic challenge (or confrontation) between the main character and the main issue, leading to a climax of action and/or emotion.
- The resolution of the main issue by the main character. The resolution can be either positive or negative, happy or sad.
TIP: Listeners are drawn to stories because they enjoy following the emotional ups and downs of other people’s lives. Stories are a fundamental tool in radio production and should be used as often as possible, to help introduce listeners to important issues.
Streaming – The act of turning audio into digital data and transmitting it over the Internet.
Stream jockey – What a DJ is called on satellite radio or on a webcast.
Subject Matter Specialist (also “resource person”) – Someone with broad and deep knowledge and/or experience about a specific topic or issue, and who is able to communicate it clearly to listeners.
TIP: A subject matter specialist does not need to be a person with an academic degree or professional credentials. It can also, for example, be a farmer who has observed crop and harvest changes over a lifetime, or an active and long-time member of a women’s rights or women-led community group or organization.
Tape – Magnetically-coated ribbon that used to be used to record, store and reproduce sound. It was used in open reels and in cartridges and cassettes. It has largely been replaced by digital recording into a computer or mobile phone.
Tape Talk – A program element in which the host asks a reporter to answer questions that have been planned in advance between them. The reporter provides live verbal answers (the “talk”) as well as recorded clips (the “tape”).
TIP: The clips in a tape talk flesh out the verbal answers by providing first-hand accounts and emotions.
Teaser (Sound bite) – A brief clip of attractive recorded material played to “tease” and attract your listeners by giving them a taste of something interesting that is coming.
Technician – A radio technician is responsible for the design, installation, and maintenance of broadcasting systems and equipment for a radio station. Duties include selecting, maintaining the equipment, ensuring that equipment is in working order to prevent any technical issues, and quickly responding to any unforeseen problems that arise during the broadcast. Radio technicians are increasingly involved in solving problems with digital software.
Tone – The overall mood of a program. A program can be light or heavy, formal or friendly, relaxed or tense.
Town Hall – A program component or element that includes a host, designated speakers and audience members who can ask questions and provide opinions. Town Halls are often used for the discussion of local political issues and are produced as remote broadcasts.
Training – An activity, usually organized by the radio station, aimed at improving the knowledge and skills of employees related to the requirements of their job.
TIP: A radio station should have an annual plan that identifies training priorities for the year and for future years, based on the need to continuously improve the quality of the station’s service to its listeners. Many training activities are available on line at little cost. Staff need dedicated time to take the training. Program Managers need to follow up with staff to ensure training is done and is proving to be useful.
Transmitter – Electronic equipment, usually housed in or near the radio station building, that takes the program signal from the control room, and turns it into a wave that the antenna broadcasts across the listening area.
Vocal – Relating to the human voice, often used for non-word sounds such as sobs, shouts, etc.
VOICES Standards – Standards for broadcasters of rural African radio programs developed by Farm Radio International, to help partner stations achieve increasingly high standards of service to their listeners. They are:
- V – Our programs VALUE rural Africans: women, men, youth and children.
- O – Our programs provide rural Africans with the OPPORTUNITY to speak and be heard, individually and in numbers, on matters of importance to them.
- I – Our programs provide rural Africans with the INFORMATION they need in a clear way, from the best sources (farmers, or other subject matter specialists, etc.) and at the time of the year when they need it most.
- C – Our programs are CONVENIENT AND CONSISTENT. We broadcast our programs when listeners are available to listen. Programs are broadcast regularly and reliably. After broadcast, important program material is made available through other media—for example, by phone, through social media, etc.
- E – Our programs are ENGAGING. We produce programs that present personalities, formats, content, and features that are fresh, entertaining, easy to remember, and enjoyable for our listeners.
- S – Our programs SUPPORT rural Africans as they test, choose, and implement practices they consider beneficial for their families and communities.
- Speaking during a program while another sound, usually music or environmental sound, is playing in the background.
- Providing interpretation into the broadcast language while a different language is being spoken in the background.
Volume (gain) – Quantity or power of sound; degree of loudness.
Vox Pop (Streeters) – A program element involving a tightly edited assembly of comments by a range of people on a topic of interest.
TIP: A vox pop is a great way to build interest about an issue among your listeners by revealing the depth and breadth of opinion that people have about it.
Weather Reporting (weather forecast) – Broadcasts about local daily weather, or for local and national weather service warnings and watches.
Wild sound (“nat” or natural sound) – Audio recorded in the field. It is used in news reports, documentaries, and other program elements. Wild sound includes but is not limited to, traffic, wind, rain, crowds, rivers, engines, markets, animals, and human physical activities such as working, running, etc.
TIP: Use wild sound to help listeners visualize the scene where action is taking place.
Women’s line – A phone line dedicated to receiving calls from women in a phone-in program.
TIP: Since most mobile phones are owned by men, a dedicated women’s line assures that at least half of the calls going to air can be from women.
Written by Doug Ward, with additional contributions from Dick Miller, Nora Young, David Mowbray, Bill Litwack and Patrick Mphaka as well as Isaac Mintah, Pascal Mwerula, Amidou Kabré, Yoro Sangaré and Sylvie Harrison.