Fundamentals of Radio Broadcasting: Programming the Station

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Every radio station must have a programming structure which is called the format. The format may also be called the sound and stations generally prefer to maintain a certain degree of consistency so that listeners will know what to expect. Highly structured stations will have a very rigid format, meaning that disk jockeys and announcers have little flexibility regarding what they say and what music they play. A loose format is one that allows the air personalities to exercise some creative expression in terms of their music and ad lib remarks. Programming is the most important aspect of radio station operation. The message that is communicated is, after all, the central reason for all of the technological talents and energies that go into sound transmission. In radio your choice is limited to the auditory stimulus. Your message can be in the form of speech or music. The task is simplified considerably for the station that selects music as its basic format, because there is so much available in recorded form. A station that selects a talk format must plan on maintaining a much larger staff and spending considerably more money for writers and announcers. Every station must have some talk, and most utilize some recorded music. The decisions regarding the amount of talk and the kind of music are made by the programming department.


The programming department is headed by the program director. He or she works closely with the manager, and perhaps the owners of the station, to effect a policy that would result in a fluid and balanced sound.

As noted in the organization chart in Section 1, the program director supervises the announcers and combo operators and usually has influence over the newscasters, although some station managers prefer to give the news department a high degree of autonomy. Being charged with maintaining the quality of the station's sound, the program director usually has the power to hire and fire personnel.

If you are preparing yourself for the job of program director, you should start right away. You need a broad background and extensive experience in all phases of broadcasting. You should be able to under stand, if not perform, all the jobs of the other staff members. You may not need a first class license, but you will need to understand what the engineer tells you about the equipment. You might need to help make decisions as to what equipment the station should purchase. And remember that the quality and performance of the equipment is going to have a significant effect on the sound of the station. You will have to know the capabilities of the equipment in order to develop effectively the sound that you want. You certainly would find it necessary to have had the experience of a combo operator so that you could direct and perform operations of the production studio and master control. If you were program director of a large station, your job would perhaps be mostly administrative and supervisory. But at smaller stations it is likely that you would be on the air and also do some production work. You would have to know something about the business aspects of the station, and you might be consulted in managerial decisions. As program director you would also be working closely with the sales manager. You would need to know about the marketability of the product for which you are responsible. You would need to understand ratings and how to interpret audience surveys. It may be that your job would depend upon your ability to make a respectable showing when the surveys are conducted.

You have to listen to other stations besides your own so that you are aware of trends and apprised of what the competition is doing. Even more than the announcers and combo operators, you must understand current tastes--not only in music, but in topics of interest. You are the one who would be responsible for establishing the tone of the station and consequently the type of audience that will be attracted to it.

In addition to getting people to listen to the station, you must also perform the logistical functions necessary to the station. It will be your job to schedule the announcers and combo operators and to deploy the personnel in the most efficient manner. For example, one disk jockey may be more effective in the morning than at night, and you will want to utilize her or his talents to the fullest. You may also want to avoid voice "blends" and try to separate voices that sound too much alike. Other logistical responsibilities include the scheduling of programs and spot announcements. You would have to feed information to the traffic director who would prepare the log each day and make any necessary changes or additions.

As program director you would also have to be well informed on the FCC's Rules and Regulations. You would have to understand the responsibilities of the broadcaster as described in Section 2. If you were scheduling a political debate you would have to be aware of the conditions contained in section 315 of the Communications Act. You would have to recognize that the FCC can and does levy fines against broadcasting stations for improper programming practices. Infractions such as obscenity and conducting lotteries on the air are, you will recall, violations of the penal code as well as FCC regulations. So the areas of responsibility assigned to the program director are extensive.

As program director you would decide not only the style of music and the format, but you would also select the personnel to effect it. You may choose to hire experienced air personalities and allow them to use their own judgment when they are working. One station that operates this way is KSFO in San Francisco. The disk jockeys pick their own music and present it in their own way, each with an individual style. The station is quite successful financially. It is promoted as an adult station and one that listeners can tune to all day without hearing the same musical selections repeated. This method works well, but requires highly paid personalities. If you are operating on a limited budget, you may not be able to afford it. You may also wish to maintain some control over the sound of the station so that there is consistency. One device that is commonly used is the "hot" clock (see Figure 1). This provides the disk jockey with a guide on what to play and what to say.

Sometimes programming is a function of necessity. The music is selected from the records available to the station; the style of presentation is determined by the talents and interests of the personnel. On other occasions you may be tempted to program to your own tastes and play the kind of music you personally like to hear. These methods are questionable and will succeed only if you are very lucky. There are two qualities you must have as program director: some knowledge in a variety of fields and a sense of what other people find interesting and entertaining. Only then will you be able to make choices. Subject matter and musical styles that are outside your frame of reference are not available to you as programming possibilities. The broader your base the greater selection you have. One word of caution, however: Remember that just because something is different does not mean it is good. You can put any kind of weird or abhorrent sound on the air and you will be able to find someone who likes it. You must rely upon your own judgment as well as the response you get from the audience.

Fig. 1 Hot clock indicates what type of record to play in each 5-minute segment.


Networks play a much less significant role in radio programming today than they used to. At one time radio stations relied very heavily upon the networks for program content, and the most popular stations were those that had network affiliations. This condition no longer prevails. Relatively few stations are affiliated with networks, and often the most popular stations are independent. Network offerings are almost entirely news and public affairs, and these are not the greatest attractions to large numbers of listeners.

Most people are familiar with the three major networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC. But there are smaller ones, such as the Mutual Broadcasting System, which also provide services to radio stations. It is important to know that a station may be affiliated with a network without being owned by it. No individual or corporation may own more than seven of any kind of broadcasting station. When we say that a radio station is an affiliate of NBC we mean that they are under an agreement to provide services for each other. NBC may actually own as many as seven AM and seven FM radio stations but may be feeding programs to several hundred affiliates. The network will give an exclusive franchise to just one station in a given area. There would not be two or more NBC stations competing against each other, for example. When a station be comes affiliated with a network, it agrees to make a certain amount of its air time available for the broadcasting of network programs. The time is sold to the network at a reduced rate. In other words, the station receives revenue for the air time, but not as much as it would receive from its own advertisers. The advantage to the station is that it obtains the prestige of having nationally prominent personalities present the news or other pro gram material. Network newscasts generally have more credibility than those produced by local newscasters.

The Network Affiliate

A station that becomes a network affiliate agrees to carry certain pro grams as a package, including the commercial announcements. This agreement is necessary because the network is obtaining its revenue from sponsors who purchase time with the understanding that their messages will be aired at certain times by a certain number of stations. The more affiliates a network has, the more extensive will be its coverage, and the more it will be able to charge for spot announcements. National network coverage is very expensive and is proportional to the size of the audience.

Some network programs are provided on an optional basis. The affiliate may carry them or not, as it chooses. In some cases, the network may allow the affiliate to "cut away" from the program long enough to insert its own commercial spot announcements.

The term network does not necessarily imply coast -to -coast cover- age, although we usually think of it that way. A network may consist of just a few stations in a given region, all broadcasting the same program.

Certain sporting events, for example, might be very popular in certain regions but would not warrant coast-to-coast coverage. At one time baseball received national coverage, but now even major league games are of interest only to fans in the immediate vicinity. Network programs originate from a particular location and are fed to affiliated stations by means of telephone lines. The network does not do the transmitting; that is done by each local station in its own area.

For the combo operator, network programming requires consider able skill and excellent timing. Network programs are fed to all affiliated stations simultaneously. The traffic director will schedule the times for each program, and this information will appear in the log. The operator must be able to plan ahead so that the local program will end in time for the start of the network program. A network newscast, for example, will begin precisely on the hour and the operator must be ready to throw the switch to bring it in within one or two seconds of the scheduled time. On some occasions the program may be tape-recorded for release at a later time, but more often the network program is broadcast live.


An independent station is one that is not affiliated with a network. It may utilize tapes or transcriptions produced by outside agencies, but for the most part its programming is generated through its own efforts. Most independent stations rely heavily upon recorded music; all -news stations need the support and resources of network facilities. Programming an independent station is challenging and creative. Among the vast number of possible choices available, those you make will depend on several factors.

Size of the Market

The number of people in your listening range is important, because it will determine how likely it is that you will be able to get an audience for the program offerings you select. In a large metropolitan area you would probably be able to draw a sufficient audience for almost any kind of programming you might choose. Foreign language programs, for example, would be possible in New York or Chicago, but perhaps not in a small Midwestern town.


If you are going into a multistation market, you will have to consider what kind of programming is being offered by the competition. If other stations are doing an effective job of reaching the major audience segments, you may choose to offer an alternative--for the minority whose tastes are different. Instead of playing the current popular hits, you could offer concert music or ethnic programs.

Regional Tastes

Some parts of the country have strong preferences for certain kinds of music. Recognize, of course, that these tastes are subject to change and that there are dangers in over-generalizing. Country and western music is probably more popular in the Southwestern states than on the East or West Coast. There are other types of music that may be associated with certain areas: Rocky Mountain music, hillbilly music, and sacred hymns are examples of music that are perhaps more acceptable in some regions than in others.

Resources of the Station

Your programming may be limited by your own resources. The low-budget station is not going to be able to do the elaborate programming that is possible for a large station with a well -paid staff. Personality disk jockeys who are themselves entertainers are able to command big salaries which you may not be able to pay. The same is true for writers and newscasters. Unless you have a large staff of highly professional people, you will probably choose to program more music and less talk.

Mode of Transmission

One of the most significant determinants of programming is the mode of transmission. FM and AM have different characteristics and these differences are often reflected in the programming of the station. Because of the dimension of stereo, FM lends itself to music better than AM. FM stations usually try to capitalize on this advantage by offering more music and less talk. Let us take a more detailed look at the differences between these two types of transmission.


AM and FM are two different modes of transmission. FM produces clearer sounds than AM, but the waves do not travel as far. FM waves travel in straight lines and do not go over obstacles as well as AM waves.

Consequently an FM station, even one of extremely high power, will not cover as wide an area as an AM station of comparable power. If you have an FM set in your car, you may have noticed considerably more fading of the signal with it than occurs in AM. In fact there are times when one station may suddenly disappear altogether and another one take its place on the dial.

While more and more cars are being equipped with FM receivers, their performance is marginal in many areas, where mountains or atmospheric conditions impede reception. Also, FM receivers are adversely affected by automobile ignition systems; there often is considerable interference in the midst of heavy or congested traffic. These limitations in the reception of FM have a significant effect upon the financial condition, and consequently the programming, of a station. During commuting hours (sometimes called drive times) AM has a definite advantage over FM. Furthermore, these hours have become the most critical ones for sustaining a listening audience. When television became the dominant medium during the evening hours, radio had to find an audience at a different time of the day. The answer came in the form of car and portable radios. It is possible to carry the sound medium with you wherever you go, but so far television has not enjoyed this degree of portability. Commuting time became a heavy radio -listening period. Most AM stations regard the hours of 6 to 9 A.M. and 4 to 6 P.M. as their "prime time" and charge more for their spot announcements during these periods. FM listening is still heaviest in the home during the late morning and afternoon hours. There is often a significant rise after 3 P.M., when school lets out.

With the exception of drive time, FM probably has more listeners than AM. But remember that the FM band is much wider. In any given locale, there are perhaps twice as many FM stations as AM. In a large metropolitan area a listening audience may be divided among fifteen AM stations but as many as thirty or forty FM stations. Generally an AM station, because of drive time and broader area of coverage, will have more listeners than an FM station. In order to compete, the FM station must not only charge less for each spot announcement, but must carry fewer commercials in order to retain its audience. In prime time an AM station may run from fifteen to eighteen commercial announcements per hour. Most FM stations choose not to have more than six or eight spots in the same time period. Often the FM station will run announcements in clusters (double or triple spotting) in order to allow for a continuous flow of uninterrupted music.

Programming is also affected by the physical characteristics of the two media. During commuting hours the bulk of the AM listeners are in cars on their way to work, so those stations are inclined to offer news and weather and traffic reports. While some FM stations may also do this, they recognize their limitations and tend to rely on what they can do best: offer stereo music. Some people in broadcasting believe that AM radio will someday consist entirely of talk and FM entirely of music. An extreme position, but the point of view emphasizes the strengths of each of the media. The sound quality of music transmitted in FM stereo is outstanding, and it is not likely that AM will ever be able to compete with it.


The target audience consists of the people you would like to acquire as listeners. You want them not only to listen, but also to buy the products of your sponsors. So the size of the audience is important, but their purchasing power is even more important. Generally speaking, the largest audience segment is the teenage audience, but their purchasing power is not as great as that of older people. You can reach the teenage audience (sometimes referred to as the "bubble gum set") by playing the current popular hits. This kind of station is often called a "top 40" station, in reference to their choice of musical fare. Top 40 stations usually have the highest ratings in terms of numbers of listeners, but they are not necessarily the most profitable. A station that is able to draw an older, more mature audience may be more effective in advertising higher-priced, quality merchandise, and consequently be able to charge more for spot announcements. There are advantages, however, in having high ratings. Advertisers are impressed by numbers of listeners regardless of the age bracket, and the station may be able to sell more spots-at least for products that appeal to teenagers.

Radio broadcasting is a highly competitive business. In a large metropolitan area you could be up against forty or fifty other stations. All of them are trying to attract and hold a particular audience segment, and all of them will be attempting to do it in their own unique way. Some stations may have a few loyal fans who listen to one station exclusively, but more frequently listeners will switch from one station to another.

There may be five or six stations that the average listener will tune to on a regular basis-about the same number as there are push buttons on a car radio. Most stations will select a particular type of music to form their basic sound. They may mix and blend a number of different types, but they will usually attempt to maintain a certain degree of consistency.


The classification of musical types may be an injustice to the arts, but radio broadcasters find it useful to establish terminology to describe what they are doing. The terms listed here are the ones commonly used in the industry and are by no means inclusive of all musical types. Some musical selections defy classification, and others may fall into more than one category.

Top 40

This is the term commonly used to refer to the current, popular hits. The style of music will change depending upon what hap pens to be in vogue. It consists of the selections that are most popular in terms of requests and record sales. Top 40 stations are perhaps the most common because they appeal to the largest audience segment.

Easy Listening

This is light concert and popular music that is melodious and harmonious. The music is mostly instrumental rather than vocal. It is the type that is often called "background" or "mood" music and is frequently heard in supermarkets and office buildings.


This stands for "middle of the road." It is similar to "easy listening" but contains some hits and more vocals. Usually it is up-tempo with a mild rock beat and some discotheque rhythms.


This is current music and is relatively avant-garde and experimental. It is the type of music that is often played at rock concerts.

Progressive music is sometimes called "AOR," standing for album -ori ented rock. It is designed to be played very loud and of ten utilizes special sound effects created by electronic instruments.


Sometimes this type of music is referred to by its initials, C-W. It is music in the tradition of The Grand Ole Opry. There is a heavy emphasis on the steel guitar and vocals in a southwestern accent. Hillbilly music might be regarded as a subheading under country and western.


This is a broad category that can include contemporary mu sic as well as traditional. It is music of the people, often ballads and story-telling songs. The emphasis in folk music is generally upon the words and the message conveyed in the lyrics.


The term "classical music" usually refers to serious music that has survived for several generations. It is the type of music that is played by symphony orchestras in concert halls. It also includes chamber music and opera.


This is a type of music that defies description. We think of it as that which comes from the American tradition, and more specifically, the southern black culture. It is highly rhythmical and often free -form music. It is frequently improvised and performed at a feeling level.


With the recent increase in specialization, there has been an influx of stations that appeal to various ethnic groups. This category includes the music of foreign countries. Spanish programming is perhaps the most prevalent, but there are also stations that specialize in German, French, Greek, and other styles of music from distant places.


Churches and religious organizations often provide considerable financial support to radio stations. Religious or sacred music is programming fare that can be heard in many locations throughout the country. There is enough variety in Christian music so that stations of this type do not have to be overly repetitious.

This list is intended as an index of terminology rather than as a denotation of musical types. The specific selections included under each of these headings will vary considerably from one program director to another.


Radio stations have a symbiotic relationship with record distributors; each contributes to and depends upon the other. Radio stations must have records. This is their stock in trade. They could not afford to buy all the records they need because music changes so rapidly. The distributors' business is to sell records to the general public, and to do this they must get "air play." Therefore, they are happy to provide radio stations with sample copies as long as the station agrees to play them. One radio station staff member will serve as music director. This person has the job of keeping in touch with record distributors by letter, phone, and person al contact. He or she will provide information the distributor needs: what records are being played, which are requested most, how often a selection is repeated, etc. The best service is provided to the stations that are conscientious about making this information available. Sometimes stations mail out weekly play lists. These are complete accounts of the music that was aired during the week. Distributors then know what type of records to send to the stations. Sometimes distributors will encourage stations by allowing them to be the first to release a potentially "hot" record. On the other hand a station may exercise its own leverage by boycotting a company that does not provide good record service. So the relationship depends upon cooperation. It is important for the distributor to know what kind of records the station plays. Some stations, for example, play only albums, not singles. These are usually rock stations and are referred to as AOR (album-oriented rock). Distributors seldom send single records to these stations.

Payola--While the system works well for the most part, it is occasionally abused.

In the mid 1950s a scandal was exposed that came to be known as "payola." Record distributors were extending their service beyond legal and ethical limits by paying gratuities to stations and disk jockeys for "plugging" certain records. In other words a record was not played be cause of its artistic merit or the number of requests received for it, but because the disk jockey was accepting favors for playing it. Some well known personalities were extremely embarrassed when this information was revealed. Charges were brought against the offenders and some heavy fines were imposed. Since then the transactions have been watched closely, and the practice has been largely curtailed.


For the majority of stations (both AM and FM) recorded music is the factor most significant in determining the size and characteristics of a station's listening audience. The "sound" of a station refers to the type of music that is played and the sequence of the records. This blend of music can be critical. Just a few records poorly programmed can cause listeners to dial away and perhaps not come back. Program directors are continually seeking reliable data upon which to base their selection of music.

Trade magazines, such as Billboard and Cashbox, provide much information about trends in musical tastes. Record distributors can tell radio stations what albums are selling well and how much promotion is being done on a particular record. Incidentally, it might seem that air play would diminish when a record is owned by a large number of people. But such is apparently not the case. People still call radio stations and re quest records that they own and can play any time themselves. Some stations rely more heavily upon requests than others. One school of thought is that requests give a more positive indication of the taste of the local community than do the national surveys. Another is that programming on requests is unscientific and may reflect the tastes of only a few listeners. No disk jockey or program director would rely totally upon requests, because there needs to be continuity or flow to the sound of the station. Putting musical selections together in a sequence that is pleasing and harmonious is a talent much like that of a musician. It requires a good ear and a good sense of timing, and should be done by a professional broadcaster rather than a group of casual listeners.

There are numerous surveys taken by a variety of organizations and publications that attempt to identify the most popular musical selections.

One of these is printed out periodically by the Associated Press and distributed to stations over the teletype.

Music Syndics**

The technique of programming music to attract a specific audience segment has in recent years become a science. Companies called syndicates are beginning to offer their services to radio stations. Their package includes scientifically programmed music on tape that can be used by a station to obtain a balanced and uniform "sound." The tapes are changed often enough to provide variety and keep up with new moods and trends. This frees the program director from the responsibility and eliminates the need for the disk jockey to spend time selecting music, cuing records, and putting albums back into jackets. He or she can focus full attention upon what is to be said when the microphone is open.

Many disk jockeys dislike this system because it deprives them of one of the creative aspects of their business. It also eliminates the possibility of playing requests. Nevertheless, many stations (particularly FM stations) are moving in this direction. It offers several advantages to the station owners. The service provided by syndicates allows a station to operate without a large record library, an extensive filing system, or a music director. The trend may also mean that stations will place more emphasis upon an announcer's ability to talk than to select music.

The Automated Station

Usually the station that subscribes to the syndicated music service is one that is automated. The equipment used by an automated station consists of reel-to-reel tape recorders and banks of cartridge machines that contain the voice tracks (see Figure 2). The voice tracks can be spot announcements, ad lib remarks, newscasts, weather reports, or whatever you wish to put on them. They can be changed quickly and easily and programmed to play in any desired sequence. Once the machines have been programmed, they will run automatically, responding to prearranged cues for starting and stopping each tape. Some systems are extremely sophisticated and can even insert time signals. An automated station that is skillfully programmed will sound very much the same as any other station. There may be a lack of flexibility, however, since an automated station cannot play requests. But advocates of automation say that the system provides as much flexibility as most station managements want or need.

FIG. 2 Automated broadcasting equipment including reel-to-reel tape machines and circular banks of cartridge machines. (Courtesy Systems Marketing Corporation.)


The all -news station is much more difficult and expensive to program than the music station. Generally the personnel is more highly paid and preparation is more extensive. Some stations such as WEEI in Boston and KCBS in San Francisco offer news and talk programs throughout the entire day. This requires the mobilization of many sources of program material. The network and the wire services can provide much of it, but the station staff itself has to generate the most. When WEEI changed from music to news in 1974, they were forced to double their operating budget. Instead of hiring one disk jockey to work a six -hour shift, an all -news station must hire several people who will spend a considerable amount of time writing and doing production work to fill the same amount of air time. News stations require a tremendous amount of copy.

WEEI averages twenty-five news stories per hour, plus sports and weather. Some of this will come to the station from the wire services, but much must be written by station personnel. WEEI's full-time news staff in creased from eleven people to twenty-eight.


The talk show is perhaps the most difficult and challenging type of pro gram to do. There are many different formats, but basically they involve talking to people by phone or in person. You will be answering questions as well as asking them and have virtually no time to prepare your responses. Sometimes these talk show hosts or hostesses are called "communicasters." Occasionally they will have source materials on the subject to be discussed, but most of the time they just rely on their knowledge and wits.

The trick is to maintain the interest and attention of the general audience. The communicaster has to maintain a balance between some times conflicting responsibilities: that to the person on the phone and a larger one to the listening audience. The caller must not be permitted to go on to the point of boring everyone else. Knowing when and how to terminate the call demands skill, timing, and tact.

There are a number of mechanical aspects characteristic of the talk show that make it complicated. Some radio station insurance contracts insist that there be a 7 -second delay between the time the call is received and the time it goes on the air. This allows the engineer time to intercept and delete a remark that might be slanderous or obscene before it can go out over the air. Insurance companies are concerned about this because a station can be sued by an individual slandered by a caller. It can also be fined by the FCC for allowing obscenities on the air.

Technically this delay is accomplished by recording the call on a 7 -second cart. The tape moves in a continuous loop and plays back 7 seconds later what it has just recorded. While this solves the problem for the radio station, it often confuses the caller who forgets to turn down the radio. Have you ever tried talking while you were listening to what you said 7 seconds earlier? Even when the program is done without the 7-second delay there are problems. If the caller does not turn down the radio, the sound of the caller's own voice going back into the telephone can cause feedback.

The talk show is normally not a one -person operation. In addition to the communicaster, there is a producer who receives the call first and advises the caller to turn down the radio. The producer can also size up the person on the phone and eliminate the "crank" callers. In order for a talk show to be operated smoothly, there must be at least two in -coming telephone lines. One person should be on "hold" while the communicaster is talking to another. Trying to do talk shows at low -budget stations with only one phone line is awkward. You have to hang up the phone, continue the program by yourself, and wait for the next call to come through. This can be accomplished when you have someone else to talk to, but alone it is very difficult. One variation of the talk show is to have a guest along with the communicaster. Usually the guest is an expert in some field of general interest. The two people can talk together while waiting for calls to come in. However, when there is a call, both people in the studio must be able to hear the person who is on the other end of the wire. For this type of operation you would need what is called a speaker phone. This is an instrument that can be provided by the telephone company. It allows the caller's voice to be heard on a small speaker rather than just through the earpiece of the phone. The volume, of course, must be kept very low or it will cause feedback. (The microphones in the studio are open and the communicasters are talking into them.) The speaker phone also allows the caller to hear on the telephone anything that is said by anyone in the room.

Once the technical aspects have been worked out, you can start concentrating on the more important part of the talk show program.

What are you going to say? Who will you get as a guest? How can you be sure that people will call? How do you know what to leave in and what to cut out? How do you deal with a caller who will not stop talking? There are a dozen other questions that will come to you when you begin doing it.

Only when you start doing talk shows and interview programs do you begin to realize what modern radio broadcasting is all about and how much you need to know to be successful in the business.


Scheduling the sequence of programs can be done by whim, inspiration, or design. All combinations are possible, but some make more sense than others. You would not insert comedy records in a classical music show; you would not put tragic and humorous stories back-to-back in a newscast; you would not put a commuter report at two o'clock in the afternoon. You may, however, want to program features at a time when other stations are not running them. For example, if every station has news on the hour, you may wish to put yours on the half hour, or 5 minutes before the hour. One good principle to follow is to set consistent times for features, so that people will be able to remember when they are going to occur. Scattering newscasts throughout the day is fine for the person who listens to your station all day long, but not so good for the person who wants to tune in your station to get the news. Timing is important even if you are an independent station and do not have to "hit" a network show. If a newscast is scheduled for three o'clock it should not start 2 minutes before or 2 minutes after. The last record before the newscast can be back -timed so that it will end precisely at three o'clock. There may be listeners who will expect to hear your news cast at the time it is supposed to run. Schedule features and newscasts at times that are logical and easy to remember. Running them on the hour or half hour is the most common practice among the highly professional stations.

Most of your programming may consist of recorded music-the mainstay of modern radio stations. But there will be programs of other types that will be inserted periodically. Remember that the FCC expects you to operate in the public interest. That means you will have to do a certain amount of public affairs programming. This will take the form of documentaries, interviews, panel discussions, phone-in shows, debates, and commentary on current events. These programs should not be regarded as "tune outs." Programs of this sort are often buried, on Sunday morning and at other times when few people are listening, but this ought not to be the rule. There are a number of stations in the country that are quite successful in drawing a listening audience with talk shows. But the programs have to be well done, and they have to be promoted. At some stations disk jockeys are encouraged to ad lib promotional messages for these programs. They may even be given an information sheet that they can use for extemporaneous remarks between records. When a station is involved in a lot of activities, disk jockeys automatically become better informed and have more to talk about. Program directors can facilitate the job of the announcers by providing them with an interesting and dynamic programming schedule.


Programming is the most important function of a radio station. It is the reason for all of the effort put into transmission. Most commercial broadcasting stations today have discarded the "block programming" concept and think in terms of the overall "sound" rather than individual segments. The program director is the person responsible for producing a consistent and well-balanced sound that will draw listeners and sell the products of the advertisers. A station may choose to become a network affiliate, in which case part of its programming would originate from the network studios in a distant city. The alternative is for the station to be independent and produce its own programming. Most stations rely heavily on recorded music, which is obtained from record distributors. The policy which the station chooses will be a major determinant of the kind of audience the station draws. Some stations may select an all -news for mat, which is expensive and difficult to produce, but which provides more abundant information and attracts a more mature audience than do other plans.






Block programming

Prime time



Independent station

Target audience


Top 40


1. Review the notes you made while you were doing the preparation activities for Section 1. What kind of program seems not to be offered in your community? How successful do you think it would be if it were offered? Plan a program of this type. Write an opening and a closing. If it is a musical program, list the selections you would include in the first show of the series. If it is a discussion program, list the participants, the topics to be discussed, and the format you would have the performers follow. Then list suggested content material for other programs in the series.

2. If you have access to audio equipment, produce a pilot program. This will involve getting the records and the people together in a recording studio and putting the program on tape just as it would go on the air.

3. Play the tape for the program director of your college station or one of your community stations. See if you can obtain air time for a series of programs.

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