Learn the Lingo of Radio Broadcasting

dj working at radio station
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If you are going to work in the radio broadcasting industry, you will want to be familiar with these terms.

Radio Glossary of Terminology

Aircheck: A demonstration recording by an announcer to showcase their talent. It is also used to refer to off-the-air recordings of broadcasts.

AM - Amplitude Modulation: This broadcast signal varies the amplitude of the carrier wave. It is used by AM broadcast stations and requires an AM receiver. The AM frequency range is 530 to 1710 kHz.

Analog Transmission: A continuous signal that varies in amplitude (AM) or frequency (FM), as opposed to a digital signal.

Bumper: A song, music, or another element that signals a transition to or from commercial breaks. Bumper music is an example.

Call sign - call letters: The unique designation of transmitter broadcast stations. In the United States, they generally start with the first letter K west of the Mississippi River and W east of the Mississippi. Older stations may have only a three letter designation while newer ones have four letters. Stations must announce their call sign on the top of each hour and when signing on or off the air for stations that don't broadcast 24 hours per day.

Dead air: On-air silence when there is an error made by the staff or due to equipment failure. It is avoided as listeners may think the station has gone off-air.

DJ or Disk Jockey: A radio announcer who plays music on air.

Drive time: The rush hour commuter periods when radio stations usually have their largest audience. Ad rates are highest for drive time.

FM - Frequency Modulation: A broadcast that varies the frequency of the carrier wave and requires an FM receiver. The FM frequency range is 88 to 108 MHz.

High Definition Radio / HD Radio: A technology that transmits digital audio and data alongside existing AM and FM analog signals.

Hit the post: An expression deejays use to describe talking up to the point when the lyrics begin without "stepping" on the beginning of the vocals.

Payola: An illegal practice of taking payment or other benefits to play certain songs on the radio and not identifying the sponsorship. Payola scandals have been common in the radio broadcast industry from the 1950s to the early 2000s. As playlists are now rarely chosen by the DJs themselves and are delivered pre-recorded by companies, there is less opportunity for payola.

Playlist: The list of songs that a station will play. It is often programmed by a company and even pre-recorded to run in order, with slots for commercial breaks and talk. It is rarely chosen by the DJ as it was in older times.

PSA - Public Service Announcement: An ad that is run in the public interest rather than for a commercial product or service.

Radio Format: The type of music and programming broadcast by a radio station. These can include news, talk, sports, country, contemporary, rock, alternative, urban, classical, religious, or college. The ratings of a station as published by Arbitron will designate a format as a guide for advertisers.

Spot: A commercial.

Stop set: The slots for commercials during the broadcast hour. They may be recurring and of the same length. They may be filled by paid advertising spots or by public service announcements. Stop Set length can vary much between local stations and even network programming.