Radio Terminology (Jargon) Guide
In this article Radio terminology is explained. There are so many terms and much jargon in the radio industry. When I first started out in radio I was bombarded by words which I didn’t understand. I just nodded and tried to work out what the hell my colleagues were talking about. So to save you the embarrassment of not knowing or looking like a rabbit in the headlights when someone mentions “clean-feed” here are a list of radio terminology used in radio and production. A lot of words mean the same thing, you’ll also find that some words and terms mean different things to different people, especially between commercial radio and the BBC. Thanks to those who have sent me their suggestions of radio terminology for this glossary. If you think there’s anything missing or a word means something different to you please let me know via the contact page or submit a comment below. Let’s get jargon-busting!
Radio terminology explained
Live or recorded audio as it happens. It could be an event, or interview audio from a location.
A copy of a broadcast.
AGC (Automatic Gain Control)
Normalising audio by automatically boosting or reducing sound so that the output remains at the same volume.
AM (Amplitude Modulation)
A range of frequencies used to transmit programmes to listeners. Lower quality than FM.
Background noise or the ambient sound from a location. Used to help edits in packages.
Any piece of sound whether recorded or live.
Aux Send (Auxiliary audio)
The routing of an audio signal (sound) on a mixing desk. Aux channels can be used to send audio to effects units or provide a separate feed.
Words spoken by a presenter after playing a song or report. The words relate to the previous audio. Can be scripted or ad lib.
A presenter/producer calculates the duration of audio to get to a specific junction such as the news or an ad-break on time. For example a presenter may work out when to play the final song in the hour so that he or she reaches the news junction.
Music for talking over.
A piece of production played next to a commercial break or feature.
A way of routing multiple audio channels through a mixer enabling the channels to be controlled by one fader (instead of four separate ones).
Another name for headphones.
A single stream of audio. In stereo broadcasts there are two channels of audio – left and right. In mono broadcasts there is one channel of audio.
The audio feed sent to an external source containing the output minus the contributors voice. For example during an outside broadcast a presenter may want to hear the station’s output minus their voice so that they don’t get put off by any delay (caused by the feed travelling to the studio and back).
An item or programme that starts at a precise moment, such as the news or opting into networked output.
A system to keep the levels constant by automatically reducing the volume of a recording or broadcast if it goes beyond a certain level.
A trademarked name for IP to IP communication devices offering high quality links. Instead of traditional ISDN, Comrex transmits and receives data through broadband connections.
1) A script which is to be read by a presenter or voiceover.
2) A piece of advertising audio.
1) To prepare a piece of audio ready to start (to cue up).
2) A script read by a presenter to talk into an item.
3) An audio feed which contains the whole output. For example, during an OB a presenter hearing cue will be listening to the full mix including their voice. Depending on how big the delay is depends on whether this could put a presenter off.
DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting)
A digital standard of broadcasting used in the UK. Quality can vary on the bit rate used by the broadcaster.
A section of a radio station’s output during the day. For example, breakfast, mid-mornings, afternoon, drive, evenings, late nights and overnights.
A measurement of the level of sound.
A short collection of either links, packages or pieces of audio to showcase your talents to a potential employer.
A piece of production which could be a jingle or commercial. The start and end are the same. There is a hole in the middle for different pre-recorded copy or a presenter to fill.
Drive / Drivetime
The programme usually broadcast between 4pm and 7pm – the time when listeners are normally driving home.
Soundbites from TV programmes, films etc.
A long sustained note, usually to add tension to competitions.
The process of adjusting various audio frequencies. Used to enhance audio.
Sliding control on a mixing desk to control how loud audio is.
An external audio source used in radio programmes. This can be sent many different ways including ISDN, IP and satellite.
Also known as howl-round. The ear-piercing noise created when the sound from a microphone is picked up by a loudspeaker, which in turn amplifies the sound.
It is an audio effect used in production. Two identical signals are mixed together, one with a slight delay. A more detailed description will follow in a later article.
The type of programming a radio station offers. There are many radio formats including AC (Adult Contemporary), Hot AC, CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) and news.
FM (Frequency Modulation)
A range of frequencies used to transmit programmes to listeners. Higher quality than AM
Short for effects. They create atmospheres for radio programmes and IDs. Imaging FX elements are found in sweepers and idents.
Another word for volume.
GTS (greenwich time signal).
5 short pips followed by one longer tone to signal the exact time at the top of the hour. Commonly used by the BBC. The first pip starts at 6 seconds to the hour.
The main news reduced to a short summary. Usually heard at half-past the hour.
The most memorable part of a song, usually the chorus.
A piece of production or announcement by the presenter to identify the station.
A catch-all term for sweepers, promos, idents etc. Imaging brands your radio station (station name) and positions it in the marketplace (positioning statement).
A piece of production used to brand the station. Usually contains the station name and positioning statement. Sometimes imagers use voxes or clips of music to demonstrate why they are different from other stations.
ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network)
A high-quality telephone line used to transmit data, voice or music in digital quality.
A catch-all term to describe station branding. It’s commonly used to describe sung pieces of music to identify a station.
The strength of audio. Low level = quiet volume, high level = loud volume.
Another name for sweeper. Sometimes used to describe a dry sweeper without FX.
An item of speech to connect two items, such as a presenter speaking between two songs.
A script read on a programme live by a radio presenter. Can be a commercial message or a station promotion.
Also known as a running order. A chronological list of items within a programme including music and features.
To ensure that every piece music being played is reported so that PRS can collect royalties on behalf of the artist, composer and publisher.
More radio terminology
Where multiple channels of audio are mixed down to one stream, ready for broadcast.
Left and right channels are mixed together to form one channel of audio.
An imager to demonstrate the type of music played on a radio station. Normally two or three songs hooks, ending with the station name and positioning statement.
OB (Outside broadcast)
A programme which is broadcast from a location away from the studio.
The UK Government body responsible for regulating radio, television and telecommunications.
Where a recording is only playing out of either the left OR the right channel of a stereo broadcast.
The final words in a recording. The words are added to a script so that a presenter or journalist can tell how a recording will end.
The audio heard by the listener.
A news story told in a creative way using various tools including soundbites, voiceover and possibly fx and music.
PASB (Programme as broadcast)
The same as ROT. Mainly used in TV.
PC (Programme Controller) / PD (Programme Director)
The person in charge of programming at a commercial radio station.
A set list of songs that a radio station will play during the week.
The loud distorted sound created when a voice is too close to the microphone. Plosives (words with “p” and “b”) make a booming sound and cause havoc with compressors. A later article will show you how to avoid this problem.
A phrase a radio station uses to sell itself to the listener. For example – in the UK, Heart uses the phrase “More Music Variety”.
To listen to audio on a live studio desk before it is broadcast. Usually there is a button or switch on a mixing desk to enable the operator to do this. The desk operator can use this to review the audio prior to broadcast.
The host of a radio programme
Radio producers have a responsibility for the content of radio programmes or station sound. The role involves overseeing the whole process from ideas to concept, scripting and ensuring compliance with broadcasting guidelines.
An announcement (live or pre-recorded) which promotes something on a radio station. It could be a station event, programme or competition.
PRS (Performing Rights Society) – Now known as PRS for Music www.prsformusic.com
A UK organisation charged with collect royalties for songwriters, composers and publishers. A PRS for Music licence is required to broadcast or play music in public places.
Rajar (Radio Joint Audience Research) www.rajar.co.uk
The company that conducts radio audience research on behalf of the BBC and UK commercial radio. Figures are released four times a year and contain valuable information for radio stations and advertisers including the number of listeners, the time they spend listening and the social demographic breakdown of the audience. A random selection of listeners are asked to fill out their listening habits on any given week. Traditionally they have recorded the information on paper diaries but this process is being moved online.
The musical section leading up to either sung or spoken vocals.
RDS (Radio Data System)
The way of transmitting data to a radio – using the FM band.
An audio effect. The reflection of sound as if it’s bouncing of walls. It can be set to mimic large or small rooms, for example a cathedral-style sound effect or a small cupboard style ambience.
Record of Time. A section of the radio output. Usually required by advertisers to prove something was broadcast.
The repeating of a playlist over a given time. For example a current song on an “A” list will play more times (or rotated) more often than an older song.
A sum of money to remunerate composers, artists and publishers for using their copyrighted material. Usually collected by PRS in the UK
RSL (Restricted Service Licence)
A temporary radio station licence. The majority broadcast of these licences last up to 28 days at a time. They can be used as trials for full-time licences, showcase radio brands or to cover specific events. More information can be found at : http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/broadcasting/radio/rsls/
Where a presenter plays two songs back to back with either nothing in-between or a station ident.
The harsh hissing sound sometimes caused by the “s” or “sh” sound. A “de-esser” can be used to limit the problem. More details in a later article
A short piece of audio.
A short ID used to punctuate.
A musical ID which builds and holds.
Two channels of audio, left and right.
A break for commercials.
A piece of production played between two songs containing the station voiceover and sometimes sound effects. More often than not the presenter/desk operator plays the sweeper over the intro of a song. A sweeper can contain a station name (Call ID), positioning statement or presenter name. Sweepers help listeners know the name of the station they’re listening to.
A piece voiced by a presenter to showcase or promote something connected to a radio station. It could be a for a programme or station-led event.
A short piece of audio or script aimed to keep the audience listening to the station.
a) the department that schedules commercials on a radio station.
b) Important information on roads, rail and other forms of transport. It is one of the main reasons why listeners tune into a local radio station at breakfast and drivetime.
TSA (Total Survey Area)
The area/marketplace where a station’s audience is measured.
A talk between a presenter and reporter on a news story. An illustrated two-way includes audio clips, such as soundbites or voxes.
Short for transmission
VP (Voice piece)
A summary of a news item voiced a reporter.
Voiceover or V/O
Recorded voice piece used in idents, commercials, drama or news pieces.
Voxpop / Voxes
Commonly used in news broadcasts or station imaging. From the Latin “Vox Populi”, which means “The voice of the people”. In news terms they’re used as a tool to gauge public reaction to a story. For imaging, they can be used as testimonials for the radio station. The voices are edited together to form a short piece.
A voice piece or report where the announcer or news reporter “wraps” their voice around a news clip.
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