This may be a dumb question, but I work in radio every day and wonder where the word "radio" came from. Can you help? - Anonymous


Anon: As I have said before, there are no dumb questions. I think your question is great.


The foundation of the word "radio" is comes from either the French or Latin word "radi," meaning "radial" or "ray." Heinrich Hertz, who discovered radio waves, described his discovery as "radiant" energy or "radiation." Somewhere around 1903, radio was described as "radio telegraphy," meaning "communication by radiant energy." This was eventually shortened to "radio."


So, you’re in the business of communicating by radiant energy.


By the way, television is also a combined word: tele (Greek) = far off or distant, vision (French, Latin) = sight.

Radio Advertising

As compared to other forms of advertising, why is radio advertising such a good deal?  - Anonymous


Anon: In order to evaluate the best form of advertising, we need to look at three things:

Using these three criteria, radio advertising is the best advertising medium because:

If I owned a business and wanted to communicate with my customers and potential customers, 100% of my advertising budget would be allocated to radio. Radio is the only mass medium that accomplishes the steps necessary in persuasion at the lowest possible cost.

Radio Commercials

The owners of our radio station continue to add advertising units to every daypart. Is there a limit of the number of commercials listeners will tolerate? At what point do they say, "That’s enough." - BN


BN: Good question, but it’s a tough one to ask listeners. If we ask them "How many commercials will you tolerate?" the answer will be "none." While it would be possible to conduct a test where we would play different amounts of commercials, the results may not be accurate. Unfortunately, I think the only "test" is Arbitron. When a radio station’s numbers go down, they may conduct a research project and they’ll find the problem is too many commercials.


Allow me to get on the soapbox for a moment.


Although I believe the number of commercials per hour is a significant problem and will affect radio listening, I think a much larger problem is the commercials themselves. I will never understand why, if commercials are the main source of revenue, radio stations (and advertising agencies) have such a low opinion of commercials.


By that I mean…the majority of radio commercials are terrible, and many just plain suck (that’s a scientific term). They are poorly written. They contain the same clichés that have been used for decades ("You heard me right."). They use incredibly annoying voices. They are boring. Most radio listeners say that they don’t mind commercials. What they complain about is how they are produced.


In my case, and I’m only a sample of one…When I hear the start of a Tom Shane commercial for his jewelry store, I almost break my finger hitting the button to go to another radio station. The age-old axiom of "bad publicity/promotion is better than none" makes no sense to me. Tom Shane commercials tell me to go to another jewelry store.

Radio Data System - “TP” Radio Light

Most of the radio stations in my city are now broadcasting an RDS signal with their monikers prominently displayed on my car stereo.  But one station here also lights a “TP” light on my car radio that I have not seen mentioned in my owner’s manual or in any RDS explanations.  I have a Ford Escape that uses a Mach 3 6-speaker system.


Now, if I remember correctly, this radio station was famous for using its subcarrier channel for Mormon Church broadcasts.  I’m not sure if it still happens, but legend has it that since the station used to be owned by Bonneville Broadcasting, there is a contract under which the station has to lend the church its subcarrier forever.


So, what is the TP light, and how can I find out how a station uses its subcarrier? - Anonymous


Anon:  The RDS (Radio Data System), also known as RBDS (Radio Broadcast Data System) uses several letters to identify programming.  The TP is short for “Travel or Traffic Program.”


Other codes are: PS (Program Service), PI (Program Identification), PTY (Program Type), TA (Traffic Announcement), DI (Decoder Identification), M/S (Music/speech), AF (Alternative Frequencies).


For a good explanation of RDS and the codes, click here: RDS Stuff.  Another good site is: More RDS Stuff.


In reference to how a station uses its subcarrier…Just call the radio station and ask them.

Radiotelephone Frequencies

With the proliferation of cell phones and PCS networks, what happened to the FM frequencies once reserved for old radiotelephones that some wealthy people used to have in their vehicles? Can the and/or are they being used for anything else? - Anonymous


Anon: The old frequencies are still there. Check these two site for more information: Frequencies and Cell phones.

Radio Formats

Where can I find information on the breakdown of formats of stations on the bigger radio chains such as Clear Channel? I am curious to know how many CHR and/or Rhythm formats each major chain has. Is there one place I can find all of this info? Thanks for your help. - Andy

Andy: There are two problems in answering your question. First, many of the lists available on the Internet will cost you something—up to several hundred dollars. Second, many of the lists are out of date.


Here is one search that may help: radio stations owners.  Another alternative is to search for "radio station formats." Also, do a search for CHR formats radio and rhythm formats radio. You’ll find a lot of information.

Radio Glossary

Hi Doc:  I would like to know where I can references or find the radio terms or words used in radio language, such as sweepers, liners, beds, spot, etc.  Thanks. - Chamorro


Chamorro:  Here are a few sites that may help:


Radio Terms One

Radio Terms Two

Radio Terms Three

Radio Terms Four

Radio Terms Five

Radio History

I am looking for some info on the history of radio and maybe a list of terms used in and around a radio station.  Is there any info you can give me? ? - Anonymous


Anon:  There are many sources on the Internet to answer your questions.  I set up a few searches for you:


Radio History

General Information

Radio History – United States

Radio History – United States II


Radio Terminology

Terms I

Terms II

Terms III

Terms IV


In the current issue of RADIO INK (with Howard on the cover), there is an article written by a Program Director who surveyed 100 of his listeners via RadioResearch.Com and from that has determined that his listeners like both new and classic rock. While I didn't find anything earth-shattering about the conclusions of the research, I'd like to hear your thoughts on the validity and limitations of this sort of research. Thanks. - Anonymous


Anon: I don’t know anything about the methodology and I don’t know anything about how the sample was selected. The validity and reliability of research on the Internet are fine as long as certain rules are followed, but I don’t know if the rules were followed here.


However, I will say that if the PD who wrote the article determined that the radio station’s listeners like both new and Classic Rock based on 100 respondents, the person needs to learn a bit more about research. The sample is too small to make such decisions. In addition, depending on how the study was conducted, the sampling error associated with the results could be enormous.


Collecting research data via the Internet is OK as long as the person or company conducting the research knows what’s going on. It’s very easy to make huge mistakes with Internet research. This is a major problem with the procedure—there are many people conducting research on the Internet who have no idea what’s going on—and it shows in the data.

Radio Salary Scales

I’m looking for a free resource of salary scales for on air talent in small to major markets so I can gauge what I should be seeking in terms of compensation. Considering I’m hoping to move up in market size, am I at a disadvantage in terms of compensation if I move from small to major market rather than from large to major or major to major. Thanks in advance for your advice. - Anonymous


Anon: I should open a new business that provides salary ranges for the radio industry. The only free information I know about, although not very detailed in nature, is located at:


I’m not sure if I would call your position a disadvantage, but I’m sure there is probably some difference because you aren’t established in a large market. However, if you look at it in a percentage increase, I’m sure that the change from a small to a large market is a larger percentage increase than a lateral move in large markets. Although I’m sure there are exceptions.

Radio Station Classes

Doc:  I've always understood the classes of FM stations (Class C in the best signal; Class A is the worst), but with AM it's the opposite.  For instance my alma mater KGO is class A, yet our two 50 kilowatt stations here in Vegas are class B. We have 5KW yet we are also a class B.


What are the criteria that determine what class an AM station is?  I never thought of this until you got me hooked on Radio Locator—a great site for tech info.  As ever. - Jerry Gordon


Jerry:  You are sure an inquisitive person.  Good for you.


So I don’t have to reinvent the information wheel, I’ll refer you to the FCC for the explanations of radio station classes.  Here ya go: AM Classes  FM Classes

Radio Station Frequency ID

Let’s say there is a 105.1 FM in town called "Big 105." A new radio station signs on at 105.9 on the dial and calls "Magic 105." Can this station call itself Magic 105 or do they have to use 105.9? - Anonymous


Anon: First, I don’t understand why either radio station would round off to the whole number "105." Your hypothetical "Big" radio station is located at 105.1, and your hypothetical "Magic" radio station is located at 105.9. If either station uses 105 as its address, each is telling listeners the wrong address. (If your home address is 5673 Main Street, do you tell people that you live at 5600 Main Street?)


To your question . . . Having been involved in this type of situation before, only one of the radio stations would use 105 as its address. In this case, the first radio station ("Big") would probably file a lawsuit against the second radio station ("Magic") for its use of "105." Although I’m not an attorney or judge, my guess is that "Big" would win—there is precedence for it.

Radio Station Job Positions

Dear Doc, thanks for the Rock vs. Hip-Hop information.  Where can I search what functions the GM, PD, SM, APD, etc. have in a radio station and what do I have to have to operate a radio station?  Any search engine or page you can help me out with? - Anonymous


Anon:  You’re welcome for the information.  Here are two links that explain the positions in a radio station:


Radio Positions One

Radio Positions Two


I set up three searches on Google for information about running a radio station.  Not all of the items will be relevant, but there are several that should help you.


Running One

Running Two

Running Three

Radio Station Websites

Hi Doc!  Just wondering if you could find any information about websites being profitable for radio stations.  I'm having a hard time convincing the higher-ups to spend money on it (we don't stream).  Thanks! - Anonymous


Anon:  From my experience, radio station website income is proprietary information, so I don’t think you’ll find much specific information about the subject.  Although, I’m sure there is a wide range of income numbers.


Anyway…while the information about radio station website profit is important to some people (usually management), the information from research studies indicates that profit (at this early stage of the Internet) should not be the primary reason to have a radio station website.  Let me explain…


A commercial radio station’s main revenue stream is from the sale of advertising time.  Sure, there are a few other ways to make a buck, but advertising is the main source.  There is nothing wrong with management looking for additional revenue streams, but at this time, I don’t think it’s fair to consider the station’s website as a major money maker.


Instead, from what I have seen, the primary reason for having a radio station website is to keep in touch with the station’s listeners.  A website is another way a radio station can use to hold current listeners and attract new listeners.  But it’s important to find out what the listeners want on your station’s website.  I have conducted many studies about radio station websites across the country and haven’t seen that one approach is correct—each market has its own likes and dislikes.


Profits from radio station websites may become increasingly important in the future, but for now, concentrating on keeping in touch with the listeners is enough.  Another point is that a website doesn’t cost that much in the grand scheme of things.  We’re not looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars.


By the way, if you do get approval for a website, make sure that you keep it up-to-date and relevant.


Here are two Internet searches that will give you some additional information (two are needed for “websites” (the correct spelling) and “web sites” (the incorrect spelling): Radio websites one, and Radio websites two.

Ramp Etiquette

Hey Doc, I'm wondering about your school of thought on using the intro and outro ramps on songs for a CHR station. Over my career, I've heard several philosophies. One of my PDs said NEVER talk down an outro and up an intro in the same break. (Always let the song establish itself for a second before you begin talking.) Another PD told me it was OK to go down an outro and up an intro "as long as you don't go overboard."


At my current station, the PD has a hard and fast rule to talk every other song with a sweeper in between. The sweepers are set in fixed positions and are not movable to allow for maximum ‘ramp’ usage. This means very often I have songs with :00 intro. If I don't talk down the outro of the previous song, this leaves VERY little space for any type of personality whatsoever. So, what is your opinion? - JJ


JJ: Your PD’s clock shows that the emphasis is on the music, not personality. In fact, with the strict limits, it seems clear that your PD wants almost no input from the jocks. I don’t know if the clock is his/her philosophy, a consultant’s opinion, or if the clock was developed from audience research. Regardless, if you want your personality/talent to shine, it’s not going to happen with your current situation. You aren’t the PD, so you’ll have to accept it, hope that your PD changes the clock, or find another radio station that allows you to have more time.


I will add one thing about talking on the music. Every research study I have ever seen…and that means all of them…shows that listeners do not want jocks to talk over the music. Not for 5 seconds, 3 seconds, or any other amount of time. Listeners enjoy the input from a talented jock, but they don’t want talk over the music—not at the beginning of a song, and not at the end of a song. This is true for all formats.

Random Sample

Would you please explain or define the term "random sample?" – Anonymous

Anon: A random sample is one that is selected where every element or person has an equal chance of being selected.

Types of studies in radio research that do not use a true random sample: Telephone perceptual studies, focus groups, music tests, call-out, Internet surveys of any kind, one-on-one interviews, mail surveys, and everything else.  Types of studies in radio research that do use a true random sample: I don’t know of any.

Rap, Hip-Hop, and Urban Differences

Doc: What are the main differences between Rap, Hip-Hop, and Urban?  When you talk about this kind of music is this Hip-Hop music or is it Rap music?  Rock is the main word for all rock based sounds.  So is Dance, but with Rap, Hip-Hop, and Urban, what is the correct term when you reference this music? - Anonymous


Anon:  Like all music formats, there are no universally accepted definitions.  The music is what each person says it is.  However, here are a few explanations of Rap, Hi-Hop, and Urban:


Description One by Jim Washburn on MSNBC


Description Two on Yahoo


Description Three  (Rap vs. Hip-Hop)


Urban Description 


If that’s not enough for you, I set up two searches on Google for you: Differences One and Differences Two


If you read some of the descriptions in those links, I think you’ll agree that there are no universally accepted definitions of the three styles of music.  That’s the way it is with music.


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