Radio, like most industries, has its own jargon and terminology. We at The LION 90.7fm use this language in our own everyday operation.

Knowledge of all of these terms is recommended to enhance your understanding of how things work here so as to move you through the training process and enable you to compatibly work in our radio environment. So use this guide as a reference.

Station Terms

Officers: The management staff of the radio station. The Officers ensure that the station is running properly, provide training and direction to members, and ensure that the interests of the entire station are protected. The Officers are undergraduate students at Penn State, are usually veteran members of the station, and are elected by the staff. The Officers are elected for a one- year term, and may serve more than one term.

Staffheads: The “director” of each staff. Staffheads are responsible for providing the musical or programming direction for each staff, ensuring that their staff has a good relationship with the trade publications and record labels that affect it, and representing the staff in elections and station business. The Staffheads are usually veteran members of the station, and are elected by each individual staff, or are appointed by the Officers. Staff-heads of music staffs may delegate a music director to report weekly play charts to trade-journals, so that the station continues to be serviced musical material, otherwise this task is handled by the staffhead himself.

Legal Terms

FCC: The Federal Communications Commission. This is the government regulatory body that licenses radio and TV stations. They require that radio and TV stations do certain things, and have the ability to fine a station and/or take away their license if they fail to complete the requirements.

Non-Commercial Radio Station: A radio station, whose frequency is located between 88MHz and 92MHz on the FM dial, designated to serve as an educational outlet for broadcasting. These types of stations are called “non-commercial” because they are not allowed to profit from their operations, and must follow strict guidelines detailing any content that could be deemed a “commercial.” Hence the FCC distinguishes its licenses as Commercial or Non-Commercial FM Broadcast Licenses. The LION 90.7fm, along with 91.5, WPSU-fm, each are licensed as non- commercial fm stations.

Legal ID: An FCC legal obligation to identify a broadcast station, consisting of the station’s call letters and the city in which the station is licensed. For The Lion 90.7fm, the Legal ID is “WKPS, State College.”

EAS: Emergency Alert System. The updated version of the Emergency Broadcast System. Alerts the public to emergency situations. Use of the EAS system, and the broadcast of alerts to the public, are an FCC requirement.

Log: Short reference for the documents that prescribe and detail what is to be aired on a broadcast station for a given broadcast day. It also serves as a written record of what obligations were in fact aired/performed and at what precise time. This is a legal document required by the FCC and hence we require the board-operator’s signature accounting for their time frame of broadcast. At The LION 90.7fm, our log consists of both the Transmitter Log and the Program Log.

Transmitter Log: A document that lists those that operated the transmitter controls of a radio station, the start and end time that they operated the controls, and any transmitter output readings and/or Emergency Alert System alerts that were received in the time they operated the controls. This document is required by the FCC, and you are required to document all of the above in the Transmitter Log.

Program Log: A listing of the commercial and programming content of a radio station. This document is required by the FCC, and you are required to follow it, play what is detailed on the log, and sign that you have played the content listed on it.

Slander: Any spoken defamation of character. Generally, saying something about someone that is not true. This is a legally punishable offense.

Indecency: The FCC says: “Indecency is language, or material, that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive, as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs.”

Obscenity: The FCC says: obscenity “offers no political, cultural, artistic, or social value.” Obscenity is not protected under the First Amendment, and it cannot be broadcast under any circumstances.

Equipment and Tech

Transmitter: A device that sends an audio signal for radio or television communication. Without one, you’re just broadcasting to yourself.

Board: The large mixer that controls what is sent over our air, i.e. “the board.” See Console. Remember the 3 basic functions of any audio board: to route, amplify, and mix sound.

Console: The large mixer that controls what is sent over our air, i.e. “the on-air console.” Console is used to refer to the board; most members will refer to it as the “on-air board.”

Channel: An individual input on the console. Only one audio source can come through each channel on the board. Each channel has its own fader for controlling the volume of an audio source. Channels can be divided by an A/B switch, allowing for two different audio sources, or peripheral devices to be wired through a channel. However, only one can be used at a time.

Output Bus: Audio that is coming in through a channel is routed to its destination outside the board by way of a carrier known as an output bus. Examples are the Program bus (or Program 1), followed by an Audition bus, (or on some boards known as Program 2). Each channel offers the option of dropping its signal into one or more output buses which rout its sound signal to whatever end-point they are wired. Typically, the first bus will usually be the one set to feed or send the audio signal to the transmitter via the air-chain. Our board is no exception, and in order for any given channel’s audio signal to go out over the air, the red-light Program bus must be pressed down on those channels.

Fader: The slider on the console that controls the volume of a channel. For decades, slide faders have been conventional controls for amplifying volume. They replaced the old-style dials that turned clockwise and counterclockwise known as “rotary pots”.

Pot Down: To move the fader down, i.e. “potting down the source.” This lowers, or turns off, the source.

Pot Up: To move the fader up, i.e. “potting up the source.” This raises the volume of the source.

Cue: Refers to putting a channel into “cue” mode, with the Cue button on the on-air console. This sends the audio from that channel to your headphones, and to the built-in “cue” speaker in the on-air console. This is useful for listening to something without putting it on the air.

Cue Up: The action of readying a source for play, i.e. “cueing up a source.” This is usually having a track selected on a CD or MiniDisc player.

Delay: A function of the console that delays the broadcast signal for 10 seconds before sending it to the transmitter. It allows the board operator to “skip over” a piece of audio in the delay. Delay is used as a “safety” mechanism for preventing the broadcast of illegal, obscene, or any non-air-quality material.

Remote: a). A live broadcast outside of the studio from any remote location, i.e. “a remote.” b). A way to turn on a source via the board, i.e. “the remote-fire button.” (see remote fire)

Remote Fire: To automatically start playing any peripheral device feeding audio into the sound board by turning on the red On-button, or any other designated control for this purpose. I.e., Turning on the CD Channel on the board would automatically start the CD player, so you wouldn’t have to manually hit play on the CD-deck.

Select Switch: A switch on the right side of the console that can select one of a menu of many pre-determined audio sources, and play them through a channel. These sources must be routed to feed this select-menu. We currently have two select menus, one for digital audio devices and one for analogue.

Audio Source: Any piece of equipment that feeds an audio signal to the console. This can be a CD player, turntable, microphone, computer, phone interface, or any other piece of equipment that can output audio to the console. We have referred to external audio sources set up around the console as peripheral devices.

Automation: Automated Mechanism that provides audio programming to a station’s transmitter. The LION 90.7fm uses Automation for its overnight and non-live programming, and for programming over semester breaks. This is performed by a computer running a particular audio software program. The computer is the “Automation computer”, and the program is the “Automation program” designed to perform this function. The program currently used is called “OpLOG”.

Live Assist: A mechanism that assists an operator during live programming to conveniently air various audio cuts from a single source. This is performed by a computer running a particular audio software program. The computer is the “Live Assist computer”, and the program is the “Live Assist program” designed to perform this function. The program currently used “QuicPix”.

iMedia Pix: The computer program we currently use to play liners, sweepers, promos, underwriting messages, PSAs, and even some types of music, on the air. Our QuicPix system is called a “live-assist” system, as it “assists” you in doing your “live” show, as opposed to our Automation system, OpLOG, that performs an entire show by itself. See Automation.

Media: refers to any mechanism on which audio information can be stored, played back from, or even recorded to. Analogue media includes carts, reel-to-reel tape, tape cassette, vinyl record, etc. Digital media include compact discs, minidiscs, Digital Audio Tape, etc.

Cart: originally referred to the analog tape casings (looking like 8-track tapes) that were conventionally used for decades in the radio industry to air produced audio clips of all sorts, especially stop-set elements. Over time, the name “cart” also became an umbrella term synonymous for the audio spot it would play. Thus, many computer programs used for live assist may refer to individual spots as carts.

MiniDisc: A small CD-like diskette encased in its own cartridge that can record 74 minutes of audio only (though new formats are allowing for more). The tracks on these can be named, for easy identification. The Lion 90.7fm used these to replace old analogue audio carts for airing promos, PSAs, and underwriting tracks, audio clips, among other things. They still are intended to serve as a fall-back in case of problems with Live-Assist.

Turn Table: A vinyl-record player.Turn Table Mixer: a mixer box connected to two turn tables allowing a DJ to fade and transition or ‘mix’ back and forth between the two record players.

Comrex: Name of a particular company that manufactures remote-broadcast equipment. We refer to the device that is the source for our remote broadcasting system as “the Comrex”. This is really a simplified modem that is used to receive and send the audio signal over telephone lines.

Mic (Microphone): Just a short way of referring to a microphone.

Live / Hot / Open: A microphone that is turned on, i.e. a “Live Mic”, “Hot Mic”, or “Open Mic”.

Meter: Refers to the VU (Volume Unit) meters on the console that indicate the volume level of what you’re putting out on the air. See “In The Red”. The volume levels reflected here are not the levels of the studio speakers.

Meter Reading: A measure of the output power of the transmitter. This is required by the FCC to ensure that a radio station’s transmitter is operating correctly. This is accomplished at The LION 90.7fm through a telephone interface.

In The Red: A volume level over 0dB (zero decibel) on the meters, i.e. “in the red” part of the meter.


The arrangement and sequence of various spots and breaks during a block of programming.

Format Clock: A description of where programming elements (stop-sets, music) are scheduled in a given hour. Often shown in the shape of a clock.

Top Of The Hour: The beginning of the hour, i.e. 12:00. Refers to the minute hand pointing to the “top” of the clock. See Bottom Of The Hour.

Bottom Of The Hour: Thirty (30) minutes into an hour, i.e. 12:30. Refers to the minute hand pointing at the “bottom” of the clock. See Top Of The Hour.

Cut: Any piece of audio, i.e. “play cut 1 from the CD.” Usually used in reference to a specific piece of audio from QuicPix or from a CD.

Segue: The transition from one piece of audio to another.Break: A stop in programming, i.e. “going into a break.” Usually used to reference a stop-set, as in “the 25 break.” See Stop Set.

Floating Break: A break, usually of specified length that can be taken at any point within a range, or window of time during the hour, at the discretion of the broadcaster.

Stop-Set: A break in the music or programming where underwriting spots, PSAs, and other obligations are played.

Spot: A pre-recorded underwriting message, i.e. “the SBS spot.” See Underwriting.

Underwriting: Messages, similar to commercials, but that are non-qualitative and purely factual announcements about businesses broadcast in exchange for their tax-deductable donations. This is a way for corporate sponsors to fund non-commercial radio stations. These fall under specific guidelines, and are technically not “commercials.” The LION 90.7fm’s Sales Department sells underwriting messages to local businesses to help fund our operations.

PSA: Public Service Announcement. This is an announcement from the government or one from, by, or about any non-profit organizations or events, local or non-local, for play on a broadcast station. We divide these into Local PSAs and Non-Local PSAs.

Promo: A promotional announcement. These are usually played during stop-sets to promote the station and/or events that the station will participate in. We divide these into Event Promos, Show Promos, and Station Promos. Event Promos promote events, particularly those that are put on by, sponsored by, or involve the station. Show promos promote particular programs on the station, and should be played during any show but the one it promotes. Station promos are those that promote the station as a whole or a given facet of the station applicable to all, such as the station website promo.

Wx: An abbreviation for “weather.” This may be used on logs or in “cut” or “spot” descriptions.

Liner: A short (usually about 5 seconds or less) sound clip played during a segue from one song to another, or from music to a stop-set. Usually contains a way to identify the station (i.e. The LION 90.7fm). See Sweeper.

Sweeper: A short (10 seconds or less) sound clip played out of a stop set into a song. Usually contains a way to identify the station (i.e. The Lion 90.7fm). See Liner.

Talk Up: To talk about a song over its intro, or before it plays, i.e. “talking up a song.” See Backsell.

Frontsell: Giving the artist and title of a song before having playing it, or as it is beginning. Usually done over the fade-in, or fade-up of a song. See talk up

Backsell: Giving the artist and title of a song after having played it. Usually done over the ending fade of a song.

Voice-Over: Any voice work or read (typically prerecorded) for announcements, messages or imagery to be produced and aired.

Dry Read: Any live or prerecorded read/voice-over that has no bed music.

Bed Music: Instrumental music played while you speak on the air, or for any pre-recorded voice- over. It is played in the background, or underneath the voice, hence the term “bed”. This sounds better than talking over nothing, and eliminates dead air. i.e. the “weather bed”, is background music played underneath a weather report read.

Dead Air: Silence, or no discernable sound being broadcast while a transmitter is turned on. We are NOT ALLOWED to broadcast Dead Air.

Imaging: Stylized audio that gives the listener a “mental image” of what the station is about or its place in the market. It may include sounds, effects, bed music, arrangements and Usually refers to liners, sweepers, and promos. See Liner, Sweeper.

Drop: A piece of recorded audio, usually from an artist, celebrity, or public figure, basically identifying or saying something about our station and/or program. The LION 90.7fm’s two most famous local drops are from President Graham Spanier (“You can greatly enhance your chances of getting a degree if you listen to…”), and from Gary Cattell, the Willard Preacher (“You’re listening to The LION 90.7fm, and you’re going to hell”). Drops must include the name of the station, and may also include the Legal ID.

Ratings: A way of tracking how many people listen to a particular station. Arbitron, Inc. conducts rating surveys in the State College area from April through June, and from October through December, making State college a “Two-book market”.