Lesson 4. Language & Theory of Radio

How Radio Works- Commercial radio model

  • Broadcasting is a business
  • Radio stations make money by selling advertising time (commercials)
  • The more people who listen to a station, the more valuable its airtime
  • Stations measure listeners using Arbitron ratings (Arbitron = the Neilsons of radio)
  • Therefore, higher Arbitrons create greater dollar value for airtime


  • Commercial radio stations target a specific audience by programming a single format
  • Stations want listeners to identify them as their radio station of choice
  • As a result, stations decide on a particular station image to present to the public
    • i.e. QWK Rock 103.1, Froggy 98.7, Kiss FM, Power 99, The LION 90.7.
  • That image is promoted through the station’s stylized pre produced audio, or imaging
  • The image a station selects is based on the audience it is targeting
  • A station’s imaging should reflect its image (cutting edge, family oriented, etc.)
  • Some common examples of pre produced audio elements that project a station’s imagery:
    • Liner – A short, three to five second audio clip identifying the station
    • Sweeper – An eight to ten second audio clip IDing the station (works like a liner)
    • Promo – An on air commercial for the station itself, advertising its programming, format, contests, or outside events.
  • Most commercial stations will play a liner or sweeper between every song
  • Consistency: it may seem overly repetitious, but stations “brand” their image by consistently sticking to a format and the style of imagery that complements it. To create and retain listenership, one must develop quality programming and deliver it consistently.


  • Public and college broadcasting are examples of non profit Radio
  • Both still follow the established model for Radio in America
  • Commercial radio has created the expectation of “how Radio should work”
  • Non commercial stations cannot sell advertising, only underwriting sponsorships. (to be explained in detail at the Matt Jackson lecture).
  • They air PSAs, more often than commercial stations. Public Service Announcements are for not non for profit events/groups/activities/programs.


  • It is how you should always refer to us when on the air, when answering phones, when talking to your friends about the station, or to anyone in the general public. We are The LION 90.7fm.
  • We are NOT “90.7fm, The LION”. That’s like calling you by your last name first. We are NOT “WKPS” to anyone but the FCC and other radio/broadcast industry entities. They’re the only ones who care about call letters. We are “The LION 90.7fm”. We hope you get the point by now.
  • Our call letters are WKPS and our Legal ID is: “WKPS, State College”
    • NEVER call us WKPS on the air!!! (or even off the air, if you can help it)
    • ONLY use “WKPS” in the Legal ID and studio phone number (865 WKPS)
  • The LION’s image is edgy, subversive, student and Penn State oriented
  • As a non profit student radio station, The LION is focused not on profit, but on increasing awareness among a transient student body
  • The LION usually plays a liner between every two to three songs


  • In order to provide diverse, alternative programming, The LION is multi formatted.
  • Our programming grid is set up to best suit the target audience of each genre.
  • The LION features Jazz, Indie Rock, Classic Rock, Public Affairs and Sports Talk, Dance/Electronic/Gothic, Urban/R&B, Loud Rock/Metal, and weekend specialty/variety: Ethnic African, Latin/Salsa, Gospel, Blue Grass, and live student coverage of PSU Sports. (More next week)


  • Audio imaging of station
  • What we produce and why – the purpose behind the anatomy of promos, etc.
  • Play and review audio clips