How to Understand Broadcasting Terminology

Tara Parachuk | October 21, 2020

A movie studio

Terms such as bumper, crossfade, ratings and spots are commonly used in the broadcast industry, but rarely heard elsewhere. In everyday conversation, the average person would have one meaning for the phrases, but the professionals in the field of radio and television would gain a different meaning.

As a professional in marketing, advertising or recording, it could be beneficial for you to learn some of the common terminology used in radio and television broadcast, so the below list provides a brief introduction to some of the most common terms in the broadcasting industry.

Radio and Television Broadcasting Terminology Glossary

Here a small sample of the lingo used in the world of broadcasting:


The conversion of analog to digital.

Access Time

The time it takes to find, get and begin using information.


The number of listeners that contact a radio show regarding requests, contests or other information.

Analog Recording

Recording audio using an electronic signal that changes continuously.

Analog Transmission

Broadcasting an analog recording signal.

Average Quarter Hour

Term used to measure the size of the audience for ratings purposes.


The method where a disc jockey announces the song title and/or artist of the song that has just played.


When the DJ calculates the introductory time on a song in an attempt to talk over the intro of the song and finish just prior to the vocals starting.


A production element, usually instrumental music or sound effects played in the background of a spoken commercial, promo or other announcement.


A short announcement to recognize a sponsor at the start or end of a production element such as the news, sports, traffic or weather reports.


A slang term to the Arbitron ratings service report.

Call Letters

The identifying letters of a radio or television station.


An excessive number of non-program elements (such as commercials) appearing one after another.


The written material used in producing a public service announcement, promo, or commercial that is meant to be read out by the DJ.


The technique where a DJ, producer or engineer fades out the out going track at the same time as fading in the new track.


The radio station’s broadcast day is normally split up into a series of 4 hour sessions containing one or more shows.

Dead Air

When the time on-air where there is no audible transmission.

Front Sell

The act of introducing a song about to be played.


A programming element usually in the form of vocals to accompanying music often produced in-house to identify the show, DJ or the station.


A piece of written text that the DJ says over the intro of a song or between spots and songs.


A one-time episode of a proposed series, usually in extended form, to gauge audience reaction.


The listing of official songs that a radio station will play during a given week.


An announcement (either recorded or live) used to promote the station’s image or other event.

Public Service Announcement

A commercial, usually shown for free, giving safety information or advice.


A radio or television commercial.

Additional Resources for Radio and TV Broadcasting Terminology

The above list contains just a few of the terms that are used in the radio and television industry.

For your convenience there is also a Glossary of Voice Over Industry Terms to help you navigate any other industry jargon you may encounter.

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  • Avatar for Chelreo P. Saye-Geh
    Chelreo P. Saye-Geh
    September 1, 2019, 11:01 pm

    Thanks for this lesson

  • Avatar for Taiwo Mathew
    Taiwo Mathew
    July 7, 2022, 2:53 pm

    Thank you for this

  • Avatar for Joshua John Knipp
    Joshua John Knipp
    October 19, 2023, 11:52 am


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    Nurdan Taşkıran
    February 10, 2024, 1:48 pm