Radio format

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A radio format is a strategically defined, uniform orientation of a radio program in which all content such as music and spoken contributions are defined in terms of their combinations, structure and presentation. When selecting the pieces of music , one speaks of the " musical color " of a program. The exact design of a radio format is based on the needs and expectations of the intended target group as well as - especially in the case of non-private radio stations - on the requirements and orders of the respective organizers. A central but not mandatory criterion in these considerations is the transparency of the program.

Format radio

The term “format radio” describes a radio program that follows a certain radio format relatively strictly and mostly around the clock and is easily recognizable based on the easily consumable music selection and the presentation style (“ bag radio ”). It is a program that should be immediately recognized and classifiable through music selection, moderation and program structure. For this purpose, the program is usually limited to individual genres and less extensive playlists.

The opposite of the format radio is the " program radio ". In Germany, practically all private radio stations are format radios, while open channels and free radios generally do not pursue a uniform radio format, i. In other words, the music color and the type of presentation can always change completely. Some stations also follow a strict radio format during the day, while they loosen up the format in the evening and night, when the listener is weaker, and tend towards program radio, for example giving space to other styles of music.

Many format radios use a uniform " broadcast clock " in which all elements such as news, weather, traffic service , advertising , music and verbal contributions are set in the course of the hour. As a result, these elements appear at roughly the same time every hour (e.g. advertising always at XX: 20 and XX: 50).


The formatting of a radio program is often carried out in order to achieve greater audience loyalty and thus a higher audience rating . The aim is to achieve the greatest possible advertising income for commercial broadcasters. The exact design of the formatting is often the result of extensive market research . Not only are the needs of the listeners determined, but also which radio format can be expected to achieve the greatest possible audience rating or the greatest possible profit in competition with existing radio stations.

In markets in which many radio stations compete for the audience, very strict and clearly defined radio formats often emerge, while in markets with a few stations the stations often try to reach a very broad audience and accordingly broadcast a less strongly formatted program. so z. B. play a wider range of music tracks and sometimes change the moderation style (e.g. programs for children on Sunday mornings, oldies programs on Tuesday evenings, etc.).

Format radio has its roots in the USA , where there has been stiff competition between broadcasters since radio began in the 1920s. In German-speaking countries, radio stations only began to format themselves more strongly in the course of the introduction of private radio stations . Only a few formats have developed, which are rather unspecific in comparison with the USA and which do not have any commonly used names.

Known radio formats

Surname off
description distribution Typical
Adult album alternative AAA AAA is a further development of the album-oriented rock format with origins in the 1960s and 1970s when the first "Freeform" and "Progressive" formats emerged. The format is characterized by a wider, diverse playlist; Rock and pop are grouped around genres such as indie rock, pop rock, alternative rock, alternative country, jazz, folk, world music, blues and the like. a. expanded. United States WFUV , WYEP
Adult Contemporary AC Contemporary music, one of the most popular formats worldwide SWR3
Album-oriented rock AOR Music oriented format; Information and news are in the background. Moderations usually have a strong connection to music. Europe
Contemporary hit radio CHR Format with current music from the music charts for the core target group of 14 to 29 year olds Europe, USA You FM
Contemporary Christian Music CCM Format shaped by Christian pop music, largely controversial program. Established by Salem Media. United States WFSH
German-oriented, melodious DOM Melody hit
Freeform FF Open program with very different forms of presentation (news, features, music programs, experimental programs). Mostly used in public and free radios . USA, Europe Radio Dreyeckland , WMFO
Southern gospel SG Format shaped by Christian pop music, overlapping with contemporary Christian music United States
Talk radio Talk is now split into many sub-genres USA and worldwide
News / Talk

Conservative Talk Radio

Talk radio broadcasts with a conservative fundamental direction by Salem Media and iHeartMedia established United States WWTC , WJHC
News / Talk

Progressive Talk Radio

Talk radio broadcast with a more progressive focus. Widespread in the US, but not nearly as popular there as their conservative counterparts United States WNYY
News / Talk

Public Talk Radio

Talkradio Broadcast from public radios
News / Talk

Hot Talks / Shock Jokes

Urban Adult Contemporary UAC Mainly distributed in the USA with a selection of music limited to R&B and black music from the 1980s to today. It is aimed at the target group of 25 to 54 year olds and was developed in 1988 by US radio maker Barry Mayo. United States WBLS

See also


  • Axel Buchholz , Walther von La Roche (ed.): Radio journalism. A manual for training and practice in radio. 10th edition. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2013, ISBN 978-3-658-01772-9 .
  • Klaus Goldhammer: Format radio in Germany. Concepts, techniques and backgrounds of the programming of radio stations. Wissenschaftsverlag Volker Spiess, Berlin 1995 ( online version )
  • AM Rubin, RB Rubin: Call-in talk radio in the USA. In: radio and television. 40 (3), 1992, pp. 385-397.
  • Pierre Seidel: The successful US American format radio - an empirical study . Thesis. University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart, 2002. ( Online version ; PDF; 961 kB)

Web links

Wiktionary: Formatradio  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Bag radio for millions - The format radio even sorts out Robbie Williams. In: Osnabrück newspaper. August 11, 2014, accessed on January 16, 2015 : “Those responsible do everything they can to create a carpet of sound in which weird tones have no place. The magic word is "transparency" ... "
  2. Schlager and English oldies, according to the page no longer available , search in web archives: "Analysis of science broadcasts" (TU Ilmenau)@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  3. RadioAllianz Blog - ABC of Radio Formats ( Memento of the original from October 10, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ^ University of Delaware
  5. Website for the book Radio-Journalismus with further information