Aircheck Glossary AIRCHECK's home page
AIRCHECK is intended to be of use to everyone - inside or outside of the radio business. Therefore, to aid with understanding abbreviations which may be included in this site, this page is intended to cut through what may be construed as 'jargon'. If there is still something you've seen on the site that does not have a reference on this page then please e-mail us to be personally informed and for amendments to be made to this page. If you have accessed this page via an in-page link rather than the home page, and wish to return to where you were, please hit the 'BACK' button on your browser, or where set, close this window.
AM = Today's term for what used to be Medium Wave (MW) or Medium Frequency (MF) - short for 'amplitude modulation'. Stations such as Virgin, Five Live & Commercial Gold & BBC local stations use AM. AM tuning bands on most radios are marked in kHz from around 540 to 1600kHz. The numbers on a manual tuner (as opposed to a a digital display) dial are sometimes shown with the final '0' missing, especially on smaller radio sets and tuning dials.. Where this is done, an additional marking of 'x10 kHz' may be shown. The marks act as a guide for tuning and adjustment of the dial and replacing of the set may be required. AM (Medium Wave) signals are not as clear as FM and are prone to interference, especially at night. However, signals usually cover a larger area than FM. Receivers have an inbuilt ferrite rod directional aerial - hence the possible need to reposition the entire radio set. New radio sets are marked in Hertz (cycles per second) and on the AM band, these are measured in thousands. Older radio sets are often marked in metres (m), a term that means the wavelength from one peak to the next.
To convert frequency (in kHz) to wavelength (in metres) use the formula: 300,000 divided by frequency in kHz = wavelength in metres. For example - 300,000 divided by 945kHz = 317m and 300,000 divided by 558kHz = 538m.
ANALOGUE = A term used to describe radio services heard on conventional radio bands FM(VHF), AM(MW), SW & LW (Short/Long Wave). Analogue licences last for eight years at a time and are readvertised, re-awarded or awarded to a new successful applicant shortly before each licence expires and after appropriate procedures are invoked by the regulatory body. An applicant must satisfy the broadcast regulator's criteria for holding such a licence - these are wide and far ranging and cost a significant amount of money. Unlike digital television, the Government has no programme in place to "switch off" analogue radio with the arrival and development of Digital Radio (see DIGITAL below). However, it is thought likely that the analogue signal will be switched off once digital radio covers the whole country, whilst others think it will be handed over to more community based broadcasters.
BCI = The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland. Regulator of radio in Southern Ireland.
DIGITAL = A term used to describe radio services heard on a higher quality network of stations. Analogue radio sets receive signals in the form of airwaves. These can become confused with one another and overlap, leading to potential hiss and crackle. Digital radio uses the airspace, or spectrum, more efficiently. Receivers are able to lock onto a strong signal to eliminate rogue signals. About 20 per cent of the digital signal is reserved for data services. Digital listeners can take advantage of these through a display on their receivers, where they can access information like travel news or weather. Unlike digital television, the Government has no programme in place to "switch off" analogue radio. However, it is thought likely that the analogue signal will be switched off once digital radio covers the whole country, whilst others think it will be handed over to more community based broadcasters.
A digital network has to carry the local BBC station under terms of the 1996 Broadcasting Act but otherwise, a bidder can accept applications from existing analogue services and can also carry services that are not currently heard on any other platform/network/service locally. Digital licences are usually won by a consortium of existing analogue licence holders. Digital licences are awarded for 12 years - to date, none have been readvertised due to the new format. An applicant must satisfy the broadcast regulator's criteria for holding such a licence - these are wide and far ranging and cost a significant amount of money. Specialist equipment is needed (a DAB Digital Radio) to receive the digital exclusive services. Receivers can now be purchased quite widely, with the cheapest less than £100.00.
FM = Frequency Modulation - today's term for vHf - refers to stations such as Radios 1 to 4, BBC local & Commercial Pop stations use FM. FM (VHF) tuning bands are marked in MHz, and measured in millions, the figures describing the frequency of the transmission. FM offers better reception quality, but transmissions are more vulnerable to obstructions like hills and tall buildings.
IBA = Independent Broadcasting Authority - forerunner of the Radio Authority responsible for handing out early television and radio licences
ILR = Independent Local Radio - refers to Commercial Radio and despite the radio companies dumbing down of the term to 'Independent Radio', this term is still used by many. The term 'ILR' was first used in 1973 when the first commercial radio stations, London's LBC & Capital Radio came on-air.
INR = Independent National Radio, i.e. a commercial station designed to cover the entirety of the British Isles. The three commercial national stations are: Classic FM, talkSPORT and Virgin Radio. There was a fourth arguable national UK station, Atlantic 252 / TEAMtalk 252, but this was licenced by the Southern Ireland Government and has never been defined as an UK INR licence. TEAMtalk 252 came off air in 2002.
IRN = Independent Radio News - London-based provider of a subscription-based news service to commercial radio stations and RSL holders. It is available via a high quality telephone line or via satellite. IRN is affiliated to television news provider ITN. Bulletins are aired on the hour and at peak times on the half hour to commercial radio subscribers, and can be used when the station does not carry locally produced bulletins of it's own. It is not known how much commercial radio broadcaster pay, but RSL broadcasters pay IRN £117.50 per licence term to carry the IRN service. In addition to subscriptions, IRN carry advertising at the end of some peak time bulletins. For many years, IRN bulletins could be distinguished by the wording 'Independent Radio News' read at the end of bulletins - this was the cue for subscribers to leave the service. In 2003, this line was replaced with a'...that's the update, it's 2/3 minutes past ...' timecheck. IRN previously had competitors from ITN Radio News and Network News, the latter originating from Dunstable's old Chiltern Radio HQ. Today, ITN have merged with IRN and Network News closed shortly after GWR Radio Group took over Chiltern Radio plc and, acting as landlords, informed Network News to move, however it was unable to find suitable premises. IRN's main competitor now is SKY Radio News, taken by a small number of radio stations in comparison to the IRN take-up.
IRR = Independent Regional Radio - refers to Commercial Radio which covers a larger area than ILR, usually several counties or an entire region or county. Examples are 100.7 Heart FM (West Midlands), Real Radio (Various) & Galaxy (North West & North East).
kHz = Abbreviation for 'Kilohertz' - a measurement used in AM band radio. See AM above.
LW = Abbreviation for 'Long Wave' BBC Radio 4 broadcast on 198 metres LW, Atlantic 252 / TEAMtalk 252 used to broadcast a UK-targeted service, but this frequency is now targeted at Southern Irish people resident in the British Isles, with a state broadcaster operating it. A new national Long Wave station, provisionally titled 'MusicMann 279' is due to start broadcasting to the UK and central Europe in 2005 from the Isle Of Man.
m = Abbreviation for 'metres' - a measurement used in AM band radio. See AM above.
MF = Old description of what is now AM (see above). Stands for 'Medium Frequency'.
MHz = Abbrevation for 'Megahertz' - a measurement used in FM band radio. See FM above.
MW = Old description of what is now AM (see above). Stands for 'Medium Wave'.
OFCOM = Communications and in particular, broadcast regulator which replaced the Radio Authority at the end of 2003. The acronym stands for the 'Office Of Communications'. OFCOM has taken control of all parts of the UK communications business, particularly television and radio licensing.
Promise Of Performance = This forms part of the content of a station's licence application to the Radio Authority, where it 'promises' to keep to certain standards, such as levels and types of speech content, styles/genres/eras of music played, how much programming is actually broadcast from the locality, etc. Less reference has been made to these licence inclusions over recent years, and there have been many, sometimes successful, campaigns by stations to get them changed or dumbed down for various reasons.
RA = Our abbreviation for the UK Radio Industry's Governing Body from 1990 up to the end of 2003 - the Radio Authority. It is NOT to be confused with the Radiocommunications Agency, who were responsible for the management of the non-military radio spectrum in the UK, which involved international representation, commissioning research, allocating spectrum and licensing its use, and keeping the radio spectrum clean - the confusion ended in late 2003 when the Radiocommunications Agency became part of OFCOM. (see above)
RSL = Restricted Service Licence - a short-term licence awarded by the broadcast regulator - OFCOM - can be applied for an operated up to twice per year by a licence holder under current broadcast legislation. They are most popularly run for the maximum period allowed per broadcast of 28 days, although shorter periods are also licenced. They are designed to be used for trial services, i.e. those which may assess the viability of a format or service, or to cover a special event, i.e. festivals, local celebrations, sports events, concerts, exhibitions. An FM licence currently costs £2,250 per 28 day broadcast and would use the 87.7-87.9 FM - the part of the FM spectrum set aside for these broadcasts, although applicants can request to use others - 106.4-106.6FM have been popular in the past. An applicant must satisfy the regulator's criteria for holding such a licence - these are wide and far ranging. A licence holder would have to also pay for further licences to copyright and music protection companies to play music. These can be as much as £2,000 between them for a 28-day broadcast.
RTE = Irish-state broadcaster (Southern Ireland). Stands for Radio Telefis Eireann. Operators of RTE Radio 1 & RTE Radio 2 for example.
SALLIE = An acronym for 'Small-scale alternative local licence' and refers to commercial radio stations that cover a smaller area as opposed to a county wide station. They were designed by the Radio Authority to offer a wider listener choice and to reach a more targeted audience. Examples of 'SALLIES' are Kick FM (Newbury), Centre FM (Tamworth, Lichfield & Burton), Oak 107 (Loughborough), and 107.7 The Wolf (Wolverhampton). SALLIES usually use a frequency of 107.0 FM or above. As with other local commercial radio stations, licences run for eight years at a time.
Simulcasting = Carriage of the same radio service on two frequencies: FM (VHF) & AM (MW): common in the commercial radio industry up until the late 80s to early 90s when the broadcast regulator at the time, the IBA, concluded it would no longer be considered reasonable for stations to do this, and therefore instructed stations to use the frequencies to provide different services, or lose them. As a result, AM frequencies became the home of GOLD stations - such as GEM AM, Capital Gold, XTRA-AM, Great North Radio.
STRAPLINES = A catchphrase, used when a station identifies itself on-air - it usually refers to the station's style or music policy. Some of these are used to annoying and over-repetitive extents, whilst others are subtle and less intrusive amongst presentation styles.
SW = Abbreviation for 'Short Wave'. Not commercially preferred but used to send radio signals around the world. The short wave band does not appear on many radio sets, especially new radios, hi-fi equipment and in cars.
VHF = Old description of what is now FM (see above). Stands for 'very high frequency'. Also referred to as 'U' on old radio sets.
AIRCHECK's home page