Community Media/MARAA/Community Radio/Conceptual Clarity/Radio Formats

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Here participants are introduced to methods on how they can translate their ideas and expressions to radio through various formats. This session is relatively straight forward, wherein the trainers start listing the formats and then giving one or two examples of where each format can be practically used in radio. The formats we commonly list are:

  • Interview- between 2 people, asking questions and answering questions. Ask brief open ended questions and try not to let the person being interviewed ramble on too long for any one question, or digress too much from the given topic. Make appointments before hand, give them time to prepare answers, and always introduce yourself, and explain why and in what context this interview is being done. Should not be more than 10-15 minutes long
  • Debate- Usually has 3 people; one moderator, one for and one against. Do not do this for the sake of controversial programming, but for the sake of revealing the duality of any given topic. Get clear and articulate people on air, who have something to say and not just vent their views. Should not be more than 15 minutes
  • Panel Discussion- Has about 4 to 5 people talking about a given topic but from different perspectives. All of them need not be in opposition to each other. However, the idea is to have an interesting discussion. So the focus is on the discussion and the various perspectives which can be obtained from it. Here the moderator will have a tough job of balancing various speakers and yet keeping the discussion interesting enough. Should not be more than 15-20 minutes
  • Feature- Usually has a narrator, who talks about a human interest issue, but usually does not talk about hard news. So suppose you want to report an accident, with just a hard fact focus, then it will be a news item. But if you want an in-depth story on the person who was killed, or a story on how their family has been coping then that will be a feature. This format uses music, and effects, and has an emotional appeal. Should not be more than 20 minutes
  • Report- A feature but with a hard news factual focus. So if you take the same road accident case, and want to do a story on the conditions of the roads, and how many accidents took place in a year, then it would be a report. This is more factual. Should not be more than 15 minutes.
  • News Bulletin- Talks about events in the day, pretty self explanatory. Not longer than 10-15 minutes
  • Vox-populi- Literally "voice of the people" in Latin. So any program which involves obtaining public opinion, should use this format. Usually one reporter goes around asking the same question (s) to a variety of people, recording their response. Should not be more than 7-10 minutes.
  • Radio Drama- A play on radio, with actors, usually scripted, and is useful to present a topic but with a creative license! Sometimes there are things which a community radio station can't say directly. Here, the drama comes in mighty useful. Although it attracts listenership, the drama should not be too long or people will lose interest. Its a good idea to have a lots of humor peppered in the drama as it will make people want to stay tuned in. Should not be more than 20 minutes.
  • Phone in- A program which is totally participative. Here a host invites phone calls from the community, asking for song requests, or responding to some comment or story by the radio station, or even to just talk about their experiences. Usually, people need to get accustomed to hearing such shows, so its good to make this a weekly show. Should not be longer than 30 minutes. Don't stay on any one phone call for too long
  • Anchor show/Talk show- Here a couple of anchors or even one anchor, talks about one particular topic and this format is usually interspersed with songs or phone calls from the audience. This is a highly popular format, and the success of this show depends on how good your anchor is. Even commercial radio uses this format a lot. Depending on whether it uses songs, or phone calls, don't make it longer than 30 minutes
  • Radio Magazine- This is exactly like a magazine, which has short stories, interviews, pictures, jokes, letters to the editor and so on. Think of it as kichdi (Indian dessert which is usually made by mixing in everything you've got!), which has interviews, short radio plays, a song or two, some jingles, public service announcements, and so on. Should not be longer than 20 minutes
  • Jingle- Usually 15-30 seconds in duration, this is a musical piece introducing the radio station or even a particular program. Good for brand building and establishing identity. Its a good idea to keep playing station jingles in between programs, or even in the middle of some programs as a break, because you never know when people are tuning in, and if and when they do, chances should be reasonably good that they should hear the name of the station.
  • Public Service Announcement- Again about 30 seconds to a minute long, these are short adverts, but like the name, it is usually a social message. Save water, petrol, be environmentally conscious and so on. Have at least a couple of them every half an hour
  • Station ID- This is like a jingle but its spoken work announcing to the listener that they are listening to this radio station at so and so frequency. If you have some celebrities visiting your station, always get a station ID recorded from them. Also if there are some really well known people or popular people within your community, also get a station ID recorded. Broadcast this frequently. Should not be more than 30 seconds.
  • Advert- This is to promote a business and you will be broadcasting advertisements to generate revenue. Remember however that too many advertisements will keep your listener away. So don't play too many advertisements, and also to keep your advertisements short, or people will change the station! We'd say, maximum of 30 seconds.
  • Documentary- This is just like a documentary film but on radio. Here you want to do subjects which need really an in-depth exploration. These are for things which require a lot of research and for things which you just can't summarize. Usually lasts for about 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Feedback show- This is actually an anchor or talk show, but the content here is fixed, i.e. reading out select feedback letters, or discussing feedback emails or phone calls the station has received. If its a small community you're broadcasting to, and if you know who's given the feedback, then its great fun to imitate the person who's written to you. This brings in the listeners, we've noticed. Not more than 30 minutes.
  • Your own formats- The ones listed above are fairly conventional. If you want to keep your listeners, then you have to keep innovating, and sometimes its good to break the rules. Try to mix and match formats, what works and what doesn't. Think of new formats which haven't been tried before. For example- a program of only sounds and silence to say a story!

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