Should I format my program to fit a broadcast clock?

Short answer: yes. Here's why.

Stations offer content 24/7. To make that massive amount of programming manageable, they break it up into hourly chunks with a designated format known as the broadcast clock.

Typically, the producer of a show is in charge of determining the broadcast clock (or format) of their program. This is especially important for programs that are over 30mins long. Although producers set the broadcast clock, each clock should contain a few elements:

  1. Your program audio (segmented into separate audio files)
  2. Two segments of ambient music, called music beds. Stations can air their station ID or local announcements during this break.
  3. A five minute music bed for the "newshole," a more in-depth break in a program for stations to air local news. This usually occurs at the top of the hour, and is more typical in talk programs.

Here are two examples of broadcast clocks, from a talk show and a music show. MSRClock.png

In the above clock from Milk Street Radio with Christopher Kimball, each "slice" of the pie represents a different audio file that the producers upload for stations. For this show, the timing of the breaks is consistent each week at 20 minutes and 40 minutes. 


This clock from the music show Jazz Happening Now shows "floating breaks." In this case, each hour will have two twenty-second breaks, but they aren't guaranteed to happen at the same time each show. Instead, the producer indicates that they will occur between a span of time, and sends out a "rundown" with specific timing to stations with each episode.

Floating breaks can be used by both music and talk shows.

You can view more broadcast clock examples here. If you're curious about the history of broadcast clocks, 99% Invisible did a whole episode about them that you should listen to here.

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