Radio Lingo

February 6, 2007 | 4 Comments

Want to know what a trisco is? Here’s a list of the weird jargon I’ve encountered so far in the BBC’s World Service. Thanks to Ruth for the idea and I look forward to comparing vocab . . . Read on to enter the strange world of radio lingo:

  • Anno: Announcement. A short sentence or two to provide ‘illustration’.
  • Back anno: An announcement that comes after or ‘off the back’ of a piece of ‘illustration.’ Often used by newsreaders when time is ‘light’ and they need to ‘fill’.
  • Off the back: Doing anything after something else, e.g. “We can go to Roger off the back of the interview with the PM.”
  • Disco: A discussion involving two people on air talking to each other.
  • Head-to-Head: A ‘disco’ where both guests hold opposing viewpoints.
  • Trisco: A discussion with three people.
  • Illustration: Any piece of audio that can be used to add colour or context to a news bulleting, e.g. a report from a correspondent.
  • Bed: The section of a programme’s theme tune that is played at low volume at the beginning of a programme while the presenter reads out the main upcoming topics or delivers the ‘trail’.
  • Billboard: Typically a 9 – 15 second clip of high-impact audio used at top of a programme to illustrate a particularly compelling piece of upcoming reportage. The idea is to hook the listener into staying tuned.
  • Ident: A bit of live or pre-recorded audio that tells the listener who and what they are listening to, e.g. ‘This is Ros Atkins and you’re listening to the BBC.’
  • Trail: Trails can be at the top or midway and are often both. They’re live or pre-recorded bits of brief audio giving an opportunity for the presenter to tell the listeners what’s coming up. Ident’s are often used within trails.
  • Hard post: An imaginary point in a bulletin when the presenter must pause for a sufficient length of time (2 seconds) for affiliates who do not wish to continue rebroadcasting the rest of a bulletin to cut away. Often an ident will be spoken/played immediately before the hard post, e.g. “This is the BBC World Service” or often more simply, “BBC News.” Common mistakes are missing a hard post or coming to it late which means the rebroadcaster will cut away from your output in mid-speech. Alternatively coming to a hard post early means there is a period of dead air which necessitates some ‘fill’.
  • Fill: Anytime the presenter has to deviate from the script to fill dead air. Can happen when a caller unexpectedly cuts off and it takes the studio engineers a few seconds to get them back or when announcing the news bulletin a little faster than your normal reading pace causing you to reach the hard post a few seconds early. Filling can involve saying a ‘back anno’, reading out the programme’s contact details or reading out some texts/e-Mails/comments from listeners depending on how much time you’ve to fill.
  • Box office. (c) Richard Bowen. See ‘Gold.’
  • Gold. (c) Richard Bowen. Richard ‘Dicky’ Bowen’s term for a piece of particularly good radio. See also ‘Box office’. E.g. “That interview with the crazy mullah was box office man.” Cf ‘And we’re live . . .’
  • And we’re live . . . (c) Richard Bowen. A light-hearted sarcastic expression used to draw attention to a particularly embarrassing piece of on-air verbal tomfoolery. Also often used when off-air, e.g. in the pub.
  • Quality: Broadcast quality sound such as when interviewing someone in a studio or face-to-face with minidisc equipement or over an ISDN line, e.g. “Can we get him in quality?” Interviewing someone over a standard phone line or SKYPE is not considered quality.
  • Simulrec: Simultaneous recording. When a pre-recorded interview is to be conducted over a poor quality line and resources permit, you can send a producer to sit next to the interviewee with recording equipment to obtain his answers in ‘quality.’ The result produces two pieces if audio in quality: 1) the questions posed by the interviewer in the studio and 2) the answers spoken by the interviewee. The producer doing the simlurec must then transfer the answers in quality back to the studio where the two seperate pieces of audio can be mixed together. Failure to understand this final step can often lead to grief when ‘cutting’ audio.
  • Cutting: Editing audio to remove unwanted speech or sound.
  • De-um: Cutting audio to remove all ocurrences of a speaker saying “um” and “err”. E.g. “It’s a good interview but you’ll need to de-um it first.”
  • Ummy: Description of any potential interviewee who tends to take their time getting their point across. E.g. “She’s a good speaker but a bit ummy.”
  • Light: Being ahead of yourself in the running order. Can happen when a presenter reads quicker than normal or a piece of audio or ‘package’ you were expecting doesn’t come in or is lost. Being light usually necessitates a ‘fill’.
  • Package: A pre-recorded audio feature usually between 3 and 7 minutes in length. Packages are recorded by broadcast journalists and involve mixing down ‘actuality’ with their own reporting. A good package is aurally compelling and because it’s a fixed-length it can be inserted into a running order with reasonable certainty as to how much airtime they will take.
  • Actuality, Act: Any audio that is not reporting or comment from the journalist or reporter delivering the story.
  • Pot: A point in a script before its natural end where the announcer can finish speaking without losing the overall sense of the piece. Used when you’re overrunning and need to cut stuff out. E.g. with regard to the following text a presenter could be told to “pot it at ‘at least nine’ then go to Alan…”: In Gaza there has been more violence between supporters of the elected government party, Hamas and Fatah, the party of the president. At least nine people have died and nearly a hundred have been wounded in the latest clashes which happened despite a ceasefire agreement. On the line from Gaza city is our correspondent, Alan Johnson
  • Doughnut: Any sequence where the presenter goes to a correspondent/speaker who, after a brief bit of illustration, introduces a pre-recorded item after which the correspondent (not the presenter) picks up the theme. I think the idea here is that the pre-rec item is the ‘jam’ in the correspondent’s ‘doughnut’. Very lame, I know.
  • Voiceover: Doing a voiceover involves translating some non-English audio, transcribing it and then taking the English text into a studio and recording someone speaking it. Afterwards the original foreign audio is mixed with the overlaid English. Listeners hear a brief 2 or 3 seconds of the original language before being backgrounded for the voiced over audio.


4 Comments so far

  1. The business of presenting . . . : Paul Coletti on May 20, 2007 10:08 pm

    […] Does the billboard come before the trail? Do we even need a trail – what are we trailing? Where are all the hard posts? What about the news bulletin – does it finish at 5 past or 6 past? Is the half-past bully 3 or 2 minutes long? Which button is it to speak to the SMs? (if you’ve not seen my radio lingo section then check it out). […]

  2. Make it English : Paul Coletti on January 19, 2008 12:36 am

    […] habits do die hard I guess. Just two days ago I was asked to do a voiceover for a programme. Upon hearing my (vastly reduced from what it was) Scottish accent my colleague […]

  3. Alex Weisz on September 3, 2010 3:17 pm

    very useful and lots of fun!

    thanks Paul!

  4. World Have Your Say — Top 5 moments : Paul Coletti on March 24, 2017 10:06 pm

    […] of Bush House. The language of radio for a newbie is pretty confusing too as I noted some months later once I’d recovered from the initial […]

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