Station identification

From Academic Kids


Station identification is the practice of any type of radio station identifying itself, typically with a callsign. In this sense, a radio station is any device which is licensed to transmit anywhere in the radio spectrum, on any band, by any means, for any purpose.


United States

Station identification is a practice mandated by the Federal Communications Commission for all broadcast television stations and radio stations in the USA.

When identification is required

According to FCC regulations, broadcast stations must identify themselves as near to each full hour as possible. Though the FCC does not designate exact times, many stations typically identify themselves at some point during the period of five minutes before the hour up to the hour. The FCC allows the time to vary so stations can have some flexibility in scheduling around their various live and taped programming and commercials.

Both radio and television stations are also required to identify themselves at the beginning and end of each broadcast period. For example, if a station goes off the air at 11PM, it must identify itself then and again when it resumes broadcasting.

Some stations (especially college radio stations) also identify themselves every half hour, but according to FCC rules, only once per hour is required.

The advent of automated broadcast equipment has made it much easier for broadcasters to ensure compliance with identification rules. Many television stations and some radio stations have their identifications programmed to play automatically at the appropriate times.

Why identification is required

Station identification is used because of the sheer number of signals available over the air. Not only are there radio and television signals being broadcast, there are also two-way radio signals from police, emergency crews and private companies as well as amateur radio signals. The FCC recognized the need for anyone listening to a signal over the air to be able to tune in a specific time and immediately know what station was being heard and where the signal was originating from.

According to United States law, the FCC can fine or reprimand a station for failing to make the appropriate identification.

Identification on other types of signals

In the United States, the policy on radio identification depends on the service. Station identification is usually done in the station's standard mode of operation, though the FCC considers Morse Code identification to be universally acceptable no matter what mode the station is operating in.

  • Amateur radio requires the callsign to be stated at the beginning and end of a communication and every ten minutes during (some hams use countdown clocks to remind them to identify); modes such as packet radio and fast-scan television often have a provision for automatic identification, either including it as part of a digital data stream or overlaying it over an analog picture.
  • Land mobile two-way (including public safety and business mobile) require station identifications by callsign. In the case of the GMRS service, this is to be done by each station in a similar manner to the amateur practice, though the time limit is fifteen minutes.
  • Repeater systems used in both the Land Mobile and Amateur Radio services often have provisions for announcing the repeater's call sign, either in voice or Morse code.
  • Citizen's Band radio (FCC Part 95) maintains a requirement to use a station identification that is rarely enforced due to the outlaw nature of the band; however, a formula exists for self-assigning a callsign using the letter K, the operator's initials, and the ZIP code of the operator's main residence. Most CB operators prefer to use self-assigned handles reflecting some aspect of their personality; it is generally considered a breach of CB etiquette to use real names, even your own.
  • FRS and MURS have no station identification requirement, though groups of individual users have their own procedures, such as using license plates or informal callsigns. (Some groups within the Boy Scouts of America, for example, use the troop number followed by the scout's initials as a callsign.)
  • WiFi access points are not required by law to identify (they are unlicensed transmitters) but the WiFi standards include provision for an identifier called an SSID, which is transmitted as a routine part of WiFi network traffic.

Radio identification

Radio stations are required to verbally identify themselves each hour. The station must announce its legal call sign, frequency, communities it is licensed to serve, and effective radiated power. Some stations broadcast on more than one frequncies and are required to announce these as well. However, stations do not have to announce all translators each hour. Most stations announce only a few each hour on a rotating basis. Some stations make it a practice to announce all main call signs as well as all translators at a certain time of the day, such as midnight. Some radio stations also announce the signal strength of each translator.

Proper format

Radio announcers must be careful to announce the station identification exactly as instructed by the FCC. For example, if station doesn't have the "FM" part on its official license and registration with the FCC, the announcer cannot say it. In addition, announcers need to be careful to avoid adding additional words between the call signs and the community names. For example, say "This is W--- based in Anytown" is not acceptable because of the words "based in." The community name should immediately follow the call signs, according to FCC regulations.

Many radio stations post a sign in their studios with the official and correct identification announcement printed on it so announcers are always reminded of the correct, legal identification.

Part 15 stations do not always identify, being unlicensed (this would be essentially impossible for a small MP3 player to car radio FM link anyway), but those that run as community-based radio stations usually do. Station identification in that case usually consists of the station's name, frequency, and a slogan; unlicensed stations are not allowed to use formal callsigns.

International shortwave broadcasters usually do not use callsigns, instead giving the name of the service and the location of the home office, and occasionally the frequencies that the current broadcast is being transmitted on.

Television identification

Television stations are also required to identify themselves each hour. However, because television is a visual medium, these announcements can be either visual or audio. Again, the station must identify its main callsign along with the communities it is licensed to serve, any other callsigns it uses, and effective radiated power. Television stations must also include their channel number, as designated by the FCC. Translators are not required to be announced, though many stations make it a practice to display a list of all translators at a particular time of the day.

Combining identification with promotion

Many television stations have come up with a clever way to use the required station identifications as a promotional tool. By combining a short promotion for an upcoming show the station can fulfill its identification requirements while also building its audience. For example, a station may choose to show the viewers video of a local fire and tell them to tune in to the next newscast. During this short clip, the station will run its call signs and communities somewhere on screen, often in very small type. No audio announcement of call signs is necessary if the information appears on screen, so stations are free to use, in this example, the audio of an anchor or reporter promoting the story. Stations also use similar techniques to promote entertainment shows. As long as the correct and complete information appears somewhere on screen, it is a completely legal identification.

Any combination of this is also acceptable. For example some stations air a short (5 to 10 second) announcement with their station logo and an announcer reading their call signs. However, in this example, the communities the station serves were not announced verbally. Instead, they appeared as text on screen somewhere. Again, this is a perfectly legal station identification. As long as the station call sign, channel number and communities are either announced verbally or appear on screen, the identification is legal.

A common practice, originally popularized by the Viacom music station VH1, is to use a small overlay graphic called a "bug" in the corner of the screen, showing the logo of the channel. While not a substitute for a proper station identification, this practice makes it easy to identify the station at a glance for the casual viewer, and is most common among FCC-unregulated cable television channels and on broadcast network programming.

Digital television concerns

The advent of digital television originally made it necessary for stations simulcasting both their analog and digital on the same channel to include both call signs in all identifications. Both stations had the same base callsigns, with the only difference being the analog ending in "-TV" and digital ending in "-DT" (originally -HD). The FCC has now dropped separate suffixes from DTV stations, and in fact PSIP carries the station's ID digitally encoded.


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools