What Is Radio?

What Is Radio?

You’re probably aware of what radio is through your favourite station, the station you listen to when you wake up, and when commute to work, or the station that plays your favourite hits and features your favourite presenters.

But in reality, radio is much more than just music and personality. Although they form a big part of it, radio is constant. It’s always there for you. You’ll get no teleshopping on the radio, and there’s always something interesting happening.

Radio is the friend you can depend upon to give you the latest information. It can be quite harsh at times, you may not agree with its views, it can cause debate and it can be frustrating. On the other hand, it can be enlightening, engaging and fun.

Did you know there are different types of radio? All of which have the ultimate goal: to not only gain your listenership, but to be there for you.

BBC Radio The BBC has several national stations, including BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, Five Live and BBC 6 Music. Each station has their own unique brand, style and sound, whilst incorporating the BBC’s core values.

But the BBC doesn’t stop nationally. If you want local radio that’s actually local, then you’ll find a BBC local radio station in almost every county. BBC Radio Oxford, BBC London, BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Derby, Nottingham, the list is endless. Each provides local news and information for their audiences amongst a mix of music.

Commercial Radio

Commercial radio is one of the most listened-to types of radio in the UK, if not the world. From the big stations like Heart, Absolute Radio and KISS, to very local stations including Trax FM, Jack FM, Pirate FM – you name it, there’s a commercial radio station in virtually every town and city.

Admittedly, some don’t have studios in their broadcast area, but does that really matter these days? As long as you can hear the relevant information on your FM dial, that's the main thing.

FM is just one of the methods of listening to commercial radio; DAB is also coming into play, as are apps and internet listening. But we’ll leave this for another post, at another time.

Community Radio

Usually run by volunteers, community radio stations can be found across the country. These stations are unique in the fact that, not only are they run by volunteers, they are truly local to the area they serve. You can even get involved in your local community radio station either on-air or behind the scenes. Most stations play music, with a broad range of specialist music programmes and speech based programmes to talk about local matters and issues.

The clue with these stations is in the name: community. It’s an area of the radio industry that’s coming up through the ranks.

Hospital Radio

Also coming up through the ranks is hospital radio. There’s nothing worse than having to go to hospital, and the volunteers behind over 200 hospital radio stations in the UK know that. Volunteers visit you at your bedside, play your favourite music and generally make your stay in hospital a little better. They often bring the outside world in and give you a sense of belonging.

Hospital radio isn’t just heard in the hospital these days. Many stations have apps, or are available online. Some are even available on FM in the community and fall under the community/hospital radio banner, by providing content relevant for health and wellbeing in the community.

Again, you can volunteer for these stations too and it’s a great way to give something back.

Internet Radio

Internet radio has been around for as long as the internet has been. You’ll often find unique stations on internet radio. For example, if you’re a fan of social networking site Habbo Hotel, you’ll see a few Habbo Hotel-related radio stations floating around, though admittedly they have started to diminish.

When we speak of internet radio, we’re not talking about BBC, commercial, hospital or community stations that offer a listen feature online. We’re talking about internet ONLY stations.

Did you know there’s even an Internet Radio Awards?


I’m sure there are a few other types of radio, but this will whet your palette for now. It’s an underrated medium. It used to be overlooked in favour of TV and print, but it’s a medium that the public love, that you love, even if you don’t realise it yet.

What would the world be like without radio? I’d imagine, very quiet.

Written by Ian Pinnell

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