A radio format or programming format (not to be confused with broadcast programming) describes the overall content broadcast on a radio station. The radio format emerged mainly in the United States in the 1950s, at a time when radio was compelled to develop new and exclusive ways to programming by competition with television. The formula has since spread as a reference for commercial radio programming worldwide.
A radio format aims to reach a more or less specific audience according to a certain type of programming, which can be thematic or general, more informative or more musical, among other possibilities. Radio formats are often used as a marketing tool and are subject to frequent changes.
Except News/Talk, All-Talk or Sports formats, most programming formats are based on commercial music. However the term also includes the news, bulletins, DJ talk, jingles, commercials, competitions, traffic news, sports, weather and community announcements between the tracks.
Throughout its historical development, the American radio industry has changed its formats not only to contend against the newer and more competitive forms of entertainment media – such as television –, as well to pleasure the contemporary tastes of the American audience and earn profits by meeting the entertainment demands more sufficiently to the benefit of all parties affected. Indeed, the same phenomena has happened in other parts of the world.