The Basics of Program Design


How many segments will there be per show? How long? How many breaks will there be and what will go in each break? Will music or sound be used? How much will be live? How much pre-produced? Will you engage callers? In every show? Only for certain topics? Never? The answer to each question will have a profound effect on the staff and resources you’ll need to produce a show at a consistently high level of quality. More topics generally require more production support.

In addition, consider what the show’s online presence will feel like. If you don’t address that question from Day One in the process of developing the broadcast format of the show, the online presence will be eternally consigned to an afterthought, and the audience will treat it as such. As we stated at the outset, we are still in the early stages with these new platforms, so best practices have still not been developed. But, research how others are dealing with online and make sure it furthers the goals of the program.


Most stations use a clock with a 5 minute news hole from:01 to :06 but break times and duration are unique to each local program. Here are two sample clocks from WNPR’s Where We Live

  • WNPR Daily Show Clock
  • WNPR Fundraising Clock

Many stations use floating breaks. These can air at any time during the program and so segment lengths will vary from day to day. An advantage of this format is more flexibility to give topics and guests the amount of time they deserve.

On the other hand, some stations wish to share content with other stations. Adoption of the universal program clock makes it easier to share content with other stations, or preserves that option for future use.

Length and Frequency 

The length of the show will depend on the resources you have to support it. Avoid over-committing yourself to a block of airtime that cannot be filled at a consistently high quality. In other words, don’t start your program planning with show length.

Since radio listening is driven by habit, for maximum impact daily talk shows should be broadcast at a consistent time across the week with a consistent host and a consistent format.