Station identification (ident, network ID or channel ID) is the practice of radio or television stations or networks identifying themselves on-air, typically by means of a call sign or brand name (sometimes known, particularly in the United States, as a "sounder" or "stinger", more generally as a station or network ID). This may be to satisfy requirements of licensing authorities, a form of branding or a combination of both. As such, it is closely related to production logos used in television and cinema, alike.
Station identification used to be done regularly by an announcer at the halfway point during the presentation of a television program, or in between programs.
- 1 Asia
- 2 Australia
- 3 UK and Europe
- 4 United States
- 5 Livestream identification
- 6 Combining identification with promotion
- 7 Worldwide
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Station IDs in the Philippines differ from the original concept. Instead of a way to identify television networks, these are presented in the form of music videos that represent the season in which the ident is aired during, which consist of tag-init (summer season), tag-ulan (rainy season), and Pasko (Christmas season). Station IDs in the Philippines runs for three to six minutes depending on the television station. The longest station ID is "Thank You Ang Babait Ninyo", which was used by ABS-CBN as a Christmas ID in 2014, lasting for ten minutes and 36 seconds. However, ABS-CBN, alongside some networks (i.e. UNTV, RPN, IBC, and PTV), also releases CGI-animated station IDs, not yearly but sporadically.
A radio station may have call letters related to its town or district name, and the company name; for example, Charters Towers, Queensland station 4CHT and Ceduna Community Radio Inc's 5CCR in Ceduna, South Australia. The station may have a name-callsign completely different from its licensed callsign, such as Wollongong, New South Wales station 2UUL, which is branded on-air as "Wave FM".
A television station usually associates with its network; for example, the Regional Television Queensland station RTQ is known as WIN Television (itself associated with the larger Nine Network), and WIN's original station at Wollongong bears the callsign WIN.
UK and Europe
Broadcast stations in Europe do not identify by a callsign, however most networks use a brand based on their common channel number. A form of station identification clip is played between programmes, traditionally incorporating the channel's logo, and accompanied by a continuity announcer that introduces the next programme (and promotes other programmes). These identifiers evolved from mainly being mechanical models (such as the famous BBC globe), to becoming more advanced through the evolution of CGI during the 1980s. From the 1960s to the 1990s, most broadcasters only used a single identifier, sometimes using special variations for holidays and special events. In the present day, most broadcasters use a set of multiple identifiers built around a particular theme or branding element, often based on the channel's current overall look.
Prior to 1 January 1988, each programme on ITV would be preceded by the identifier of the regional company that had produced the show, and this would be broadcast throughout the network, in other words by all companies showing the programme. It meant that viewers across the country would see a "Yorkshire Television" logo and hear the corresponding fanfare before Emmerdale Farm and "Scottish Television" idents before Take the High Road. In consequence, most ITV-produced series shown abroad would also be preceded by the producing company's logo – for example, PBS presentations of Upstairs, Downstairs featured the London Weekend Television logo and fanfare before the start of the programme. Beginning in 1988, these were largely replaced by endcaps. Since the consolidation of the ITV network in the early 2000s, the variety of creative and distinct regional identifiers that made ITV unique in the UK have largely disappeared, UTV and STV being the only notable exceptions.
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Why identification is required
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires all broadcast television and radio stations to provide on-air identification. This is due to the sheer number of signals available over-the-air – not only from television and radio stations, but also two-way radio signals from police, emergency crews, private companies, and amateur radio operators. Additionally, from the FCC's perspective, it is critical to be able to positively identify the source of a broadcast that is not complying with federal regulations; according to United States law, the FCC can fine or reprimand a station for failing to make the appropriate identification. Early radio operators recognized the need for anyone listening to a signal over the air to be able to tune in at a specific time and immediately know what station was being heard and where the signal was originating from.
Content and frequency of identification
Per the FCC, U.S. radio and television stations are required to identify themselves:
- At the beginning and ending of each time of operation, and
- Hourly, as close to the hour as feasible, at a natural break in program offerings.
Some stations, especially television stations and college radio stations, identify themselves at or near every half-hour, though the requirement is only once per hour.
At one time, the FCC gave specific guidelines for how close to the top of the hour stations were expected to be:
- "within 2 minutes" for normal scheduled programming
- "within 5 minutes" for unrehearsed programming with logical breaks, such as sporting events and parades
- "as close as possible" for programming that had no definite break on the hour, such as speeches and classical music performances lasting longer than an hour; broadcasters were not expected to interrupt legitimate programming for a station ID.
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 pre-recorded or programmed to display automatically at the appropriate times. Stations that use live announcers for legal IDs usually post a sign in their studios with the official and correct identification announcement printed on it so that announcers are always reminded of how the legal ID must be expressed. Some radio stations choose to run their legal ID between two commercials during a stop set (commercial break) that airs close to the top of the hour.
FCC regulations dictate that stations only need to include their call sign and city of license in their legal ID (see below), although some stations, as a common courtesy, include detailed information in their "sign-on" and "sign-off" IDs; this additional information can include the name of the station's owner and/or license holder, the location of its transmitter, its studio-to-transmitter link call-sign, and its operating power.
Proper format of identification
Radio stations are required to verbally identify themselves each hour; they must announce their legal call sign followed immediately by the station's community of license. Though many radio stations use their call sign (either full or partially) in their branding, the full call sign must always be used in the legal ID. Additionally, the call sign must be spelled out; for example, KOMO in Seattle, Washington, although its call sign is pronounced as "KO-MO" for branding purposes, it must legally be identified as "K-O-M-O, Seattle." If the station’s call sign includes a suffix (which is more common with FM stations), the station must include the suffix in the identification (for example, "WMUC-FM, College Park"). Although it is not required, some radio stations will also announce their frequency or dial setting during the station identification.
Some stations include in their legal ID a larger nearby city that it part of their service area but is not the city of license (for example, "WSNE-FM, Taunton/Providence"); some even go so far as to downplay the actual city of license in favor of the larger city it serves (such as WKTU, which mentions its city of license, Lake Success, very quickly and with less inflection before the much more prominent New York and WQXR-FM in New York City, which announces the communities it serves as Newark and New York in their legal ID, since their city of license is Newark, New Jersey and they are located in New York City. This is acceptable as long as the first city mentioned immediately after the call sign is the station's city of license. FCC rule 73.1201 specifies that "a station may include in its official station identification the name of any additional community or communities, but the community to which the station is licensed must be named first."
Some stations broadcast on more than one frequency, including low-power stations, and are required to announce these identifications as well; however, stations do not have to announce all translators each hour, but instead must ID them three times per day. All translators must be identified between 7 and 9 a.m., 12:55 and 1:05 p.m., and 4 and 6 p.m.
As noted above, FCC regulations dictate that the community of license must immediately follow the call sign. Only the name of the licensee, the station’s frequency, the station’s channel number, as stated on the station’s license, and/or the station’s network affiliation may be inserted between the call letters and station location. Announcers need to be careful to avoid adding any other additional words between the two. Therefore, a station can present their ID as, "This is WXXX, Anytown," but not "This is WXXX, based in Anytown" (which is not acceptable because of the inclusion of "based in" between call sign and city of license); additionally, an ID of "WXXM, Madison/Sun Prairie" is not allowed (since that station is licensed to Sun Prairie, it must ID themselves as "WXXM, Sun Prairie/Madison"). Certain NOAA Weather Radio stations, however, have been allowed to insert the word "in" between the call sign and the city of license (for example, "This is KEB98 in Buffalo and WWG32 in Little Valley").
Stations broadcasting HD Radio feeds identify by their stream channel, and unlike television, the HD1 channel is included in the identification (for example, "WXSS-HD1, Wauwatosa/Milwaukee", "98.3, WRDZ-FM HD-1, Plainfield-Indianapolis" or "WCBS-FM-HD1, New York". AM stations which simulcast via an FM HD subchannel identify both the main stream and the HD stream, and if broadcasting in HD Radio format in AM, also list that as part of the identification (for example, "WISN HD, Milwaukee, and WRNW-HD2, Milwaukee").
Some radio stations employ or have employed creative ways of announcing station identification that are legal. For instance, KMRI in Salt Lake City, Utah, when that station used the call sign KRPN, identified itself as "WKRP N Salt Lake City" – a manner allowable by the FCC even though the "W" was superfluous and the "N" served as a homophone for the word "in" (if "K-R-P-N, Salt Lake City" was spoken, the ID was legal). Another example is New Orleans area radio station KVDU, which is licensed to Houma, Louisiana, more than one hour away. When the station's callsign was licensed as KUMX in the late 1990s, the station's legal ID was presented as "KUMX, Houma New Orleans' hottest hits" (the word 'Houma" is pronounced "HOME-uh"; when spoken in the previously mentioned ID, it sounded like "home of", albeit with slightly lazy English).
As noted above, 47 CFR 73.1201 mandates that both radio and 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 call sign along with the community of license and any other call signs it uses; if it is an aural identification, the television station's ID must follow the standard format for radio (e.g. "K-A-R-E, Minneapolis/Saint Paul"). Translators are required to be identified twice a day, once at about 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time.
As with radio, the city of license must be the first community listed. For instance, "This is WWNY-TV 7 Carthage-Watertown" would signify the village of Carthage, New York as the community of license. This may also display as a visual transition; for instance, "WNET thirteen, Newark NJ" would be visually displayed in text first before being replaced by a visual transition to "WNET thirteen, New York” (WNET is licensed to Newark, but transmits from New York City’s Empire State Building). In the same manner as FM radio stations, the television station's ID must include any suffix with the call sign (”-TV” or "-DT"), and only if the call sign includes a suffix.
Another way a television station can transmit its legal identification is to do it continuously by putting readable text in the vertical blanking interval. One station that identifies this way is City owned-and-operated station CKVU-DT in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
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.
Low-power (Part 15 in the U.S.) stations do not always identify, being unlicensed (this would be essentially impossible for small FM transmitters for consumer use, such as those used to broadcast music from an MP3 player to a car radio), but those that run as community-based radio stations (including college stations using carrier current) 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. There are a few exceptions, particularly in the United States, the time station WWV being a prime example.
Amateur radio requires the callsign to be stated at the 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. Repeaters are often designed to automatically transmit the repeater's callsign, usually in Morse code. The requirements for the United States are covered in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 97.119.
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 (per FCC Part 95.417 "CB rule 17") no longer maintains a requirement for station or transmission identification, but operators are "encouraged to identify" transmissions using one of the following: a previously assigned callsign, "K" prefix followed by operator initials and residence zip code, operator's name, or "organizational description including name and any applicable operator unit number." The use of a "handle" (nickname) is encouraged by CB rule 17 only in conjunction with these methods, not by itself. 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 that of the user.
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. However, since a number of standard WiFi channels are shared with the amateur radio spectrum, amateur radio-operated High Speed Multimedia (or "hinternet") access points usually use the callsign of the control operator as the SSID, this suffices as proper station identification for the access point being operated as an Amateur Radio transceiver.
With the advent of digital radio, station identification becomes more complicated, because more than one audio stream can be part of the same station. The FCC clarified what is required in these cases in FCC rule 07–33:
§ 73.1201 Station Identification. (b) Content. (1) Official station identification shall consist of the station's call letters immediately followed by the community or communities specified in its license as the station's location; Provided, That the name of the licensee, the station's frequency, the station's channel number, as stated on the station's license, and/or the station's network affiliation may be inserted between the call letters and station location. DTV stations, or DAB Stations, choosing to include the station's channel number in the station identification must use the station's major channel number and may distinguish multicast program streams. For example, a DTV station with major channel number 26 may use 26.1 to identify an HDTV program service and 26.2 to identify an SDTV program service. A radio station operating in DAB hybrid mode or extended hybrid mode shall identify its digital signal, including any free multicast audio programming streams, in a manner that appropriately alerts its audience to the fact that it is listening to a digital audio broadcast. No other insertion between the station's call letters and the community or communities specified in its license is permissible.
Many livestream channels use identification although there is no rule to have identification on livestream channels. Many channels use corner bugs with the channel logo. Channels sometimes can be very creative creating many animated idents. Others have idents which are short adverts mentioning the channel name. Some of the channels that have idents include Tv47, GU3, EnglishTV, GTVTWO and TheKorienMovieChannel. Many livestream channels even use graphic design companies to create idents for their channel.
Combining identification with promotion
Many television stations have devised a clever way to use station identifications as a promotional tool. By combining a short promotion for an upcoming show (such as an upcoming edition of a local newscast), the station can fulfill its identification requirements while building its audience. During this short clip, the station will run its call sign and the communities in its service area on screen, often in very small type. No audio announcement of the call sign 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. If the correct and complete information appears on screen, it is a legal identification.
One notable example of this in the 1990s was KJTV-34 in Lubbock, Texas. By combining multiple variants of their logo with brief clips from their most popular shows and Night Ranger's The Secret of My Success, they created 15- and 30-second station identifications which were entertainment unto themselves.
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 the call signs. In this example, the communities that the station serves were not announced verbally.
Some television stations have even monetized their station identification; for instance WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has of late offered their top of the hour identification as a short five second ad slot, where an entity (in this case, a discount furniture store and WTMJ's sister radio station) will have their slogan and logo voiced out and displayed while the station's call letters display on the bottom in basic legal type.
As an example, in the 1990s, radio station WQLR in Kalamazoo, Michigan would provide the weather forecast (provided by Accuweather) at the top of the hour. The weather report would be prefixed with "WQLR Kalamazoo Accuweather", and because the callsign and city are announced back-to-back, it is a perfectly legal station identification.
Digital television concerns
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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 have the same base callsigns, with the only difference being the analog ending in "-TV" and digital ending in "-DT" (originally "-HD"). Low-power stations identify with the designator "-LD". After the June 2009 digital transition, stations had a one time opportunity offered by the FCC to either retain the -DT designation on their digital signal, or move over the analog calls with either the "-TV" suffix or no suffix if so identified. Additionally, a station could add the "-TV" suffix to their calls for standardization purposes among broadcast groups, even if those calls were not shared by an FM or AM radio station. PSIP also continuously carries the station's ID digitally encoded.
Digital subchannels usually identify themselves in one of two ways, with a limit of seven characters in the PSIP tag:
- By first providing the call letters, followed by the main channel number, and then the subchannel broken up by either a dot or a dash. For example, "WXXX 2.3" or "WXXX 2–3".
- The station may identify the channel as a certain stream by placing the subchannel number after the "-DT" designation within the callsign, as in "WXXX-DT3" for that station's third subchannel.
In addition, subchannels which carry weather information – such as those carrying NBC Weather Plus, AccuWeather, or a weather feed created by the station itself – may identify that channel via their PSIP flag with the non-standard "WX" suffix, as in "WXXX-WX", though they must be identified by their subchannel number in on-air identifications. Some subchannels may also display only the name of the network it is affiliated with in the PSIP flag rather than the station's calls.
The former two standards are voluntary and interchangeable, and the station can choose to identify all the channels by only the base callsign, although they are encouraged to differentiate each channel from the primary channel (or for LP/Class A analog-only stations digitally airing as a subchannel on a sister or LMA partner station). The primary channel usually does not use a .1/-1 or -DT1 suffix to identify itself beyond some PBS member stations such as the stations of Milwaukee Public Television, and minor broadcasters which sell subchannel space to other broadcasters for their own brokered programming.
Digital on-screen graphics and teletext
Teletext, an information service provided by many broadcasters, provides station or network identification in many countries worldwide. As almost all modern sets can display this information, it is a simple matter of checking teletext if the identity of the station is not clear. Some broadcasters do not provide a teletext service, and there is no specific requirement or standard for station identification in it. While teletext is widespread in Europe and is closely associated with the PAL television system worldwide, it was non-existent in North America during the analog television era, in which the NTSC standard was used. However, digital television standards generally include station identification.
A common worldwide practice is to use a small overlay graphic known as a Digital on-screen graphic (DOG), "Bug" or watermark created by a character generator in the corner of the screen, showing the logo of the channel. While not a substitute for proper station identification, this makes it easy to identify the station at a glance. VH1 originated the practice in the United States around 1993, with most other cable networks following until most used them in the early 2000s.
- History of BBC television idents
- Clock ident
- History of ITV television idents
- NBC logos
- PBS logos
- American Broadcasting Company logos
- MGM logos
- List of Seven Network slogans
- List of Nine Network slogans
- List of Network Ten slogans
- Hato no kyojitsu
- List of ABS-CBN Corporation slogans
- List of GMA Network slogans
- http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/10/17/12/abs-cbn%E2%80%99s-christmas-station-id-brightens-yuletide-season Missing or empty
- "ACMA – Find radio & TV stations". Australian Communications and Media Authority. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
- 47 CFR 73.1201 (a)(2)
- TV Live
- Ident – television idents and branding
- TV Room - no longer updated.
- Tophour – recordings of U.S. radio station identifications
- Television Graphics through the ages
- Ident accessed 11 June 2006
- ABC at Large accessed 11 June 2006
- Telemusications accessed 11 June 2006
- Radio-Locator search engine of all of the radio stations in the world with websites, searchable by location and call sign.
- Digital Radio Uniform ID Search engine for Internet-only digital radio callsigns.
- Website dedicated to french TV idents (in french)
- TV Ark
- Belgian, French and European TV idents (in French)