Idents

For the Channel Live album, see Station Identification (album).

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.

Asia

In Thailand, idents are known as montage, and in Cambodia and Vietnam, idents are known as interlude

Hong Kong

Philippines

Station IDs in the Philippines differ from the original concept. Instead of a way to identify television networks, they are music videos that represents the season they are aired in, which consist of tag-init (Summer season), tag-ulan (Rainy season), and Pasko (Christmas season). [1] Station IDs in the Philippines runs for 3 to 6 minutes depending on the TV station. The longest station ID is "Lumiliwanag ang Mundo sa Kwento ng Pasko", the Christmas Station ID of ABS-CBN this 2012 which lasts for 8 minutes and 2 seconds.

Australia

Station identification in Australia is unlimited to the nominated common or on-air name[2] of the station or network affiliation, both for radio and television.

A radio station may have call letters related to its town or district name, and the company name, hence Charters Towers, Queensland station 4CHT and Ceduna, South Australia's Ceduna Community Radio Inc's 5CCR; or, the station may have a name-callsign completely different from its license callsign, hence the Wollongong, New South Wales station licensed as 2UUL known on air as Wave FM.

A television station usually associates with its network, hence 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

Television

Broadcast stations in Europe do not identify by using 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 who introduces the upcoming program (and promotes other programs). These idents evolved from mainly being mechanical models (such as the famous BBC globe), to becoming more advanced through the evolution of computer-generated imagery through the 1980s. From the 1960s to the 1990s, most broadcasters only used a single ident, sometimes using special variations for holidays and special events. In the present day, most broadcasters use a set of multiple idents built around a certain theme or branding element, often based on the channel's current overall look.

Before 1 January 1988, on the ITV network, each programme would be preceded by the ident of the regional company that had made it, and this would be broadcast throughout the network, i.e. 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, viewers watching Upstairs, Downstairs on PBS would see the logo and fanfare for London Weekend Television 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 (decade), the variety of creative and distinct regional identities that made ITV unique in the UK have largely disappeared, UTV and STV being more or less the only notable exceptions.

United States

Why identification is required

In the United States of America, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires all over-the-air broadcast television and radio stations to identify themselves. This is due to the sheer number of signals available over the air—not only TV 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:

  1. At the beginning and ending of each time of operation, and
  2. Hourly, as close to the hour as feasible, at a natural break in program offerings.[3]

Some stations, especially television stations and college radio stations, identify themselves at or near every half-hour, though only once per hour is required.

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 sandwiched between two commercials in a stop set (commercial break) that is 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, and its operating power.

Proper format of identification

Radio

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, Seattle, Washington radio station KOMO, though their branding includes the call sign pronounced as "KO-MO", must legally identify themselves as "K-O-M-O, Seattle.” If a station’s call sign includes a suffix (which is more common with FM stations), the station must include the suffix in their identification (e.g. “WLWK-FM, Milwaukee”). 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 they serve but is not their city of license (e.g. "WSNE-FM, Taunton/Providence"); some even go so far as to downplay their actual city of license in favor of the more major city it serves (e.g. WKTU, which mentions their city of license, Lake Success, very quickly and with less inflection before the much more prominent New York). 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 3 times per day. All translators must be identified between 7am-9am, 12:55pm–1:05pm, and 4pm-6pm.[4]

As noted above, FCC regulations dictate that the community of license must immediately follow the call sign, and announcers need to be careful to avoid adding 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 (e.g. "This is KEB98 in Buffalo and WWG32 in Little Valley").

Stations broadcasting in HD Radio identify by their stream channel, and unlike television, the HD1 channel is included in the identification (e.g. "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 (e.g. "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 they operated under the KRPN call sign, identified itself as "WKRP N Salt Lake City"—a manner allowable by the FCC even though the "W" was extra 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 the small city of Houma, Louisiana, more than an hour away. While operating under the KUMX callsign in the late 1990s, the stations legal ID aired 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.

Television

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's an aural identification, the TV station's ID must follow radio's format (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 community of license. This may also display as a visual transition; for instance, "WNET thirteen, Newark NJ" would be textually displayed 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 way as FM radio stations, the TV 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 TV 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 Citytv O&O CKVU 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.
  • 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 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. However, since a number of standard WiFi channels are shared with the Amateur Radio spectrum, Amateur Radio-operated High Speed Multimedia (AKA "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.
Digital Radio

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.

Livestream identification

Many livestream channels use identification although there is no rule to have identification on livestream channels.[5] 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.[6] Some of the channels that have idents include 'Tv47', 'GU3' 'EnglishTV', 'GTVTWO' and 'TheKorienMovieChannel'.[7] Many livestream channels even get graphic design companies to create idents for their channel.[8]

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 the station can fulfill its identification requirements while building its audience. For example, a station may show video of a local fire and tell them to tune into the next newscast. During this short clip, the station will run its call signs and communities 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. If the correct and complete information appears on screen, it is a 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. In this example the communities 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 give the weather (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

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 transition, stations could choose to 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. PSIP also continuously carries the station's ID digitally encoded.

Subchannel identification

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 network name they're carrying in the PSIP flag rather than station 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 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member Public television stations such as the stations of Milwaukee Public Television, and minor broadcasters which sell subchannel space to other broadcasters for their own brokered programming.

Worldwide

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 is nonexistent in North America in the analog age, where 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 (decade).

Amateur television operators often use a lower third or bug containing their callsign in lieu of voice identification. This is an accepted practice in the United States and United Kingdom.

See also

References

External links

  • 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.
  • Website dedicated to french TV idents (in french)
  • TV Ark
  • Belgian, French and European TV idents (in French)
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