Overview of Production Principles and Techniques
Oba Abdulkadir LA’ARO
(, Mass Comm. Unilag, PGDE NTI)
Department of Mass Communication
University of Ilorin.
Presented at
Radio Kwara Programming Conference held between 15th --19th June 2009,
Mandate Hall Radio Kwara, Ilorin.
Radio Stations like all other Mass Media Organisations, have one means through which they
manifest the plans and agenda the station articulated for the audience. That means is the
message, which can be conceived as an instrument. An instrument is a powerful tool in the
hands of the wielder. That perhaps may explain the rationale for the regime of regulations
foisted on the broadcast industry all over the world, of which the print media are relatively
Message is the central element in any communication experience. It is what connects the
receiver and the sender: it is the essence of the communication engagement. Uyo,(1989)
underscores the central role of message when he averred that “message is invariable the
central element in mass communication. Every other element of the process of mass
communication tends to revolve around it.’
Radio, like any broadcasting; is a continuous transmission of signals to audience. Functional
wise radio serves information, education and entertainment as well as persuasive roles. These
are packaged in different formats, largely referred to as programmes.
Programme is a scheduled configuration of messages presented in a discernible shape,
arrangement and style. It occupies a distinct broadcast hour, wears a distinct cap (title)
with the opening and closing having distinct character.
Radio messages, however, come in other configurations that are not programme. Because
radio serves selling and marketing activities of varying interests and other service providers,
several messages on radio are purely commercials. Also, members of the society seek to use
radio for varieties of personal information that may interest members of the public. This is
referred to as announcement. Other variant of messages that come on radio but cannot be
categorized in any of the three genre mentioned above are Promos and what we have
elsewhere referred to as “Rituals---this will include all the devises we adopted in the opening
and closing of station. (See La’aro 2008).As students and practitioners of radio broadcasting,
it is important to appreciate the difference between a message types; message format and
message functions. Let me crave your indulgence in explaining the difference.
Message type refers to a group made up of individual radio activities that have strongly
marked and readily defined similarities e.g. programme commercials and announcement.
Message Format is, on the other hands, the arrangement, shape and style we have considered
appropriate to present the message to our target audience eg. Drama, news, talks, interviews,
magazine, jingles, musicals and any other format that ingenuity may avail us in future.
Whereas Message function refers to the purpose we intend to achieve in the target audience.
Uyo (1989) has captured these function (that have been variously articulated by other
scholars over the years) with an apt acronym called PENIISE--persuasion, entertainment,
news, information, interpretation, selling, and education. Any message type packaged in
whatever format can serve one or more of these functions but there would be the overriding
or primary functions it is oriented to achieve. Radio Kwara, to take familiar example, often
assailed our consciousness with various musical jingles composed or performed by Pele. Its
rhythm may provoke corresponding movement of the body; and we may even dance but the
producer would not be fulfilled if all it does is all that; for the obvious intention of the
message is certainly to either, dissuade, discourage, exhort or encourage the audience along
certain desirable path with the ultimate hope that the audience will adopt the message and act
accordingly. In one word this is persuasion. The same principle applies to all message type,
whatever the format.
The agenda of this paper however is not so much about the foregoing but to look at the
process of programming with particular attention on principles of production that help
effective programme delivery.
The Concept of programming and Programme
The broadcasting process requires a continuous offering of unbroken communication
experience to consumers. Unlike other media, like newspaper, home video, phonograph,
e.t.c., whose products are packaged individually, radio and television stations must maintain a
coherent and continuous transmission of their services/ messages. This is made possible,
aside having the right technology, through efficient programming.
According to (Onabajo 2001), “programming means determining the kinds of programmes to
make, the belt or slot in which to bring them out, the target audience, the ratio of mix of other
programmes type in relations to the ones being produced, the general objectives envisaged
and the specific objectives of each programme type.
Programme is also affected by the changing audience availability, occupations, needs and
interest as the cycles of days, weeks and seasons progress. They also take into account
competition from other Stations.
Consequently (La’aro 2008) defines programming as the process of conceiving, planning and
scheduling as well providing efficient means of monitoring and evaluating radio and
television services using the station’s policy and objectives as the basis of such activity.
It thus implies that the process of programming does not terminate at identifying and
transmitting messages to our audiences. The station must put in place efficient audience
reaction; it must constitute competent team to evaluate it production and maintain policy
disposition in favour of adoption of their findings and recommendations. In doing these the
producer and his team must avert their mind to these questions. Is the programme providing a
clear picture of what it is intending to portray? Are the facts correct and in the right order? Is
it legally all right? Is it of good quality? Is it interesting? And the more important, more
challenging question--Is it of good taste- i.e. - aesthetic standard, conforming with the
prevailing moral values, appropriate and inoffensive to the cultural flavour of the zone or
community of operation.
Programming and programmes can be distinguished. It is like the thought process and its
products. Programming is the process of planning what to produce; how to produce, when to
produce, while programmes represent the actual products in terms of News, drama, magazine
e.t.c, that lead to specific attempt to offer tangible service towards satisfying audience needs.
The number of hours the audience spent with a station is an efficient measurement of the
station’s success in programming. To sustain the attention of our audience and compel
advertising spots as well as remain on top of ratings; a station must appreciate and be able to
deploy effectively certain factor that make a production thick.
Programming personnel have been instructively counselled to distribute the programmes
across the transmission belt where the target audience most appreciate them. The basis of a
schedule that works according to (McLeish 2005 p288) is (1) deciding the role and purpose
of the station - what do I want to say, to whom and with what effect? -and (2) knowing the
needs, likes and dislikes, habits, works patterns, and availability of the intended audience.
The Relevance of ‘TICK’--Talent, Imagination, Creativity, Knowledge.
Talent: the natural ability to do something well especially in artistic areas that can be
developed by training. Managers of broadcast station have come to rely on talent to
the almost exclusiveness of formal education in relevant discipline. It is now common
among practitioners to ask the question: Which comes first, talent or training? The
point for us is here is that natural gift, aptitude and ingenuity, the hallmark of talented
person; advance; and to a great deal, lessen the task of the personnel in the
programme production section.
Imagination: ability to visualize; the ability to form images and ideas in the mind,
especially of things never seen or experienced directly; it also means resourcefulness,
the ability to think of ways of dealing with difficulties or problems, an act of creating
a semblance of reality, especially in literature. The producer, the Director or Script
Writer can paint pictures of persons on air; create vivid images of events, issues or
situations through imaginative use of elements of production. Though radio is an
acknowledged blind medium; imagination makes it pictorial in mind.
Creativity: is the ability to use imagination to develop new and original ideas or
things especially in an artistic context. In addition to being new and original,
creativity also means that what we bring forth is beneficial to the community we
serve and to humanity in general. The test of creativity is being new, original and
beneficial. These definitive attributes distinguish mere regurgitating of ideas from
creative presentation of similar but distinctive aggregations of thoughts and ideas.
Knowledge: being knowledgeable is to have awareness of; and possessing
information, facts, idea, truth or principles. It could also mean familiarity or
understanding we have gained through experienced or study. A station that desires its
personnel to be knowledgeable will recruit formally trained persons and where it
recruits otherwise must organise training programmes for them. A station without a
functional library service cannot be expected to produce programme that is deep and
enlightening with referential value.
The effective harnessing of these attributes through perspicuous recruitment process and
subsequent continuous training assure effective programme delivery. That may be
circumvented if these personnel lack good grasp of the elements peculiar to radio production.
The stuff of radio resides in combining certain elements that make up its texture and
Knowing the Stuff Radio is made of--the Production elements--SSSSM.
Speech: This is the expression of thoughts and feelings through speaking. This can be
classified into four:
Dialogue: the interchange of lines between two or more characters.
Narration: is a continuous comment usually by a single voice on radio and on
Monologue: is a fairly long expression by a character, as if he is speaking to
Rhetorical Dialogue: is a “solo” directly to the audience, a kind of one-sided
conversation with the audiences, as though they could respond should they so
Sound Effects: Usually includes all sound except speech and music; such as door
slam, chairs cracking telephone rings, clattering of dishware, foot step e.t.c that may
need to be represented in production situation. The purpose of sound effects is to
provide semblance of reality. The justification for the use of sound effects lies in the
fact that not all fact and reality in a story, events or situation can be represented on
broadcast media. The characteristic of the technology of radio and television compels
the use of sound effects to represent reality. A sound effect is a powerful element in
the hands of creative personnel in broadcasting. It use and misuse can make or mar
the production. A general admonition is that sound effects should not be obvious to
the listener/viewer. Sound effect should merge into the pattern of sound just as traffic
noises merge into a city background. The import of this is that, we should not tell our
audience of the “pranks” being played on their imagination.
Silence: Simply put, is the absence of sound. The basic or primary purpose of silence
in production is emotional --creating atmosphere of fear, anxiety, and suspense etc. It can
also be used to create a solitary environment in the minds of listeners.
Music: Basically, music is a piece of sound compositions that are sung in a pleasing
sequence or manner. In radio and television production, music is used for varieties of
functions. These include predicting coming events as well as attracting and holding the
attention of the audience.
-Music is also used as introduction to many programmes. Through regular and
deliberate use of piece of music, it becomes closely identified with the programme. Such
piece of music serves as the theme or signature tunes for the programmes.
-Another use of music is to serve as transition or bridges in a programme.
-Music is also used to direct attention to a specific portion of the setting e.g. a
character, an action or an object by emphasizing that particular element with
short music excerpt.
Ambience Sound: This includes all actual sound present in locations where interviews or
reports takes place. It is a powerful production tool grossly underutilised. When used, it is
with less touch of professionalism. The believability and credibility of the Daily Traffic
Reports to take an example would certainly be enhanced if the field reports allowed the
traffic noise to un- obtrusively “stand” in the background yet visible enough for the ears to
perceive. Of course this option requires the mastery of the techniques of back-grounding and
foregrounding which is discussed below. Similarly markets, motor parks and situation in a
filling station during duel scarcity, all have picture in the minds of the audience.
Effective Programme Delivery: ‘Structurisation “and ‘Texturisation’
The Concept of ‘Structurisation: This principle is the rules that govern how we select and
arrange programme materials with aesthetics and; of course, logic playing prominent roles.
Radio production is comparable to; or follows the principle of discourse, where the
programme materials are arranged in sequential order. This principle is best applied in
discussion, interview and magazine programmes. The audience is able to follow the trend of
discussion. Particularly in Magazine, where by nature and orientation, the items making up
the programme may be collections of varying issues or subjects; applying the horizontal
principle will be a viable option.
The concept of ‘Texturisation’ denotes the proportional positioning of production elements.
It also involves the artistic and informative use of these elements. The overall nature,
pattern, or meaning perceived or derived by the audience is subject to effective application of
this principle. The techniques of Back-grounding and Fore-grounding bear directly on the
principles of texturisation.
At a time, your listener can not take more than one object even though he can perceive
more than one. He can only focus on one. So the object you want your audience to focus on
should stand out. The test of what to background or foreground remain that of relevancy.
Crissell(1996) illustrates this way.
Let us imagine an interview which takes place against a background of
traffic noise. If the interview is with superintended of highways about
noise pollution the traffic noise, while is of less importance--and
therefore less loud--than the interview, will still be of relevance to it.
If, however, the interview is with the Chancellor of the Exchequer
about his Budget proposals the noise of traffic will be quite irrelevant,
an unavoidable evil, and the listener will be fully capable of
distinguishing between these positive and negative functions of
background noise.
The major pre-occupation of this treatise is to sensitise us to some production principles and
techniques which in our estimation needs to be further entrenched in our broadcasting. In
some circumstances most of the transmissions do not display or show any sign of the
awareness of this principles/techniques. Of course it is to be acknowledged that the
production team often do not get the necessary support from the proprietors in terms of funds
and equipment, hence the constraint.
The paper has discussed other ancillary functions in the process of programming such as the
interrelationships between programming and programmes, the subtle but important difference
between message type, message format and message function. It is the contention of this
paper the grasp of essence of this paper will further move the practice of broadcasting in
Nigeria to the desirable professionalism that is much lamented than celebrated in Nigerian
Boyd, Andrew (2001), Broadcast Journalism: Techniques of Radio and Television News
(fifth edition), Focal Press Linacre House Jordan-Hill Oxford.
La’aro O.A.(2008),The Basics of Radio and Television Broadcasting, Positive
Impact Communications Osogbo
McLeish, Robert (2005), Radio Production,( fifth edition), Focal Press Linacre House JordanHill Oxford.
Onabajo, F. (2001), Broadcast Management and Programming, Lagos, Gabi Concept limited.
Uyo, Adidi (1989), Mass Media Messages In a Nutshell, New York, Civiletis International.