Key to radio formats, cities of license

Format abbrieviations / descriptions: These descriptions are general by nature. Most stations have their own interpretation of their particular format and will borrow from other formats to achieve their particular sound.

  • Active Rock: Rock-based album cuts and singles. Usually includes a wider range of artists than heard on Modern Rock stations. Many Active Rock stations include selections from "harder" Classic Rock artists in their playlists, especially during daytime hours. Distinguished from mainstream Rock stations by their more aggressive playlists and less overall reliance on Classic Rock songs.
  • Adult Album Alternative: Softer Alternative music from the 80's and 90's, often mixed with classic rock hits from the 70's and 80's.
  • Adult Contemporary/Soft Rock: 'Soft' / 'light' rock music: Features current hits along with relatively heavy influence on songs from the 1970s - 90s. Stations often identify themselves by using slogans such as "Light Rock, "Magic", "Sunny", etc.
  • Adult Urban Contemporary: Urban-based playlists with much less focus on rap and hip hop than 'Urban' formatted stations. Current hits plus an emphasis on songs from the late 60's - 00's.
  • Adult Standards: Pop music from the 40s through today. Many Standards stations feature a wide range of what used to be called Oldies- songs from the 50's and early 60's. Big Band selections are also on many playlists as well as a lot of soft Adult Contemporary titles.
  • CBC1: News and Talk from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) during the day, various programs overnights.
  • CBC2: Eclectic music programming.
  • Classical: Fine arts- Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, etc. One of the original commercial FM formats that is now relegated primarily to public stations.
  • Classic Country: Country radio's oldies format. Heavily features popular country songs from the 1950's - 80's.
  • Classic Hits: A broadened form of Classic Rock. Usually focused on 60's - 80's tracks also heard on Classic Rock stations, but will also include Pop and Oldies titles from this era as well as 90's music. Rock AC is a type of Classic Hits that has almost no Oldies in the playlist.
  • Classic Rock: Rock album cuts and hits, primarily from the late 60's through 90's but also includes more recent songs on occasion from legendary artists.
  • College: Eclectic, varied programming, mostly by students. College stations often offer programming that cannot be heard on other local commercial stations and provide coverage of university sporting events. Like high school stations, the majority of musical programming is Modern Rock in nature.
  • Contemporary Christian: Contemporary Christian music- either rock-based or adult contemporary inspiriational music. Most stations will include some Christian-based talk programs as well.
  • Contemporary Hits: Very strong emphasis on current popular music. Varieties of Contemporary Hits stations include: CHR/Top 40 or CHR/Mainstream- playlist is not restricted by genre of music. CHR/Rhythmic or CHR/Dance- strong emphasis on uptempo dance, urban, and disco mixes. Adult Top 40- Playlist is based on current pop songs, but targeted more towards adults over 25. Most Contemporary Hits stations use the liners 'Today's Best Music', 'Today's Hit Music', etc.
  • Country: Currently popular country music. Most stations also sprinkle in a number of recurrent and gold selections each hour.
  • French: French language programming from CBC (SRC).
  • Full Service: A blend of music, news, talk, sports, and public affairs programs with a local angle.
  • Gospel: There are several subcategories within Gospel- including Southern Gospel and Black Gospel. All Gospel formats focus on inspiriational religious singing and preaching.
  • High School: Eclectic, varied programming, mostly by students. Many stations devote a majority of their programming to Modern Rock or other popular style music shows. Many also include some high school sports play-by-play and also carry school board meetings and other community events.
  • Hot Adult Contemporary: Hot AC is a currents-based popular music format. Most stations will shy away from harder rock songs, rap, and hip hop. Also present are a good amount of recurrents as well as songs from the 90's and 00's. This category also includes stations positioned as 'Modern AC'. Playlists on Modern AC stations usually rely heavily on lighter songs from what were called 'Alternative' artists. Hot AC stations can be considered positioned 'in between' Adult Contemporary and Contemporary Hits/Top 40 in terms of the aggressiveness of their music.
  • Hot Talk: Talk programs that are designed to be more controversial/stimulating than heard on traditional talk radio stations. Usually anchored by morning a morning 'shock jock'. Targeted mainly towards young adult men.
  • Jazz: Traditional jazz music.
  • Middle-of-the-Road (MOR): Hits from the 50's through the 00's- relying heavily on Adult Contemporary, Country, and Adult Standards tracks.
  • Modern Rock: Rock-based album cuts and singles from new, cutting edge artists. Used to be known as Alternative Rock. Distinguished from Active Rock primarily by the lack of Classic Rock and newer songs from 'Classic Rock artists' in playlist. There are currently two main types of Modern Rock stations- those with 'harder' playlists focusing on new music and those that are a bit 'softer' in their approach with more gold present in the playlist.
  • NAC (New Age Contemporary)/Smooth Jazz: Popular light jazz, mixed with New Age music. Most Smooth Jazz stations also feature a limited number of Adult Contemporary tracks in their playlist, but only those that blend well with the format.
  • News-Talk (/Sports): Combination talk programming and local/breaking news coverage. Most also offer sports programming.
  • Oldies: Popular rock-based music from the late 50s-early 80s. Many oldies stations have stopped playing many of the songs from the 50s and early 60s, moving their playlists 'ahead' into the 70's and early 80's. Different from the 'Classic' formats in that most heavier rock songs do not get airplay.
  • Public: Programming varies from station to station, but all are supported by listeners and corporate underwriting. Many stations offer programming fron national networks like National Public Radio and Public Radio International. Some are focused on formats such as News-Talk, Classical, or Jazz while others are more eclectic.
  • Religious: Primarily stations that offer a mix of religious teaching, talk, and music. Most of these stations offer a wide variety of programming options throughout the day/week.
  • Rhythmic/Urban Oldies: Pop songs from the 60's - early 00's from predominately African American artists.
  • Rock: Rock-based album cuts and singles. Mainstream Rock stations rely more on Classic Rock titles than Active Rock stations, but still have a heavy reliance on songs also heard on Active and Modern Rock stations. This format most closely resembles the Album Oriented Rock format popular in the 1970's.
  • Sports: Sports related talk and play-by play. Many sports-formatted station have expanded and now include more mainstream-type shows.
  • Talk: Features opinion based shows relevant to current events and other topics. Generally less controversial/confrontational hosts than seen in stations with a 'Hot Talk' format.
  • Urban: Currently popular Rhythm and Blues based music. Primary focus is on hip hop, rap, and other up-tempo tunes.
  • Variety: Stations without a discernable format.
  • Variety Hits: Similar to Classic Hits but with generally broader selection of non-rock selections.

Cities of License: Most of the stations on this site are listed according to their community of license (the community that the FCC recognizes as the one that the station is targeted to serve). For clarity, some stations are listed by the nearest large city instead. For example, WCSX-FM 94.7 is actually licensed to suburban Birmingham, but listed as Detroit. Other stations have chosen to market themselves to a nearby city. An example of this is WSNX-FM 104.5- their city of license is Muskegon, but they market themselves towards Grand Rapids. For these reasons, the listings are not exact and may not appear 'correct'. The best way to check for a stations official city of license is to look up the station in the FCC's database. Also, if you're within listening/viewing range, you can check their ID at the top of each hour. Radio stations are required to ID by stating their call sign and city of license with nothing in between - they may add anything after the legal ID. So with the WCSX example, you'll always hear at the top of the hour "WCSX Birmingham / Detroit".




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