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Radio programmes generally refer to the various organised sounds that are produced to fill in the radio broadcast. Regarded as “blind medium” radio messages are written and directed toward the ears and not the eyes. Radio writing makes use of imagery to portray the images and the message to the station’s audience members who are left to visualise as soon as they hear the programme.

Since writers are concerned with the use of ears in radio production, the writer normally uses words and phrases that help visualise the meaning. “The language must be concise, cogent and concrete with what people are familiar with (Idebi 2008, P.8). Radio as a heterogeneous medium, its messages is written in a transient and fast manner. Radio is one of the fastest means of broadcasting News to a heterogeneous community.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. define radio news, documentary news and other programmes  explain why it is necessary for the writer to sue words economy in writing for radio 
  2. demonstrate understanding of the proper tenses used in writing for radio programmes.


3.1 Definition of Radio News

News is one of the radio programme formats. News could be defined as an accurate account of a timely event that is of public interest. That is, it is concerned with what people ought to know. News could take any form. It could be regarded as Hard News, News programme or correspondent reports. Any News that is regarded as complete News must be able to take care of the six Ws and H, namely; What, Where, Who, Which, When, Why and How. It must also be accurate, clear, concise, and coherent and simple to be understood be the station’s audience. Above all Radio News must be timely and of human interest. It must be relevant and should contain surprises of listeners.


  1. In your words define Radio Broadcast News. 

3.2 Word Economy

In writing for the radio economy of words should be used. That is to say that the writer should not use many words to talk about the event. Few words should be used meaningfully. The choices of these words which paint the mental picture of the reported activity are encouraged. They enable picturisation of the event in the news (Owuamalam, 2007:242). The sentences have to be precise and short to match the breath pattern of the Newscaster. The principal reason is to ensure that the Newscaster does not lose control and flow of the sentence, thereby representing meaning and misleading the audience or listener. The writer should punctuate or punctuation mark appropriately so that the meaning and importance of the story become clear and understandable.

No ambiguous words or phrases should be used. All expression should be crystal clear because the listener would not have the opportunity to stop and think what certain words mean. He would therefore become frustrated. The News is made to sound real and believable by the listener. That is why correspondent do mention their names and from where they are reporting.


  1. What is meant by “economy of words” in Radio Programme Broadcasting?

3.3 News Broadcasting

In most cases every radio news story is not longer than 30 seconds; it is very short and direct to the point. The writer should not write more than five sentences long. The writing should contain the bare minimum fact, should be clear, concise and short.

Tuggle, Carr and Huffman (2001:79) say writing short is a challenge. It is tougher than writing long. It takes practice because there is much the writer has to leave out. That tends to increase the burden of deciding what the important details are that must be put in.  Writing a radio story or new, they say, is reminiscent of the old Dragnet saying, “Give me the fact and only the fact”. There is, therefore, no time for anything more than that.
Whether news story comes into radio station through microwave trucks, called in over a landline phone, a cell phone or reporters and correspondents go to the sport of the incident or the event, what gets to the audience must be short and delivered in precise terms. Even if sound bites are used, this should not last more than five seconds.


Why are stories for radio broadcast very short?

3.4 News Documentary

This is a radio news programme that is aimed at exploring the very important issue of life generally. The news deals with social issues that society has to be informed so that members of the given society would wake up from the slumber and take action towards bringing remedy to the problem. For example, if society or community is often being attacked by gangsters or armed robbers a news documentary would be written addressing the issue, thus arousing and sustaining the interest of the affected community. In trying to take a remedial action on the presented anomaly, a vigilante group would be formed within the community to check the menace of the robbery. The news is persuasive news particularly targeted at an audience (Owuamalam, 2007:245), says it is social commentary on an aspect of society. It is subject oriented and deals with actual events. Narration is, therefore, used since content has been thoroughly researched. On the other hand, a commentary differs from documentary in the sense that while a documentary is to arouse human interest and spur people to action, a commentary attempts to provide the station’s opinion on a current issue. It may be in support of a case, it may be out to criticise government action on certain issues and events.

The News Commentary acts as editorial in the print media. And writing it on prejudices or distortion of facts should not be used because the station’s audience is meant to be informed about those issues and they would take them seriously, so nothing but facts should be projected.


  1. What is disparity between documentary and commentary in radio news production? 

3.5 Use of Tenses

Every radio news writer must remember the two cardinal points when writing for news. He or she must write in the present or future tenses not forget to write with a sense of urgency or the sense of the event itself and when he chooses to make use of the sound bite, it must be brief and to the point.

Hyde (1971:175) points that since we can report events as they happen, the present tense is our natural tense. In using the present tense, we automatically give the news an air of immediacy and the listener a sense of participation. Using the past tense would alienate the audience from the station because they would assume that the event is stale and is not for their consumption. And that such news does not concern them.


  1. Why should news be written and reported in the present tense? 


In writing for the radio, a writer should exercise caution and be economical with words. That is, he must use few words but should not lose meaning whether he is writing for news or documentary and commentary. In news reporting particularly, he should not forget to use only present tense and future tense if the need arises because present brings about immediacy and gives the audience a sense of participation.


Radio programme means various organised sound that are used to fill the airtime in radio broadcast. And since radio is for the ears all programme make use of imagery to portray images and message to the audience. The stations audience members are fed with words and phrase that would help visualise the meaning. That means that the writer should use appropriate, concise and accurate language devoid of ambiguity.


  1. Why should you as a radio scriptwriter direct your message to the ear? 
  2.  What are similarities and dissimilarities between a radio documentary and a commentary?
  3.  Vividly describe the tense you would use in writing the radio news. 


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