Electronic Journalism

Lesson 07 : Formats of Radio Programmes


A discussion is a conversation between two or more people on a specific topic. On a radio program, discussions include a program host and guests or experts on the topic being discussed. Listeners may also be involved in the discussion if the program has a call-in portion for questions and comments.

Structure of a Discussion

Radio hosts must understand how to effectively use discussion. Four elements drive the shape of a discussion: the radio host, the topic, the program's goals, the listeners or callers.


How the element drives the format

Radio host

The host serves as a facilitator. Whether interviewing program guests in the studio or over the telephone or taking calls from listeners, the host is responsible for managing the discussion.


Discussion topics will be influenced by the program's focus.

  • If the show covers a broad theme, such as current affairs, ideas can be drawn from many different sources, including political affairs; international, regional or local developments; scientific breakthroughs and new books.
  • If the program deals with a more specific subject, such as business or finance, topics will be influenced by major news on this subject. Angles related to current events can also be used as discussion topics. For example, a program about finance might include a discussion about the financial impact on the community of a newly-built highway.

Listeners are often the best sources of story ideas. Feedback from the audience can generate new topics for the show.


Goals are influenced by the program's overall focus as well as the specific topics for a given program. Typical goals include:

  • Encouraging expression. Allowing listeners to be heard and voice their opinions. For example, a public affairs talk show might solicit feedback from the community on a proposed tax bill.
  • Providing information. Offering in-depth exploration of or insight into a current issue. For example, a magazine show focused on health might invite experts to participate in a discussion on sex education in schools.
  • Giving instruction. Presenting advice on a specific topic. For example, a financial talk show might offer guidance on investing or invite experts to give an overview of a new business regulation.

Listener/ Caller

Callers will influence the flow of the discussion with their comments and questions. The host needs to keep callers focused on the topic at hand.

Having screeners answer the phone lines frees the host to focus on the current discussion. Screeners need to have a good understanding of the overall program goals as well as the current program topic. Often, program producers will fill this role.

Programs that use Discussions

The following programs often use discussions:

  • News programs sometimes use discussions when there are phone-ins from listeners.
  • Magazine programs use discussions to supplement feature stories. These discussions can take the form of interaction with guests, calls from listeners or questions from live audiences.
  • Talk shows use discussions as the main format for the show. Discussions might be between the program host and guests on the program, between the program host and listeners who call in, between guests and listeners or among all of them.
Last modified: Thursday, 29 March 2012, 7:49 AM