Broadcasting Glossary

People for Better TV, 1999



Airwaves (also called spectrum or the electromagnetic spectrum): The medium through which radio or television signals are transmitted. These signals travel through the air, unlike the signals transmitted by telephone or cable wires. Almost every household in America has a television that receives free programming, sent over the airwaves by local TV or radio stations.


A storage or transmission of information by a variable physical means, such as a shifts in voltage sent through the electromagnetic spectrum or the vibrations of against patterns inside the grooves of a vinyl disc, to create physical (analogous) patterns of pictures or sounds. Standard broadcasting or the way old "record players" worked before "CD's."


Transmitting electromagnetic signals through the airwaves over a wide area, as in television or radio. Such signals may also be transmitted point-to-point, as in microwave transmission, and are referred to as narrowcasting. 2. Broadcasting is also referred to as the radio and television broadcast industry. 3. Broadcasters are those who work in the industry. 4. To broadcast is to participate in a television or radio program. 5. A broadcast may also be synonymous with a TV or radio program.


Official communication routes. The Federal Communications Commission designates a channel (or spectrum frequency) for a radio or television station to ensure that the stations do not interfere with each others signal. Channels are commonly known to viewers as the numbers on TV dials corresponding to individual local stations. Channel assignments vary widely by market: For example, ABC's affiliate can be Channel 7 in one market, Channel 4 in another. Cable systems may designate a channel on their service which differs from the channel location given a broadcast station by the government.

Convergence (TV-PC)

TV-PC convergence (also called convergence): The fusion of television and PC into a single home appliance. Much touted by both the computing and broadcasting industries as a major advance in technology and convenience, it is equally a stealth device in marketing. Convergence will allow marketers to track every move you make on the Internet and on TV, resulting in the transmission of extremely sophisticated advertising to each and every member of your household.

Data Transmission

The sending of data, audio or video messages by breaking down that information into bits, the smallest units a computer understands.

Digital TV (DTV)

The next generation in television, DTV broadcasters will use the language of computers and the Internet (bits: ones and zeros) to transmit a large amount information to home TV receivers. Because much more information is sent as compared to standard analog television, these pictures will be much sharper and more detailed. DTV broadcasters will also be able to send additional text, such as sports scores and closed-captioning.

Gore Commission

In mid-1997, President Clinton appointed a 22-member Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters, which became known as The Gore Commission. The Commission's primary task was to recommend obligations for the nation's 1,544 television stations. The Commission's report was submitted to the President in mid-December 1998.


This terms refers to the practice by which TV stations split a single digital signal into six or more different regular channels. TV stations can then generate increased revenue by using some channels for all of video transmission, voice mail, paging, data transmission and Internet service.

Public Interest

A concept which holds that, in return for using the public airwaves free of charge, the broadcasters is obligated to act as a trustee of public property and do what is best for the public good. The public has always meant the local community to which broadcasters are licensed to serve. Interest has always meant "to benefit the public," as distinct from programs the public is interested in. Public interest obligations, for example, are those specific actions broadcasters undertake in exchange for their free license to repay the public for using the public airwaves (or broadcast spectrum).

Public Service Announcements (PSA's)

Commercial like announcements providing advice on an issue of importance, such as Take a Bite Out of Crime, or Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk, or a fundraising appeal such as "A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste." These announcements can be highly produced, or simple announcements of a local event.


1999 People for Better TV 818 18th Street, NW | Suite 505 | Washington, DC 20006 1-888-37-4PBTV (1-888-374-7288)

Media Reform page

Index of Website

Home Page