People in Britain listen to the radio a lot, especially in the morning and the early evening or while they are in their cars. Many people rely on the radio to hear the latest news. Later in the evening television attracts larger audiences. Radio is sometimes still called the wireless , especially by older people.
Around 50% of the British radio audience listen to the BBC ; the rest listen to independent commercial radio , which has advertising . There are five national BBC radio stations : Radio 1 plays rock and pop music, Radio 2 broadcasts popular music, comedy and entertainment programmes, Radio 3 offers classical music and arts programmes, Radio 4 broadcasts popular news and current affairs programmes such as Today , drama and arts programmes, and Radio 5 Live has sport. The BBC also operates the World Service , which broadcasts to most parts of the world. Independent radio stations which broadcast in competition with the BBC include Classic FM , Virgin Radio and Talk Radio UK. Programmes broadcast by the BBC and the main independent stations are listed in the Radio Times and TV Times and in national newspapers.
Many people also listen to local radio . Local radio stations concentrate on local news, traffic reports and pop music. Smaller stations are run by students or by hospitals for their patients. Ofcom issues licences to commercial broadcasters.
In the US there are more than 10 000 radio stations. Many people listen to the radio during drive time , the time when they are travelling to or from work. There are no national radio stations, but there are networks , groups of stations that are associated with each other. The network affiliates (= stations in the group) use some of the same programmes.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a part of the US government, issues licences to radio stations and says what frequency they can use. The FCC also gives a station its call letters , the letters that it uses to identify itself. Many stations make their name from their call letters or frequency, e.g. Sunny 95 .
Each station has a specific format (= style of programmes), which it hopes will be popular with its listenership ( AmE for ‘audience’). Some stations play a particular kind of music, such as ‘top 40’ (= popular songs) or country music . Other stations have talk radio and phone-in programmes , in which radio presenters discuss an issue and invite people listening to telephone the station and take part in the discussion. Ethnic radio stations operated by people from particular cultural groups offer programmes in languages other than English. Some stations broadcast religious programming .
Many towns also have a public radio station , which is part of the National Public Radio network. Public radio stations often have public affairs programming and classical music, which is not common on commercial radio. The United States Information Agency , part of the US government, operates the Voice of America , which brings information about the US, its culture and language to people around the world.