A radio programmer is someone who schedules the content which is broadcast on a radio station. Program directors actually shape the nature of the content, determining what kind of content they want to broadcast, while other types of radio programmers are responsible for ensuring that broadcasts run smoothly and that no dead air occurs during broadcast periods. Training in this aspect of the profession is available at a number of colleges, universities, and technical schools, and people can be employed in many branches of the radio industry.
Programming in general is a very important part of the broadcast media, whether the media is radio or television. Every minute of a program has to be carefully planned and structured to avoid gaps which cause silence on the air, prevent program overruns, and ensure that the content is appealing to listeners and viewers. A radio programmer determines what goes on the air, when it airs, and how the programming of a station will be structured.
Radio programmers may allocate resources, determining the schedule for hosts, radio personalities, and other staffers. They also source program material from other locations; for example, a community radio station may buy syndicated content and arrange to receive it by satellite. The radio programmer monitors the timing on pre-recorded programs to ensure that it fits into the schedule, and monitors live broadcasts to be available to jump in to deal with programs which can range from dead air caused by equipment malfunctions to unexpected profanity from a guest.
Some radio programmers focus on developing content for their stations. They study the demographics they serve, seek out content which will appeal to their listeners, arrange for guests to be on air, and issue assignments to cover topics and stories of interest. Others are more focused with the micromanagement of radio programming, monitoring the station's broadcasts to ensure that they are operating smoothly. A radio programmer often needs to be able to multitask, and he or she needs to act quickly to head problems off early, before they mushroom into serious situations.
People in radio programming jobs tend to have formal training in radio, although some learn through working their way up the ladder at a radio station. Rates of pay for this kind of work vary, depending on a programmer's areas of expertise and level of creative involvement in the content. A radio programmer can also be involved in extending station presence through the establishment of relays or new stations.