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The full service radio format in the United States consists of a wide range of programming. Mostly found on the AM band, the format can be found on a handful of FM stations. It is popular mainly among smaller, local stations in rural areas not owned by major broadcasting conglomerates and is also known as hometown radio for its unusually high (compared to other modern radio formats) amount of locally oriented content.
Programming generally heard on full service stations can include:
Depending on the ethnic composition of the station's coverage area and/or ownership and management, at least a portion of a full-service station's weekend programming is often set aside for ethnic or specialty music programming such as polka, Italian music, native American music, Celtic music or other widely varying ethnic programming, almost always by a local host. Many stations also set aside a block of programming for golden oldies, or music from the 1920s through early 1960s, with genres ranging from early rock and roll and pre-1965 country music to pop standards, swing, jazz, big band and - sometimes - existing recordings predating the 1920s.
Full-service radio was the predominant form of radio broadcasting during the network radio era, before the debut of contemporary hit radio (top 40) in the 1950s. In the old-time radio era, most stations would mix local programs (of a wide variety) with the networks' offerings. The name of the format implies that the station serves a broad spectrum of listeners and demographics with small portions of various types of programming.
Since the full-service format is traditionally confined to AM and rural listeners, oldies/classic hits, adult standards and classic country tend to form the basis of most music rotations on these stations. Full service stations tend to have somewhat more of a freeform playlist, allowing disc jockeys to play favorite tunes, and as such, album cuts, B-sides, "forgotten 45s," local bands and lesser-known performers and songs can see more air time on a full-service station than on most other commercial formats. The freeform playlist also enables jockeys to fit in caller requests more frequently, whereas larger stations owned by corporations may only take requests at designated times if at all (and then have restrictions on top of that, such as only current hits plus recurrents within a certain time frame).
Full service is not one of the formats defined by Nielsen; in most cases, full-service stations are usually listed under the blanket category of "variety." Smaller full-service stations rarely show up in Arbitron ratings due to their general refusal to pay for the company's services. This also allows the station to set their own advertising rates; full-service stations can often have very loyal audiences.
In the United Kingdom, the term "full service" is sometimes used to refer to the Independent Local Radio stations of the 1970s and 1980s, which were contractually obliged to feature a broad range of output (specialist music, speech, sports commentary, minority programmes) as opposed to the tightly targeted all-pop music stations of the 1990s and 21st Century.