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Freeform, or freeform radio, is a radio station programming format in which the disc jockey is given total control over what music to play, regardless of music genre or commercial interests. Freeform radio stands in contrast to most commercial radio stations, in which DJs have little or no influence over programming structure or playlists. In the United States, freeform DJs are still bound by Federal Communications Commission regulations.


History in the United States

Many shows lay claim to be the first freeform radio program; the earliest is Nightsounds on KPFA-FM in Berkeley, California, DJ'd by John Leonard. WFMU is currently the longest running freeform radio station in the United States. Jim Ladd of KLOS in Los Angeles, California is one of the most notable current freeform DJs. Tom Petty wrote a song about Jim Ladd called "The Last DJ". The only time Jim Ladd doesn't have complete control over what music is being played is when he turns control over to his faithful listeners commonly referred to as "The Tribe".[1]

The freeform ethos tends to disdain playlists confined to a single music genre. However, DJs may opt to play selections according to an arbitrary theme (e.g., Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" followed by Radiohead's "Subterranean Homesick Alien"). Freeform-ish stations that played only or almost only rock music were known as progressive rock stations.

Commercial freeform radio stations were common in the late 1960s and early '70s but are rare today. An exceptional case was Indie 103.1 FM of Santa Monica and Newport Beach, California. Indie 103.1 broadcast radio programs in which famous musicians from the world of popular music host radio programs and choose the playlist. Indie 103.1 recently left the FM airwaves, but currently continues on the internet.

Another commercial freeform radio station is KHUM, "radio without the rules," at 104.3 and 104.7 FM in Ferndale, California. KHUM has transmitted since 1996 and is the most popular station in Humboldt County, California

New York commercial radio station, WRXP-FM, airs Anything Anything with Rich Russo on Sunday nights. This is the only locally originated freeform radio program on the commercial airwaves in New York.

Kareem of KLOS-FM 955.5 Los Angeles, California is the brainchild of a freeform internet phenomenon. Utilizing the internet Kareem has harnessed the talent of the legendary Jim Ladd and the creativity of millions of online participants “members of The Tribe” making Kareem a pioneer of live streaming global programming with full rich freeform content.

College radio and Internet radio are sanctuaries of the freeform format. NeverEndingWonder Radio, Radio Paradise, Radio Free Phoenix, and Hollow Earth Radio are four examples of freeform Internet radio streams. On Sirius XM satellite radio, the weekly Bob Dylan-hosted Theme Time Radio Hour features a freeform format, as do several specialty programs on The Loft. FreeFall on KUSF is an example of a freeform radio program. Many freeform stations are small and lack corporate backing, and therefore have relatively weak radio transmitters (especially around metropolitan areas where corporate radio signals dominate), a problem that has caused numerous broadcasters to transition to Internet radio, pirate radio or both such as FRSC (Free Radio Santa Cruz).

The full service format can be seen as a variant of the freeform format, though since most full-service stations are located in rural areas, country music, adult standards, classic hits (oldies or classic rock), and occasionally adult contemporary music tend to form the bulk of the music on a full-service station, and the vast majority of full-service stations focus primarily on mainstream, popular music (whereas freeform stations often put the emphasis on less widely known or more exotic selections).

Freeform stations


United States

Freeform radio stations in Canada:

Freeform radio stations in Europe:

Freeform radio stations in Australia:

Freeform radio stations in New Zealand:

Freeform radio programs

Freeform radio vs. eclectic radio

Eclectic radio describes radio programming encompassing diverse music genres. Unlike freeform radio, the eclectic radio format involves prescribed playlists. While freeform radio stands in contrast to commercial radio formats, a number of commercial radio stations offer programs showcasing an eclectic variety of music.

Some eclectic radio stations in the United States are:


  1. ^ "A Brief History of Freeform Radio", Lowest Common Denominator, Issue #21 (c. 1998)

See also

External links


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