Sign-on and sign-off
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A sign-on (or start-up in Commonwealth countries) is the beginning of operations for a radio or television station, generally at the start of each day. It is the opposite of a sign-off (or closedown in Commonwealth countries), which is the sequence of operations involved when a radio or television station shuts down its transmitters and goes off the air for a predetermined period; generally, this occurs during the overnight hours although a broadcaster's digital specialty channels or sub-channels may start up and closedown at significantly different times as its main channels.
Sign-on or start-up sequences vary from country to country, from station to station, and from time to time; however, most follow a similar general pattern. It can be something as simple as identifying the channel the viewer is watching (then cutting immediately to that channel's programming line-up) to providing more information about its operating licence and playing the national anthem or/and a prayer reel. It is common for sign-ons to be followed by a network's early morning newscast, or their morning or breakfast show.
For broadcasters that do still close for a period each day, the daily sign-on typically occurring between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. However, in some countries with more limited broadcast coverage, such as North Korea, sign-on may be as late as 5:00 p.m. A particular type of AM radio station known as a daytimer usually only operates during daytime hours, and will therefore run a sign-on sequence each day.
In the age of digital television, some broadcasters' specialty or sub-channels may also start up during significantly different times from their main channels in order to give way to fellow sister sisters they share broadcast bandwidth with. These digital specialty or sub-channels may not always necessarily have to show a formal startup/sign-on sequence seen in their main channels other than identifying the channel the viewer is watching and instead cut straight to their programming lineup.
While both sign-ons and sign-offs have become less common with the increasing prevalence of twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week broadcasting, they are still conducted by a number of stations around the world. Even if a broadcaster no longer signs off and on again on a certain channel and operates that channel 24 hours a day, it may still show something akin to a sign-on sequence between certain programmes (usually between 04.00 to 07.00) as a formality to signify the start of a new operating day (In the US, the broadcast logging day begins at 06.00 local time.).
Although children's cable TV channels do not actually sign on or sign off, it is common for them to simulate the practice in order to switch to adult programming. The most well known example is Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. Every night, Cartoon Network airs a bumper telling viewers that their programming has concluded for the day, followed by a parental advisory bumper on Adult Swim, in order to inform parents. The same happens every morning when Adult Swim transitions to Cartoon Network. Other popular examples are Nickelodeon and Nick at Nite, and formerly Noggin (now Nick Jr.) and The N (now TeenNick).
Sign-offs, like sign-ons, vary from country to country, from station to station, and from time to time; however, most follow a similar general pattern. Many stations follow the reverse process to their sign-on sequence at the start of the day. Like sign-ons, sign-off sequences may be something as simple as identifying the channel and saying that it is going off the air, or something as full-blown as making public service announcements, playing a prayer reel, providing more technical information about the channel and playing the national anthem or/and a prayer reel. Sign-off messages can be initiated by a broadcast automation system just as for other television programming, and automatic transmission systems can cut off the carrier signal and trigger the actual shutdown of the transmitter by remote control. In some cases, the signal is cut altogether after which, the viewer only sees or hears static after an analog television station signs off. Digital stations will likely display a message after the sign off; however, they may simply cut to a black screen with no sound (as other digital subchannel networks on the same channel space may broadcast 24/7, requiring the station to remain powered up; consideration after 2017 in the United States is now also given to channel sharing partners who may do the same). In addition, a broadcaster's digital specialty channels or sub-channels may go off the air without a formal full-length sign-off/closedown sequence (apart from simply identifying themselves and saying they are going off the air for a few hours) once their programming lineup for the day has concluded.
Sign-offs or closedowns of a broadcaster's main channels have become less common with the increasing prevalence of twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week broadcasting. They are, however, still conducted by a number of stations around the world, often by stations catering to small-markets or those in less–developed countries, or when stations need to shut down for transmitter maintenance. There are also a few cases in which a channel's terrestrial feed may go off the air but its cable/satellite feed may continue programming for pay-TV subscribers.
Countries that aired religious reels during sign-on and sign-offEdit
|Antigua and Barbuda||Christian prayer|
|Armenia||Christian prayer or chanting|
|Australia||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Burkina Faso||Quran reading or Christian prayer|
|Canada||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Eritrea||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Ethiopia||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|France||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Germany||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Greece||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Hong Kong||Buddhist quote|
|India||Christian prayer (on Sundays), Quran reading (on Fridays), Hindu, Sikh, Jain or Buddhist chant|
|Italy||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Kenya||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|North Korea||Quote from Kim Il-sung or Kim Jong-il|
|South Korea||Christian prayer or Buddhist quote|
|Nepal||Hindu or Buddhist chant|
|Netherlands||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|New Zealand||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Philippines||Biblical quote or Christian or Catholic prayer|
|Poland||Christian prayer, chanting or responsorial psalm|
|Saudi Arabia||Quran reading|
|South Africa||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Sri Lanka||Buddhist or Hindu chanting|
|Trinidad and Tobago||Christian prayer|
|United Arab Emirates||Quran reading|
|United States||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Vatican City||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|Vietnam||Buddhist quote or Christian prayer|
|Western Sahara||Quran reading|
Special sign-on/off casesEdit
United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and South KoreaEdit
In a number of countries closedowns formerly took place during the daytime as well as overnight. In the United Kingdom this was initially due to government-imposed restrictions on daytime broadcasting hours, and later, due to budgetary constraints. The eventual relaxation of these rules meant that afternoon closedowns ceased permanently on the ITV network in October 1972, but the BBC maintained the practice until Friday 24 October 1986, before commencing a full daytime service on the following Monday. Afternoon closedowns continued in South Korea until December 2005. Hong Kong's broadcasting networks (particularly the English-speaking channels) also practiced this until mid-2008. In these cases, the station's transmitters later did not actually shut-down for the afternoon break; either a test-card was played or a static schedule was posted telling viewers of the programming line-up once broadcasting resumes.
During religious holidays or occasions, Doordarshan and Akashvani will broadcast a prayer of any religion will play through the day, a week or a month (e.g. During Ramadan, a reading from the Quran, a Muslim quote, or a call for Azan and Fajr prayer will be broadcast. During Lent, a Christian prayer, a hymn or a responsorial psalm will be broadcast).
Malaysian public broadcaster RTM previously operated TV1 24 hour days only during Ramadan. But TV1 started year-round 24-hour operations in August 2012, shortly after the London Olympics, which was also broadcast 24 hours a day.
During the Holy Week in the Philippines, terrestrial TV and radio stations continue their regular broadcast schedules from Palm Sunday until Holy Wednesday. From the midnight of Holy Thursday until resumption of operations on Easter Sunday, most general entertainment-formatted free TV channels (including ABS-CBN, TV5, and GMA) as well as most radio networks are off the air, or otherwise cut their broadcasting hours and feature special programming, including Catholic Media Network member stations, broadcasting Easter Triduum services and other similar programming.
Campus radio stations' operations during this time are left to the discretion of their respective schools, colleges, or universities by either closing down on the afternoon of Holy Wednesday or remaining off-air the entirety of the week.
On cable and satellite, with the exception of specialty channels dedicated to broadcasting horse races, cockfights and the like that halt operations during this period, most international channels distributed to the country continue to broadcast their 24/7 regular programming service week-long, while a few even continue with specially-arranged schedules from Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday.