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 or sub-channels may start up and closedown at significantly different times as its main channels.
Sign-ons, like sign-offs, 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-off sequence at the close of the day. It is common for sign-ons to be followed by a network's early morning newscast, or their morning or breakfast show.
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. For broadcasters that do still close for a period each day, this station close is most often during the early hours of the morning, with the daily sign-on typically occurring between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. However, in some countries with more limited broadcasting coverage, such as North Korea, sign-on may be as late as 5:00 p.m. 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. 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.
Even if a broadcaster no longer signs off and on again on a certain channel and operates it 24 hours a day, it may still do 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 its operating day (In the US, the broadcast logging day begins at 0600 local time.).
This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (November 2018)
The sign-on sequence may include some or all of the following stages, but not necessarily in this order:
- For television stations or radio stations that cut off their signal during off-broadcast hours, a test pattern or 1 kHz tone or music or radio station may be broadcast fifteen to twenty minutes before the actual sign-on. Digital channels may still be running overnight programs or interstitials at this time (as is the case with ITV Nightscreen in the United Kingdom), which conclude at the point where the main transmitters are switched on.
- A signal to turn on remote transmitters may be played—this is usually a series of touch tones.
- On radio stations, especially international stations on shortwave, an interval signal may be played in a loop, usually for 3 to 5 minutes before the actual broadcast starts.
- Technical information provided, such as the station identification (call sign and city of license), transmitter power, frequency or channel number, translators used, transmitter locations, list of broadcast engineers (in the Philippines), and studio/transmitter links (STL).
- On television stations, a video and/or photo montage set to the national anthem or another patriotic piece of music may be played; on radio stations this would just consist of the music, usually the national anthem. The accompanying television video usually involves images of the national flag, head of states, national heroes, national military, national symbols, or other nationalistic imagery, particularly on state-owned broadcasters.
- Ownership information about the station, and a list of related organizations.
- A "good morning" greeting to viewers or listeners.
- Contact information, such as street and mailing addresses, telephone number, email, and website details.
- A prayer or other religious acknowledgement, particularly in countries with a state religion, in theocracies, and on religious broadcasters. For example, sign-ons in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand typically include a quote from Gautama Buddha, those in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Brunei Darussalam, Niger, Malaysia, Morocco, Bahrain, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, generally include an Islamic reading from the Quran, a Muslim quote, or a call for Azan and Fajr prayer, those in the Philippines (except in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), Italy, Russia (except for some republics), Canada and the United States include a Christian prayer, responsorial psalm or hymn of some type and stations in South Korea, India and China have a prayer of any religion depending on the day.
- This program guide for the upcoming programs, or the day's programs.
- A disclaimer that station programming is taped, aired live, or originates from a television or radio network
- Another disclaimer that programs are for personal use only (sometimes with information on copyright restrictions), and a statement that businesses cannot profit from showing them by applying a cover charge for viewing
- A statement of commitment to quality; this may be in the form of a recognized standard, such as the United States National Association of Broadcasters' "Seal of Good Practice" (until 1982) or the Philippines' Broadcast Code of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines)
- A station identification, including some or all of the television channel, AM or FM frequency, call sign, branding, and a clock ident
- Generally a station jingle or slogan will be played, accompanied on television with video clips featuring station programming or personalities.
While most of these sign-on steps are done as a service to the public, or for advertising reasons, some of them may be required by the government of the country.
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. 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).
Both sign-offs and sign-ons 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. Another consideration for whether providers shutdown is power consumption; aerial signals, such as those for UHF analog TV transmissions, can require tens of thousands of watts of power, making electricity a major expense, while power consumption would usually be considerably lower for digital terrestrial transmitters, cable and satellite providers. Viewer numbers, programming gaps, and licence issued by the relevant authority to indicate when their transmitters can be operated are other considerations.
For broadcasters which do still close for a period each day, the station close most often takes place overnight or during the early hours of the morning. The daily sign-off typically occurs between around 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. and the station will remain closed until about 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., although in countries with limited broadcast coverage, sign-off may occur at earlier times, and sign-on later. In the age of digital television, some broadcasters' specialty or subchannels may also closedown during significantly different times from their main channels in order to give way to fellow sister channels they share broadcast bandwidth with. For instance, CBeebies in the UK closes down at 19.00 to give way to BBC Four (which operates until shortly before 04.00). Sign-off may also vary depending on the day of the week; for example some broadcasters may run for 24 hours on Saturday nights, but sign-off and close during the week when there are lower viewer numbers. Seasonality is also a consideration where some stations/networks stay open for 24 hours, while rarely few go off the air completely during peak times of religious observances.
Many stations, while no longer conducting a sign-off and being off air for a period of time each day, instead run low–cost programming during those times of low viewer numbers. This may include infomercials, movies, television show reruns, simple weather forecasts, low cost news or infotainment programming from other suppliers, simulcasts of sister services, or feeds of local cable TV companies' programming via a fiber optic line to the cable headend. Other broadcasters that are part of a radio or television network may run an unedited feed of the network's overnight programming from a central location, without local advertising. During what are otherwise closedown hours, some channels may also simulcast their teletext pages or full page headlines with music or feeds from sister radio stations playing in the background. Some stations, after doing a sign-off, nonetheless continue to transmit throughout the off-air period on cable/satellite; this transmission may involve a test pattern, static image, teletext pages or full-page headlines which was accompanied by music or a local weather radio service.
This section may be too long to read and navigate comfortably. (November 2018)
The sign-off sequence may include some or all of the following stages, but not necessarily in this order:
- Nearly when a program or movie ends, they show PSAs through Ad Council or any organizations, then station ID announced.
- An announcement made about the upcoming sign-off to inform the viewers that the station is about to go off-air.
- A station jingle or slogan may be played, accompanied on television with video clips featuring station programming or personalities. A series of program trailers may also be played.
- A prayer, hymn, or other religious acknowledgement, particularly in countries with a state religion or theocracies, and on religious broadcasters. For example, closedowns in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Senegal, Brunei, Malaysia, Egypt, Niger, Oman, and Indonesia generally include a fifteen-minute reading from the Qur'an and a call for the midnight salat; stations in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau typically have a quote from the Buddha; stations in Israel have a Jewish prayer; stations in Germany, Italy, Philippines (excluding the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), Russia (excluding some republics), the United Kingdom and in the Southern United States include a Christian prayer, Biblical passage, a Responsorial psalm or a hymn; while stations in China, South Korea and India have a prayer of any religion depending on the day.
- A short weather forecast, newscast, or a pre-taped sermonette.
- A clock ident, which can be silent, play music or feature an announcer. In the United Kingdom, BBC1 and BBC2 had the announcer speaking over a clock ident, before switching to the national anthem over the station ident.
- A "goodnight" message to viewers or listeners thanking them for their patronage, along with an announcement of the time when the station is scheduled to sign on again.
- A program guide for the following day's programs.
- Ownership information about the station and a list of related organizations.
- Contact information, such as street and mailing addresses, telephone number, zip code, e-mail, and website details.
- Technical information provided, such as the call sign, transmitter power, translators used, transmitter locations, a list of broadcast engineers (in the Philippines only), and studio/transmitter links (STL).
- A disclaimer that station programming is taped, aired live, or originates from a television or radio network.
- A disclaimer that programs are for personal use only (sometimes with information on copyright restrictions), and a statement that businesses cannot profit from showing them by applying a cover charge for viewing.
- A statement of commitment to quality; this may be in the form of a recognized standard, such as the United States National Association of Broadcasters' "Seal of Good Practice" (before 1982) or the Philippines' KBP Broadcast Code of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (Association of Broadcasters of the Philippines).
- An invitation to tune into alternate services hosted by their sister/affiliate stations (for example, radio station). In the United Kingdom for example, when BBC1 or BBC2 closed down for the day, the announcer invited the outgoing viewers to tune into BBC radio services during the TV station's off-hours.
- On television stations, a video and/or photo montage set to the national anthem or another patriotic piece of music may be played; on radio stations, this would just consist of the music, usually the national anthem. The accompanying television video usually involves images of the national flag, head of states, national heroes, national military, national symbols, or other nationalistic imagery, particularly on state-owned broadcasters.
- The station may display some type of novelty item, such as an animated character, particular to that station or its locale.
- The display of a test pattern, a variation on the station logo, or a black signal, often accompanied by a monotone sound for a short period of time; radio stations may just play a monotone. In Germany, before switching to the test card (especially ARD and ZDF), a slide with the logo and the noun "Sendeschluss" or "Sendeschluß" is shown, before slowly fades to black. This means if a viewer (especially knowing German language) sees the word "Sendeschluss" it means the viewer should turn off their television sets. In ARD, while showing testcard, a female voiceover repeats itself, instead of playing tone. Nowadays, the transmission is handed over to a 24/7 channel.
- Viewers may be warned to remember to turn off their television sets just prior to the transmitter being switched off; these announcements were particularly common in the early days of television, but are still in regular practice in some places; in Russia this was common until the mid-90s, and in Japan this was also common in some prefectures when there is no 24/7-hour service available (Toyama, Nagano, etc.)
- A signal to turn off remote transmitters may be played; is usually a series of touch tones. Once the transmission has been cut off there will usually only be video static on television stations or radio static on radio stations. In the digital age, a black screen is displayed as no transmission is able to be decoded, with sets not able to receive a signal turning off automatically if the feature is enabled, and audibly for television and radio, the audio is completely silent.
- A loud tone may be played on the audio to encourage sleeping viewers to turn their television sets off.
While most of these sign-off steps are done as a service to the public, or for advertising reasons, some of them may be required by the government of the country. For example, in the U.S. or in the Philippines, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, or the National Telecommunications Commission require stations to identify themselves before leaving the air, which usually means they must announce their calls, city of license, and broadcast frequency or channel number.
Countries that aired religious acknowledgements 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 Kingdom||Christian sermonette, prayer or responsorial psalm|
|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
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).
During Ramadan, Malaysian public broadcaster RTM operates TV1 24 hours a day instead of signing off, but TV1 becomes 24 hours during the London Olympics in 2012, but later became permanent in August 2012, to coincide with their sister channel, TV2 by showing reruns of their old programmes shown on this broadcaster and telemovies on early-mornings before start-up.
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 the early hours of Easter Sunday (before 4 AM PST in DZIQ), most non-religious TV and radio networks outlets remain off-the-air completely or cut their broadcasting hours and feature special programming. Catholic Media Network member stations also follow the same pattern, broadcasting Easter Triduum services and other similar programming.
Campus radio stations' operations during this time are left to the discretion of their respective schools by either closing down on the afternoon of Holy Wednesday or remain off-air the entirety of the week.
On cable and satellite, with the exception of specialty channels that broadcast horse races, cockfights, and the like that sign-off and remain dormant during this period, most international networks fed to the country continue to broadcast their 24/7 regular programming service week-long, while a few continue with specially-arranged schedules from Holy Thursday to Black Saturday.