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How Does a Radio Station Work? AM/FM & Online Explained

How exactly does a radio station work? Here's what you need to know about setting up your own station for AM/FM, digital, or online radio.

Jamie Ashbrook

by Jamie Ashbrook in Tips

Last updated 17.07.2024

A pile of radio wires and devices and transmitters - these are equipment elements that will be used in explaining how Radio Stations work.

How exactly does a radio station work? Here's what you need to know about setting up your own station for AM/FM, digital, or online radio.

How AM/FM Radio Works

AM and FM radio stations work by sending out shows via radio towers. Listeners that have receivers in their car or at home can tune in. Not many people know this, but AM and FM stand for:

  • AM = Amplitude Modulation.
  • FM = Frequency Modulation.

Both are transmitted over the air via radio waves. This consists of electromagnetic waves, which are all around us, but at different frequencies. They're generated by alternating currents, which is the electrical power used to run every appliance, like your computer or phone you're reading this from.

AM can typically reach far distances due to its strength. However, signals are more susceptible to noise and interference. FM doesn't have this problem but is limited to physical barriers like buildings and hills. This is why you can pick up certain radio stations when in the car or listening at home.

Broadcasting AM/FM Radio

In order to broadcast AM or FM radio, you need a transmitter. There are a variety of different types, for example, the ST-05B ST-7C FM Transmitter is an FM transmitter that can broadcast up to 15 miles.

This is an image of a ST-05B ST-7C FM Transmitter, a small black box with different sized white knobs either corner of the device.

A transmitter like this can be operated without a license, but AM/FM radio is regulated in most places like the USA and UK. You would need to contact your country's governing body to obtain a license in order to legally broadcast.

Digital Radio Explained

Digital radio is often referred to as DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting). Much like AM and FM, digital radio uses radio waves to reach listeners. The main difference is it reduces the amount of info sent using a compression system called MPEG. Broken down into fragments and coded into numbers, it transmits small bits of data for receivers in cars or at home to piece together. Coupled with the COFDM technology and multiplexing, it ensures signals are received reliably and robustly, even in environments normally prone to interference.

A flow chart with a red symbol for a transmitter, then an arrow, then a radio, then an arrow, then with people at the end. It illustrates the process of digital radio.

Technical details aside, digital radio is a much more efficient way to broadcast over the airwaves. Anyone that has a DAB radio, like most modern cars now, can tune into digital radio stations.

Broadcasting Digital Radio

Just like AM and FM, digital radio needs a transmitter to broadcast. In order to work efficiently, digital transmitters need to relay from antennas to boost their signal. Governing bodies regulate who can and cannot broadcast. For example, here in the UK you would need to get the proper equipment and license from Ofcom.

Online Radio Explained

A more straightforward way of setting up a radio station is doing it online. For example, with everything is handled in the cloud. You don't need to worry about setting up a transmitter or configuration technical equipment. Just hook up audio equipment like a mic and mixer to your laptop, then start broadcasting to your station online.

A flow chart that starts with a microphone, then an arrow, then a transmitter, then an arrow, then a laptop with a wifi signal above it, then a logo.

From school children to retirees, from solo broadcasters to multi-million dollar businesses, helps people from different backgrounds to get on air in minutes. But why read when we can show you? Take a quick tour of the platform to see how it can work for you.

Broadcasting Online Radio

The simplest way to broadcast your shows is online. Most countries do not regulate online-only radio steams, so you do not necessarily need a license. However, if you intend to play music then you may want to look into licensing.

Using, you can upload tracks, manage shows with playlists, stream live, and much more. Over 3.8 billion people have access to the internet, which is a lot of potential listeners! Whether that's locals in your area or people from the other side of the world, anyone can tune into your shows.

Broadcast online today. Start your 7-day free trial by clicking the button below. Alternatively, if you have any questions than talk with us by booking a demo.

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