Why do they play music over phone calls on radio?

I don’t know if this is just a UK thing, but whenever there is a listener’s phone call, or even a phone interview with someone, on a music station, they seem to play some annoying instrumental music over the top of it. It’s usually a fairly basic beat, rather than a melody, but it seems to do nothing other than make it even harder than normal to hear what the caller is saying, especially when you are trying to listen in the car.

I believe the industry term for this is a “bed”, but why do they do it? What is it meant to do, other than irritate people and make it hard to hear the phone call?

They play music here in the US if you’re on hold, mostly I guess to reassure you that the call hasn’t been disconnected.

I’ve never heard music played over an active call purposefully- sometimes I’ll hear music playing in the background of where the other person is, but not over the call itself. I’d find that extremely frustrating. It’s hard enough for me to focus on a phone call as it is!

Never heard that, but then, I listen to Radio 3.

I can only assume it’s part of the same generational trend that imagines no-one could possibly watch a TV documentary unless the commentary/narration and much significant explication is overlarded with irrelevant off-the-peg your-call-is-important-to-us music, and the presenter is constitutionally unable to keep still, but has to walk in and out of shot, point hither and yon and have a go at performing whatever activity is being explained. There is a never-ending thread about this on the BBC Points of View messageboard. And do the whizzkids take any notice? Do they buffalo.

OK, I recognize the words, but I have no idea what this means.

I notice something similar with respect to traffic messages on the radio here in southwest Germany: the traffic messages that automatically interrupt normal programming and switch on muted radios (BEEP Caution drivers on A81 direction Stuttgart to Heilbronn - near Ludwigsburg exit you will encounter a wrong-way driver. Do not pass and drive cautiously. Repeat wrong way driver on A81 Stuttgart to Heilbronn near Ludwigsburg exit. BEEP) often are overlaid with a background beat. WTF? Just when it’s vital to understand exactly what’s said?

Looks like autocorrect has struck.

I have called into a radio station before, and they don’t have it playing over when you actually call in, but they add it in when they put it on air. Rare that they would play a person calling in live on a music/fm channel, might be different an actual talk show but then they don’t play the music over top. Around here I most often hear this happening on a mix show (where they have a dj continually mixing music) and its to keep the beat going when someone calls in. On the morning show it might just be to eliminate dead air that a caller might not be as good about not creating, especially for a contest or something like that.

Yes I was wondering about that. You get it on phone-in contests, so maybe it is meant to prevent the cardinal sin of silence. (I know that some radio stations have an automatic system that cuts in with pre-recorded content in the event of dead air if something breaks.)

They do this sometimes on CNN as well. There’s music playing while their own newsperson is speaking. Annoying as hell.

No, I meant it. It’s a euphemistic way of expressing scepticism. UK readers may recall a Victoria Wood sketch in which it appears, but all you have to do is think of a three-syllable rude word that begins with BU.