Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
n. (context broadcasting English) A show requiring members of the public to telephone the studio.
n. a program in which the audience participates by telephone
In broadcasting, a phone-in or call-in is a programme format in which viewers or listeners are invited to air their live comments by telephone, usually in respect of a specific topic selected for discussion on the day of the broadcast. On radio (especially talk radio), it is common for an entire programme to be dedicated to a phone-in session. On television, phone ins are often part of a wider discussion programme: a current example in the UK is The Wright Stuff.
BBC Radio Nottingham is credited with having aired the first British phone-in on 4 February 1968, in a programme called What Are They Up To Now?
Speech based Talk Radio UK was launched in 1995, with much of its programming featuring phone-ins. It also introduced the notion of the shock jock to the UK, with presenters like Caesar the Geezer and Tommy Boyd constructing heated discussions.
Ian Hutchby has researched power relations in phone ins, looking at arguments and confrontations. Using conversation analysis, he describes how the host retains power through devices such as "The Second Position" — the concept of going second in a discussion, giving the host time to formulate a response.
Similarly, the last word is always the broadcast word. The public can choose to end the conversation, but they are doing so by withdrawing from the interactional arena (Hutchby, 1996: 94-5; Talbot et al.).
In 2007, the BBC suspended all phone-in competitions (but not voting) due to an internal inquiry into corruption in the production of these games in shows such as charity telethons after a nationwide inquiry into the whole process leading to the cancellation of ITV Play.
In Ireland Liveline is a popular afternoon phone in show broadcast by RTÉ Radio 1 that is hosted by Joe Duffy. The phone in program usually focuses on consumer issues, current affairs and complaints from members of the public regarding various issues. The program and its presenter are frequently lampooned by numerous Irish comedians, one being David McSavage, who play on the popular perception that the program is merely an outlet for the angst of serial complainers and housewives while providing entertainment for those who revel in listening to despair and tales of misery delivered the callers. A quality of the show that is frequently satirized is Duffy's seemingly exasperated expressions of despair upon hearing of the plight of a caller.
Usage examples of "phone-in".
Mike Mikes Radio Show, which was as excellent and totally bodacious as two hours of phone-ins and traffic reports from the Blackbury bypass could be.
Fat Mancho, played stickball in front of his candy store and helped his bookie operation rake in thousands a week, their powerful support insuring that no one dared back down from a phone-in bet.
A spokeswoman from a neighbourhood watch group came on an afternoon phone-in and told the story of how a gang of youths had leapt over fences from garden to garden down her street jumping higher and faster than she thought possible.
Whenever he logged on at his Mospheira office port he'd inevitably acquire, through the filter that censored and frequently made hash of what it let him have, a mishmash of messages, some official, some scholarly inquiries, some the advisories of the hard-worked staff that supported the paidhi's office, from the devoted crew that sifted the outpourings of the phone-ins of every ilk, to the more reliable information that came to him down official channels, and to the Mospheira news summaries, neatly computer-censored for buzzwords and restricted concepts the paidhi couldn't take with him across the strait.