Issue date: 05 September 2008

University of the West of England Study reveals radio presenters encourage drinking culture

Radio presenters are encouraging a culture of drinking among young people in the UK, according to an independent study to be presented at a conference today.

Researchers from the University of the West of England, Bristol, analysed 1,200 hours of weekend radio output across a range of BBC and commercial stations aimed at young people, and identified over 700 extracts where references were made to alcohol.

The majority (73%) of the comments initiated by presenters about alcohol encouraged drinking, and of those, 13% encouraged excessive drinking.

The study, funded by the Department of Health and the Home Office as part of their Know Your Limits campaign, will be presented at the British Sociological Association annual conference in Brighton today (Friday September 5).

Professor Norma Daykin, who led the research, said her team found that drinking was a regular topic of discussion on some of the programmes they listened to, and that many presenters used it to create repartee and connect with their listeners.

“Our research suggests that comments about alcohol contribute to the identification and branding of radio output for many stations, as well as being used in an effort to strengthen interactivity between presenters and listeners,” said Prof Daykin.

“But we also found examples which proved that making such comments is not necessary, as some presenters were able to successfully create identity and connect with young listeners without mentioning drinking.

“This suggests radio presenters and producers have a choice: they don't have to encourage drinking to be seen as 'cool' or in touch with their listeners.”

The study focused on radio programmes broadcast between December 2007 and February this year, across a range of musical genres. The stations included BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, Kiss 101, Key 103, Galaxy Birmingham and Kerrang! Radio.

The alcohol references on commercial stations were found to be higher in volume and more likely to encourage drinking than those on BBC stations, with Kerrang! Radio shown to be particularly likely to encourage excessive drinking. Alcohol references were also influenced by music genre; hip-hop and black music stations such as 1Xtra and Kiss 101 had a low density of comments.

On the BBC stations, almost half of the alcohol-related comments were either neutral or discouraged excessive drinking, whereas this was true of only 17% of the comments on commercial radio. There were exceptions, however, such as Chris Moyles' hugely popular breakfast show on BBC Radio One, which was used as a case study in the research. Moyles, well known among his 7.7 million listeners for his 'bantering' style, uses alcohol as a key part of his repertoire.

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code stipulates that TV and radio programmes should not 'condone, encourage or glamorise' alcohol misuse before the watershed without 'editorial justification'.

The research also identified that presenters were not entirely responsible for the messages about alcohol, and that the production values of some programmes and stations can sometimes encourage content and performance styles that reinforce a jovial approach to alcohol, and undermine health promotion messages.

Not all comments by presenters supported drinking, however: a fifth were neutral, and 2% discouraged excessive drinking, with some suggesting reasons to limit drinking, such as safety, work and health. Listeners were generally found to be more enthusiastic about drinking than presenters, but the assumption that drinking is necessary to have a good time was rarely challenged.

Prof Daykin added: “Alcohol was frequently positioned as a marker of the weekend, and a hangover as a marker of a good night out. The notion of not drinking alcohol to enjoy yourself, particularly at times of celebration such as Christmas and New Year, seemed unthinkable.”


Notes to editors

-For more information or a full copy of the report, please contact the University of the West of England, Bristol press office on 0117 32 82208.

-Know Your Limits is a joint Department of Health and Home Office initiative, launched in October 2006. The campaign encourages people to drink responsibly and to recognise what their limits are when it comes to alcohol. For more information about the Know Your Limits campaign, visit

-For media enquiries about the Know Your Limits campaign, please call the Department of Health Newsdesk on 020 7210 5221.

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