Radio programming for young adults : three New Zealand case studies : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Media Studies and Massey University
The central question posed by this thesis is how radio stations, and more specifically programme directors, attract and construct an audience of listeners aged between 18 and 25 years old. The thesis examines the political and social factors influencing broadcasters targeting young adults both in this country and internationally. It then analyses the broadcasts and programming strategies of three New Zealand radio stations - a student, an iwi and a commercial station. Broadcasting is examined on three levels: firstly the political and historical context of radio broadcasting is outlined including issues such as media ownership, government regulation and the structure of media institutions; secondly the daily operating practices of broadcasters are assessed, along with how programming choices are made in light of externally imposed constraints such as the desire to make a profit; and finally textual analysis is used to examine the material that is produced for broadcast. Programme directors are defined here as key gatekeepers because they determine the way a radio station sounds within the parameters of a particular format. Williams (1990) correctly maintains that broadcasting forms a continuous flow, but for ease of academic discussion each of these radio stations is analysed in terms of its music programming, advertising and promotion, news and information and DJ chat. Analysis of the verbal aspects of the broadcast draw on Goffman (1981), Brand and Scannell (1991) and Montgomery (1986). Music programming is discussed with reference to Rothenbuhler (1985) and unstructured interviews conducted by the researcher with the programme directors at each of the three stations. The New Zealand case studies exemplify international trends evident in radio stations which target 18 to 25 year olds. The programme directors in question presume this age group listens to the radio in the evenings, prefers music to talk and current affairs, likes newly released material rather than older songs and is likely to purchase leisure and entertainment products. The case studies provide a contemporary snap shot of how programme directors construct and perceive a specific radio audience. The thesis concludes that programmers targeting young adults use music to define the station's sound, construct an audience and sell advertising.