Howard Stern Hijinks Hit Land of Tea and Crumpets ; A Boom in UK Radio Stations over Past Six Years Is Largely Thanks to US- Style 'Shock Jocks.'

By Alexander MacLeod, | The Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 2000 | Go to article overview

Howard Stern Hijinks Hit Land of Tea and Crumpets ; A Boom in UK Radio Stations over Past Six Years Is Largely Thanks to US- Style 'Shock Jocks.'


Alexander MacLeod,, The Christian Science Monitor


Over the airwaves of Britain, a clash is being played out between traditional genteelness and modern vulgarity .

Rude radio hosts - "shock jocks" of the type popular in America - have debuted as the most controversial part of a wave of more than 300 new commercial stations.

While they may be hits with younger audiences, some listeners are horrified.

Britain's broadcast watchdogs have warned station executives that new research proves listeners don't like what they are hearing from the aggressive new breed of loose-lipped show hosts.

"The thread of the research is that people don't want to see radio abused by its presenters," said Martin Campbell, the director of programming for the Radio Authority (RA), which licenses commercial stations.

A spokesman for Radio One, however, scoffed at the survey of 2,000 listeners, saying: "Our audience is increasing, which proves that listeners aren't turning off. There is nothing to repent about."

Nonetheless, two weeks ago Sara Cox, Radio One breakfast host, drew complaints from listeners for making sexually explicit comments about a fellow-presenter during a show listened to by some 7 million people. She had to apologize on-air.

Some months ago a disc jockey encouraged a schoolboy to be rude about his teacher and advised him: "Throw your teacher to the sharks."

The teacher complained to the government-funded Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC), which agreed that the item had treated her unfairly.

The teacher isn't the only listener fed up with an aggressive new breed of loose-lipped show hosts who try to pattern their microphone style on American radio "shock jocks."

The RA and the BSC, which monitors output, point to their survey of listeners, who decried foul language, sexual references, and insulting comments to callers on air.

The Radio Authority plans to hold a seminar with commercial station executives in the fall to "remind them of what listeners in this survey are saying about their output."

Culture Ministry officials are reported to have privately warned commercial broadcasters that they may lose their licenses if they ignore the survey's findings.

About half of those polled said that if they hear something offensive they switch off or retune. Eighty-five percent thought on- air swearing during the day should be banned outright. And fifty- six percent said children were being exposed to offensive material while listening to the car radio during the morning school run.

Listener Julia Kelly was enraged by what she heard recently while driving her six-year-old son Ian to school in Wandsworth, southwest London.

A female breakfast show host on Radio One, the British Broadcasting Corporation's most popular audio channel, had just made what Ms. …

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