Research Ngā Rangahau

Matters of Opinion: Expectations and Perceptions of Standards in Talkback Radio, 2011

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     Date published: June 2011

     Research Company: Nielsen

Scope and Methodology

  • Qualitative and quantitative research project exploring expectations listeners have of broadcasting standards in relation to radio
  • Phase 1 – Review of Panorama data
  • Phase 2 – Focus groups (regular listeners of talkback radio) in Auckland and Wellington with 20 participants
  • Phase 3 – Survey of 503 regular listeners of talkback radio supplemented with two questions of non-listeners in Nielsen’s Omnibus survey


The talkback audience

  • Talkback enthusiasts (most frequent listeners) are more likely to be male, over 60 years of age, retired and heavy consumers of radio in general
  • Enthusiasts are more likely to listen between midnight and 6am, an otherwise unpopular time for listening. Lunch time and evening time slots are also less popular time slots
  • The most common places to listen are at home or in a motor vehicle, and the station most likely to be listened to is Newstalk ZB
  • Listeners are attracted to talkback radio because of the different perspectives gained from the range of opinions represented, the entertainment it provides and the stimulating discussion

Audience participation

  • Three in every ten listeners attempt to participate in the discussion, but on an infrequent basis (majority call less than once or twice a month). Talkback enthusiasts are more likely to have called in an attempt to participate in the discussion
  • Around one in six listeners end up participating in the discussion
  • The main reasons for not calling are that listeners simply enjoy listening to others discuss the topics, or that they think someone with a similar point of view will call

Broadcasting standards vs freedom of expression

  • When benchmarked against other radio broadcasts (news and current affairs/documentaries), greater leniency is expected for talkback radio for all areas of broadcasting standards
  • Standards around accuracy are of most importance to talkback listeners, and a role for both hosts and callers was identified in maintaining standards in this area
  • However, overall there is a greater expectation on hosts than callers for maintaining standards
  • When played back to respondents, content involving host’s poor treatment of callers was more likely to be considered a breach in standards
  • Talkback enthusiasts are less likely to consider content of this nature a breach in standards, suggesting that the more one listens to talkback radio the more accustomed one is to this type of content