Company News · March 23, 2004

Rock Radio Listeners to the FCC: “Hands off that Radio Dial”

By edison

This online survey of 13,000 Rock radio listeners by Edison Media Research and Jacobs Media found that although indecency on the radio is a concern for many, these listeners do not support government regulation of the airwaves.

Sean Ross
Edison Media Research
(908) 707-4707

Paul Jacobs
Jacobs Media
(248) 353-9030

New Jacobs Media/Edison Media Research survey argues: Those offended are not those who are actually listening

Download full report

A major new survey of Rock radio listeners around the country, conducted by Jacobs Media and Edison Media Research, reveals that while many are concerned with indecency on the airwaves, they overwhelmingly feel that the government should stay out of the business of regulating radio programs.

Further, the study, conducted over the Internet among 13,700 people who listen to Rock-formatted radio stations around the country, shows few listeners to Rock music on the radio, even those who listen to morning shows that the FCC is now investigating or fining, are ever offended by what they hear on the radio. According to audience estimates from Arbitron, just over 50 million people listen to Rock radio stations every week.

“Our new survey argues quite convincingly that while some of the material on the radio may be shocking, it’s what the audience wants,” says Fred Jacobs, President of Southfield, Mich.-based Jacobs Media. “These Rock radio listeners are telling us in overwhelming numbers that they want to decide for themselves whether to listen to a radio program or not, and they believe that the marketplace, not the FCC or ‘watchdog groups’ should make the decision on what’s available on the radio. The study implies the people being offended by edgy morning radio shows are not the people listening.”

An overwhelming majority of the Rock radio listeners in the respondent pool (70%) believe that “the investigation of some radio shows is an overreaction to the Janet Jackson incident.” “What is fascinating about these people is their ability to separate the Super Bowl episode from their feelings about morning radio programs,” says Larry Rosin, President of Edison Media Research of Somerville, N.J. “A majority of these people think that the Jackson affair was wrong, and yet even these same people think that radio personalities should be allowed to say whatever they please. Clearly, what Rock listeners are saying is that the reaction to material depends on the context.”

Consistently throughout this survey clear majorities of Rock radio listeners argue that individuals, not the government, should decide what is available on the nation’s radio airwaves. Among the other key findings:

Few Rock radio listeners are ever offended by what they hear on the morning show they listen to the most – even those who listen to the shows most often considered “raunchy”. In total, 55% of Rock radio listeners say they are never offended by what they hear on the radio morning show they listen to the most, and only 11% are offended more than “rarely.”

Fully 74% of Rock radio listeners who participated in this Internet poll say, “Those who want to listen to Howard Stern should be allowed to do so.” Clear majorities of all subgroups within the poll felt this same way, including women, parents, and, significantly, people who don’t listen to raunchy morning shows themselves.

Respondents were asked whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “The only way to keep offensive material away from children is to eliminate it from the radio airwaves.” Only 11% of respondents agreed with this statement, while 78% disagreed (11% were “neutral”).

There is a concern about a new “tyranny of the minority”: only 5% of respondents agreed with the statement: “If even a small group of listeners is offended by a radio show’s content, the FCC should take action against it.” Similarly, 75% of respondents agreed that, “Small groups of people are having too much influence over whether radio programs should be fined or punished.”

Only a tiny number of respondents feel that the FCC should be making programming decisions; just 12% agreed with the statement “The FCC should take programs that it considers indecent off the air.”

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, these Rock radio listeners reject the claim by many that the government must “clean up broadcasting to protect the children.” When asked to choose between two statements regarding responsibility for radio programming and listening the results were as follows:

It’s the parents’ responsibility to keep material they find indecent away from their children: 87%

It’s the broadcasters’ responsibility to eliminate indecent material from the airwaves so children can’t hear it: 13%

The obligation was put on parents over broadcasters in similarly strong numbers among all subgroups, including women, parents of children under 13, Republicans and Democrats, frequent churchgoers and those who never attend religious services.

“These shows have been on for 20 years or more, doing the same things they always have, and only now that Janet Jackson showed her breast on the Super Bowl halftime show has it become an issue for politicians,” says Jacobs. “While it’s impossible to ‘stand up for indecency,’ this study shows that the broadcasters and the listeners should stand up for their rights. Listeners know that certain radio shows might offend them, and they know how to change the station if they don’t want to hear such things.”

This survey was conducted over the Internet by invitation to listeners of 40 Rock radio stations across America. A list of participating radio stations is available by request. The number of respondents from any individual radio station was capped. In total, 13,700 respondents participated in the survey between March 12th and March 19th, 2004. A complete report on findings from this study will be released on Monday, March 29th on and

About Edison Media Research:

Edison Media Research conducts survey research and provides strategic information to radio stations, television stations, newspapers, cable networks, record labels, Internet companies and other media organizations. Edison Media Research works with many of the largest American radio groups, including Entercom, ABC Radio, Infinity, Bonneville Radio One, and Westwood One, and also conducts strategic and perceptual research for a broad array of companies including AOL/Time Warner, Yahoo!, Sony Music, Princeton University, Northwestern University, Universal Music Group, Time-Life Music and the Voice of America. Edison Media Research also conducts research for successful radio stations in South America, Africa, Asia, Canada and Europe.

Edison Media Research designed and operated the CNN RealVote election projection system in 2002, and currently conducts all exit polls and election projections for the six major news organizations: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC and the Associated Press.

About Jacobs Media:

Jacobs Media is the largest Rock radio-consulting firm in America. Founded in 1983 by Fred Jacobs, the company is best known for its creation of the Classic Rock radio format. Over the past twenty years, Jacobs Media has risen to dominance in its field through constant innovation to improve the programming and business of its radio clients. Today, Jacobs Media works with the leading Classic Rock, Active Rock, and Alternative Rock radio stations in large and small markets.

Currently, Jacobs Media works for some of the most outstanding broadcast ownership groups in America, including Entercom, Emmis, Infinity, Greater Media, Cox, ABC, Journal, Susquehanna, Saga, and many others. The company also provides research and consulting services to National Public Radio and has contributed to many projects for the Corporation For Public Broadcasting.

Jacobs Media is a nationally recognized expert in radio and broadcasting. In 2004, Jacobs Media has been featured in articles in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Newark Star-Ledger, Advertising Age, and Entertainment Weekly.

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