Date of Award

2000

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Oscar Gandy

Abstract

In 1996. a self-imposed ban on broadcast advertisements by the major hard liquor distillers ended. Some federally licensed broadcast outlets ended up accepting and airing advertisements for distilled liquor products such as rum and vodka while others refused. This dissertation's main purpose is to study the variation found in broadcasters' willingness to air alcoholic beverage commercials and to test different explanatory models for the divergence of reactions to these controversial products. In December 1997. 191 radio station general managers completed a mailed survey about their policy on alcohol advertising and specifically answered questions about what types of alcohol beverage ads they had accepted or would accept. Some would take all. The vast majority reported that they would accept such fermented alcohol products as beer and wine, but not for distilled liquor products. Others indicated that their stations refused all alcoholic beverage advertisements and would even refuse to air ads for nightclubs. An index of willingness to air alcoholic beverages and related products became the main dependent variable for the study. An analysis of the research literature suggested ethical, economic and audience factors would best account for the observed variation in station managers’ alcohol clearance decisions. Each factor was explored using statistical analysis. Stations with a religious format were unlikely to air commercials for alcohol products as were stations with a history of format stability. Younger general managers with a business-oriented educational background were the most likely to accept advertisements for alcohol-related products and businesses. However, the most powerful variable in explaining the differences in clearance of these controversial advertisements was found to be the ethical values of the manager, including his or her concern for the audience. Remarkably, the station's economic and technical conditions did not have much predictive value. No strong evidence was found for a hypothesis that alcoholic beverage advertisements are price discriminated against by stations; that is. these advertisers are charged a higher price by stations because of controversial content.

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