Minister raps radio DJs for glorifying alcohol

LONDON (Reuters) - Radio DJs should stop glorifying being drunk to help tackle the rising problem of binge-drinking among young people, the government said on Friday.

A pint is pulled at a pub in central London, November 23, 2005. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said presenters should find more creative ways to engage with their listeners, rather than talking about drinking.

She made her appeal after a government-commissioned study found DJs, including the BBC’s Chris Moyles, regularly referred to alcohol, using phrases like “hangover from hell”, “out on the lash” and “fun is just a bottle away”.

The study found Moyles made repeated references to drinking on his Radio 1 show. During an interview with chef Gordon Ramsay, the DJ asked him to go out for a drink after the show.

When Ramsay agreed to have “a pint”, Moyles said: “One pint? Likely. Why don’t you let me take you out for a few beers and then one of the famous kebabs from the local kebab shop near me?”

Primarolo said: “If we are going to change the nation’s drinking habits, we really need to change the way we talk about alcohol. It is disappointing that so many of our radio stations glorify being drunk.”

Researchers at the University of the West of England found more than 700 references to alcohol when they monitored 1,200 hours of radio from six stations between December 2007 and this February.

Nearly three-quarters of the comments appeared to encourage drinking, while 13 percent promoted excessive drinking.

Professor Norma Daykin, who led the study, said DJs referred to alcohol to try to form a bond with the listeners. More research is needed to see if talking about alcohol on the radio leads to young people drinking more, she added.

A presenter on Kerrang! Radio, a rock station, said it was “quite easy to drive if you’ve had a few beers”, while a DJ on Birmingham’s Galaxy described his hangover in lurid terms, saying: “I am absolutely ruined, I’m like an old man. It’s a hangover from hell. I bet there’s quite a few in the same boat”.

The BBC, Kerrang! and Galaxy denied that their shows encourage drinking.

“Throughout this week we have run a high-profile campaign asking listeners to think about the amount of alcohol they drink and how it could affect their health, looks and behaviour,” a BBC spokesman said. “It is important we tackle this subject in the right way for our young audience, rather than preaching to them.”

Conservative leader David Cameron has accused the government of failing to tackle the drinking problem, allowing some towns to become “like the Wild West”.

Editing by Steve Addison