Heavy Radio Listeners in Latin America

According to the 1998 Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica study, the average Latin American between the ages of 12 and 64 years old spends an average of  2.7 hours per day listening to radio.  During the typical week, 85.2% of these people listen to radio at some point.

As with most mass activity, we expect that some people listen to radio more often than others and that a small proportion of the population account for a disproportionately higher proportion of total volume of listening.  For this article, we define a 'heavy radio listening' as a person who listens to an average of four or more hours of radio each day.  According to the 1998 Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica study, 25.5% of Latin Americans can be characterized as heavy radio listeners.  These heavy radio listeners spend an average of 6.3 hours per day listening to radio and account for 60% of the total volume of radio listening.

Who are these people?  What are their characteristics?  The following table provides the incidence of heavy radio listener by demographic group.  Marginally speaking, the heavy radio listeners are more likely to be found in the southern countries (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay), female and18-34 years old. 

Demographic Characteristics % Heavy Radio Listeners
Geographical Region
     Balance of Central America
     Balance of South America

Major Urban Areas 28%


     Less than 6 years
     Six or more, but less than 12
     12 years or more

Socio-economic Level
     A (Upper 10%)
     B (Next 20%)
     C (Next 30%)
     D (Bottom 40%)

TOTAL 25.5%

When do the heavy radio listeners listen to radio?  The next table shows the time spent on radio listening by different time periods within the day.  In this table, we have shown the time spent listening (in hours) by heavy and non-heavy radio listeners, and we computed an index that is the ratio of the two numbers.  Therefore, a high index means that the heavy radio listeners spends relatively much more time.  The heavy radio listeners simply listen to more radio at all times of day.  Relatively speaking, the differences in time spent are least (that is, the indices are smallest) during the prime dayparts for radio (namely, between 6am and 10am).  The absolute gap in time spent is during the day on weekdays.  This points to the fact that someone can accumulate a very large number of radio listening hours if they either stay at home with the radio in playing in the background, or if they work in an environment where the radio is playing. 

Daypart Radio daily listening hours by Heavy Radio Listeners Radio daily listening hours by Non-Heavy Radio Listeners Index
M-F 6am-10am 1.71 0.55 311
M-F 10am-3pm 2.38 0.41 580
M-F 3pm-7pm 1.55 0.34 458
M-F 7pm-12m 0.85 0.23 370
M-F 12m-6am 0.40 0.035 1143
Sat 6am-10am 1.42 0.43 330
Sat 10am-3pm 2.05 0.55 373
Sat 3pm-7pm 1.24 0.34 365
Sat 7pm-12m 0.67 0.16 419
Sat 12m-6am 0.25 0.032 781
Sun 6am-10am 1.05 0.31 339
Sun 10am-3pm 1.43 0.38 376
Sun 3pm-7pm 0.90 0.26 346
Sun 7pm-12m 0.49 0.10 490
Sun 12m-6am 0.20 0.012 1739
TOTAL 6.28 1.49 421

What do these heavy radio listeners listen to on radio?  The next table shows the types of program regularly listened to by heavy and non-heavy radio listeners.  Since all the indices are greater than 100, the heavy radio listeners simply listen to more of everything.  

Radio Program Type % Heavy Radio Listeners 
% Non-Heavy Radio Listeners 
News 57% 37% 154
Sports 31% 20% 157
Traffic 16%   7% 224
Weather 20% 10% 191
Top 40 hits 12% 6% 224
Spanish pop music 27% 17% 162
Spanish rock music 21% 11% 191
Spanish ballads 32% 21% 150
Portuguese pop music 33% 24% 141
Portuguese rock music 11%   7% 169
Portuguese ballads 18% 10% 179
English pop music 31% 18% 172
English rock music 21% 11% 184
English ballads 31% 16% 201
Tropical music 56% 37% 146
Country music 12%   5% 227
Classical music 13% 7% 202
Jazz music 6% 3% 219
Religious music 15% 6% 238
Commentary/talk 19% 9% 209
Advice/opinion 12% 5% 240

If we consider the fact that each person has exactly 24 hours at their disposal each day, then what one does becomes an allocation problem within a constrained budget.  At any moment, there are multiple available choices and the person chooses whichever maximizes his/her utility (in the sense used by economists).  As we have reported in the beginning, the average Latin American spends an average of 2.7 hours per day listening to radio (possibly concurrently with other types of activities such as housework or commuting).  By comparison, this same average Latin American spends an average of 4.49 hours a day watching television.

The heavy radio listener spends an average of 4.43 hours a day watching television, compared to the 4.51 hours for the non-heavy radio listener.  So the radio listening did not significantly displace television viewing by heavy radio listeners. 

(posted by Roland Soong on 12/2/00)

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