Handling racism in a radio phone-in programme: Telling it like it is

Yarong Xie, Kevin Durrheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


It is widely acknowledged that broadcast programmes are produced to serve the public’s interest. Presenting the programmes in a neutral and objective fashion, and engaging the audience in forming opinions, are common ways of achieving this. However, studies have suggested that there is a departure from these practices when the object of broadcast becomes societal problems such as racism. This case study examines how a presenter responds to a caller’s abuse in two live radio shows, and how she sets out a programme - and a new conversation - using her personal experience of racism/xenophobia. Using conversation analysis and discursive psychology, we studied the situated use of language and the actions being brought about. We found that the presenter assesses the caller’s abuse by rudeness on the spot, formulating the call as disruptive to an ongoing conversation. On the following day, the presenter revisits, and topicalises, this call as xenophobia and racism. Our analysis revealed that the presenter’s shift in evaluating this call is grounded in, and licensed by, her drawing on and cultivating a sympathetic listenership, characterising the call as race-driven, and formulating her personal experience as of public’s concern. Our findings spotlight the presenter’s orientation to her moral accountability in talking about racism, and the potential of broadcast in leading conversations on anti-racism.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Broadcast talk
  • conversation analysis
  • discursive psychology
  • racism
  • radio
  • xenophobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Handling racism in a radio phone-in programme: Telling it like it is'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this