‘Unhealthy’ food and drinks star in children’s TV programmes
Unhealthy food and drinks are common in kids’ TV programmes broadcast in England and Ireland - and frequently portrayed in a positive light, new research reveals.
A study published online in Archives of Disease in Childhood suggests statutory legislation to curb children’s exposure to high sugar and fat in food and drink in TV adverts - introduced in the UK in 2007 - is not applied to programme content.
Researchers assessed the frequency and type of food and drink portrayals in children’s TV programmes, broadcast between 06.00 and 17.00 hours Monday to Friday, on the BBC and RTE TV channels in 2010.
Both the BBC and RTE are national public broadcast channels that do notcarry any commercial product advertising and which aim to inform, educate, and empower their audiences.
All food and drink cues were coded according to type of product, use, motivation, outcome, and the characters involved.
A total of 1,155 food and drink cues were recorded across 82.5 hours of programming, accounting for 4.8% of the total broadcast material, and averaging 13.2 seconds for each cue. Just under 40% of the content came from the USA.
Sweet snacks (13.3%) were the most common food cue, followed by confectionery (11.4%). Tea and coffee were the most common beverage cues (13.5%), closely followed by sugar-sweetened drinks (13%).
Unhealthy foods accounted for almost half of food cues (47.5%), while sugary drinks made up 25% of drinks cues.
Most of the cues involved a major character, 95% of whom were "goodies", the researchers said.
The cue was presented in a positive light in one in three instances (32.6%), portrayed negatively on almost one in five occasions (19.8%), and neutrally in around half of instances (47.5%).
The authors said that while there was a clear link between exposure to advertising of unhealthy foods and their consumption in young children, the impact of unhealthy food and drink content in TV programmes aimed at children was not clear.
They concluded: “Eating and drinking are common activities within children specific programming, with unhealthy foods and beverages especially common and frequently associated with positive motivating factors, and seldom seen with negative outcomes.”