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Food and beverage cues in children’s television programmes: the influence of programme genre

  • TITLE: Food and beverage cues in children’s television programmes: the influence of programme genre
  • AUTHOR: Scully P, Reid O, Macken A, Healy M, Saunders J, Leddin D, Cullen W, Dunne C, O’Gorman CS.
  • REFERENCE: Public Health Nutr. 2015 Jun 17:1-9. [Epub ahead of print]
  • YEAR: 2015

The link between childhood obesity and both television viewing and television advertising have previously been examined. We sought to investigate the frequency and type of food and beverage placements in children-specific television broadcasts and, in particular, differences between programme genres.

Content of five weekdays of children-specific television broadcasting on both UK (BBC) and Irish (RTE) television channels was summarized. Food and beverage placements were coded based on type of product, product placement, product use and characters involved. A comparison was made between different programme genres: animated, cartoon, child-specific, film, quiz, tween and young persons’ programming.

A total of 1155 (BBC=450; RTE=705) cues were recorded giving a cue every 4·2 min, an average of 12·3 s/cue. The genre with most cues recorded was cartoon programming (30·8 %). For the majority of genres, cues related to sweet snacks (range 1·8-23·3 %) and sweets/candy (range 3·6-25·8 %) featured highly. Fast-food (18·0 %) and sugar-sweetened beverage (42·3 %) cues were observed in a high proportion of tween programming. Celebratory/social motivation factors (range 10-40 %) were most common across all genres while there were low proportions of cues based on reward, punishment or health-related motivating factors.

The study provides evidence for the prominence of energy-dense/nutrient-poor foods and beverages in children’s programming. Of particular interest is the high prevalence of fast-food and sugar-sweetened beverage cues associated with tween programming. These results further emphasize the need for programme makers to provide a healthier image of foods and beverages in children’s television.