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Exercise portrayal in children’s television programs: analysis of the UK and Irish programming

Authors Scully P, Reid O, Macken A, Healy M, Saunders J, Leddin D, Cullen W, Dunne C, O'Gorman C

Received 15 September 2015

Accepted for publication 31 March 2016

Published 23 September 2016 Volume 2016:9 Pages 317—324


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Ming-Hui Zou

Paul Scully,1 Orlaith Reid,1 Alan P Macken,1–3 Mark Healy,4 Jean Saunders,4 Des Leddin,3,5 Walter Cullen,3 Colum P Dunne,3 Clodagh S O’Gorman1–3,5

1The Children’s Ark, University Hospital Limerick, Limerick, 2National Children’s Research Centre, Dublin, 3Centre for Interventions in Infection, Inflammation & Immunity (4i), Graduate Entry Medical School, 4C-Star, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland; 5Department of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

Background: Television watching is obesogenic due to its sedentary nature and programming content, which influences children. Few studies have examined exercise placement within children-specific programming. This study aimed to investigate the frequency and type of exercise placement in children-specific television broadcasts and to compare placements on the UK and Irish television channels.
Methods: Content analysis for five weekdays’ worth of children-specific television broadcasting totaling 82.5 hours on both the UK (British Broadcasting Corporation) and Irish (Radió Teilifís Éireann) television channels was performed. For the purposes of comparing the UK and Irish placements, analysis was restricted to programming broadcast between 6 am and 11.30 am. Exercise placements were coded based on type of activity, activity context, activity motivating factors and outcome, and characters involved.
Results: A total of 780 cues were recorded during the total recording period. A wide variety of sports were depicted, but dancing-related cues were most commonly seen (n=163, 23.3%), with the majority of cues being of mild (n=365, 65.9%) or moderate (n=172, 31.0%) intensity. The majority of cues were associated with a positive outcome (n=404, 61.4%), and social motivations were most commonly seen (n=289, 30.3%). The Irish and the UK portrayals were broadly similar.
Conclusion: This study highlights the wide variety of sports portrayed and the active effort undertaken by television stations to depict physical exercise and recreation in a positive light.

Keywords: television, exercise, children, obesity

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