Is your TV diet full of junk food?

2013-08-04 14:01

New research tool invites young viewers to assess their viewing

Are you sitting in front of your TV and smoking the programming equivalent of crack cocaine while scoffing deep fried chicken and creamy cakes? Or are you slurping up pasta and munching a healthy salad?

TV Diet is an innovative new research tool that has been developed by Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) to gather feedback from young TV viewers – by inviting them to Facebook to play a game and then share their views on social networks.

It uses the analogy of food to rate the shows we’re watching – and rewards responses with emoticons, badges and wallpapers.

“Are you a healthy viewer, a junk food addict or somewhere in between?” it asks, also painting a picture of your TV viewing diet.

The website, says MMA, is designed to help youngsters decide which TV is good for them and which is bad so that they can make informed choices and, ultimately, affect change in the shows on offer by contributing to reports that will be sent to broadcasters.

Shows are rated on factors such as negative sex stereotypes and violence (poison), harmless entertainment (junk) through to life lessons and educational elements (healthy).

“Viewer feedback will be entered into a database which we’ll use for programming reports,” says MMA researcher Lethabo Dibetso.

The interactive game will be launched next week, along with accompanying research into the SABC’s programming called What’s on the Menu?

For a month, MMA tracked SABC’s local content.

“According to the preliminary findings of the report, across the board we consume a lot of junk TV,” says fellow researcher Thandi Smith.

All three SABC channels served up a majority of junk food, sweets and cakes, and failed dismally to provide enough salad and vegetable viewing.

While SABC 1 fared slightly better than SABC 2, it was SABC 3 that performed worst of all.

“What we’re all looking for, of course, is a healthy diet – a mix of entertainment and education. But the gist of the preliminary findings is that our public broadcaster is failing to strike a balance,” says Smith.

The research indicates that the SABC is delivering mostly junk food due to advertiser-funded programming, cutting back on local content, and relying on repeats and the effects of globalisation.

It adds that the broadcaster repeatedly favours certain production companies – and in the process acts “like a sugar daddy” towards them. “We’ll be releasing a series of reports in future, including ones on and M-Net,” adds Dibetso.

» To check out the project, go to

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