TV shows convey mixed messages about alcohol

March 25, 2009

Berkeley, CA--March 25, 2009-- Efforts to dissuade youth consumption through negative alcohol consumption depictions can be thwarted by portrayals of positive consumption in prime-time television programming. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Affairs reveals that television series often portray mixed messages about alcohol, but the positive and negative messages were shown differently.

The research, led by Dale W. Russell and Cristel A. Russell, research scientists at the Prevention Research Center, is based on a content analysis of prime-time television series from the 2004-05 season. The primary, more central, alcohol message was often associated with negative elements such as crime, addiction, or lowered job performance while the secondary, more subtle visual message was almost always associated with positive outcomes, such as having fun or partying. Thus, the positive messages might undermine any negative messages.

"Policymakers and parents need to remain vigilant in monitoring alcohol depictions, especially product placements, given the current environment of self-regulation of the alcohol industry's marketing/advertising efforts," the authors conclude.

Because of television's effect on the audience's attitudes and behaviors, the prevalence of alcohol messages in the content of television programs raises concerns over their likely impact on audiences, especially young ones. The research team is continuing its efforts to study how such messages are processed and the consequences they have on viewers' beliefs about alcohol and drinking behaviors.
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This study is published in the Spring 2009 issue of the Journal of Consumer Affairs. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Dale W. Russell is affiliated with the Prevention Research Center and can be reached for questions at drussell@prev.org.

The Journal of Consumer Affairs features analyses of individual, business, and/or government decisions and actions that can impact the interests of consumers in the marketplace.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.wiley.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

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