The television as a technological feat is duly recognized by humankind. Television continues to be a potent tool in man’s endeavours in all of the universe. Good television teaches children essential values. Parents watching television with their children can take the chance to interact with their kids using the media as springboard. Television as visual and audio can reach multi-cultural dynamics between men and women. Overall, television has been a crucial tool in man’s cultural development.
Like many social activities, advertising has taken advantage of this technological feat to serve its own interests. With advertising, television programming has been sustaining and evolving to serve more interests. Advertising money has been fueling the broadcast and television industry. And where does this advertising money come from? From no one else but avid consumers who are glued to the idiot box ever since they were born. It is estimated that a child watches 40,000 commercials per year. Companies spend more than $12 billion per year on advertising specifically targeted for children and the youth.
There is need for community concerted effort to advocate responsible advertising. More and more, issues against irresponsible, unethical advertising has plagued the television that’s just been part victim in a psychological catastrophe claiming the hope of this nation. Just to name two cases, television advertising has been proven to part culprit on social diseases lurking right inside our living rooms. Obesity and numbness to violence are just some of the illnesses that have been plaguing people of this consumer obsessed nation. “Nearly two-thirds of kids under 2 spend a couple of hours a day in front of the screen. (The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that children under 2 not watch TV at all.)” (CNN, 2003)
Advertising cannot expect their young viewers to interpret their commercial claims. Psychologist has time and again warned the public that viewers cannot always turn on their critical
“Because younger children do not understand persuasive intent in advertising, they are easy targets for commercial persuasion,” said psychologist Brian Wilcox, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center on Children, Families and the Law at the University of Nebraska and chair of the task force. “This is a critical concern because the most common products marketed to children are sugared cereals, candies, sweets, sodas and snack foods. Such advertising of unhealthy food products to young children contributes to poor nutritional habits that may last a lifetime and be a variable in the current epidemic of obesity among kids.” (Wilenz, 2004)
Television programming has turned more violent and sexual undertones have already surfaced. Studies had been conducted on the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers. These studies find that children:
- become "immune" or numb to the horror of violence
- gradually accept violence as a way to solve problems
- imitate the violence they observe on television; and
- identify with certain characters, victims and/or victimizers
Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. “Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence. The impact of TV violence may be immediately evident in the child's behavior or may surface years later. Young people can even be affected when the family atmosphere shows no tendency toward violence.” (AACAP, 2002)
It is high time to put action into these articulations and television networks must take the lead in protecting social values by being faithful to the moral and ethical decisions they must adhere to. Selling air time is the bread and butter of television programming and nothing can change that. There is nothing to change in selling television air time but what needs to be addressed is that networks are conscious and deliberate to live on responsible advertising.
At the least, best practices on self regulation are being explored in countries such as the EU. Forums and discussions must continue to be active, forerunning and far reaching.
“The EU Commission's Directorate for Health and Consumer Protection (DG SANCO) has released its final report on the Advertising Roundtable, a forum conceived to create a wider understanding of advertising self-regulation, which took place between October 2005 and May 2006. The forum brought together under the auspices of the European Commission, the advertising sector (including WFA and the European Advertising Standards Alliance- EASA) and consumer and public health groups, including the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC), the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the Federation of Catholic Families in Europe (COFACE).” (WFANET, 2006)
In Australia, community debates are feverishly looking for the obesity culprits and a group of advocates are looking into the advertising industry as part problem. Advertising executives meanwhile are pointing at parents’ ineffectiveness as a key factor in obesity. While consumer groups lobby for restrictions on advertising of food that are high in sugar and pose dangers to kids’ health, advertisers are joining in the campaign.
“Action to date, including new rules for advertising to children and a $10 million healthy lifestyle advertising campaign, will be extended this week with the tabling of a code of conduct for all food and beverages marketing communications. It's a big call but the advertising, marketing and media sectors want to be seen as the responsible contributors to the community they believe themselves to be.” (Segelov, 2006)
“In Canada, broadcast advertising to children is regulated as a condition of broadcast license through the CRTC. The Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children was created to guide advertisers in preparing broadcast commercial messages that recognize and respect the developing characteristics of the child audience. The content of the code is strong, specific and mandatory.” (2006)
Television is a medium that will stay useful to man’s everyday needs and always a tool that can corrupt values and mindsets. Advertisements will target its customers and children are future clients and consumers. Closing the deal on brand choice early will help companies rake in profits that spell more than sustainability. And children are at stake. Children become the victims of irresponsible use of intelligent technology.
Advertisers need to take a more active role in their social responsibilities. Television advertisement may be a thriving industry that feeds hundreds of thousands of people. Creativity in television advertising may be pushing itself towards attaining critical roles in social value transformation. But when television advertising victimizes children’s moral values, their growth potential and creative capacities, all of society suffers the basic hope of generations. Through irresponsible advertising, shallow profit can be realized. Putting children’s values at stake is not the way to go, in any culture. The more technological breakthroughs develop, the more vigilant must each person in the community must become. Society might be at the helm of brainwashing the new generation towards oblivion.
CNN, 2003. Study: Kids' TV, computer habits start early. Monday, November 3, 2003 Posted: 10:05 AM EST (1505 GMT)
Segelov, Collin July 27, 2006 Political games skew the facts on food ads. The Sydney Morning Herald.
WFANET, 2006. EU Commission endorses ’best practice model’ of advertising self-regulation http://www.wfanet.org/news/article_detail.asp?Lib_ID=1737 7/12/2006
Willenz, Pam. February 23, 2004 AACAP Children And TV Violence No. 13; Updated November 2002 http://interact.uoregon.edu/MediaLit/mlr/readings/articles/kalin.html