TV Doesn’t Influence Behavior? Tell the Politicians

Written by PTC | Published November 6, 2013

The entertainment industry loves to claim that TV showing graphic violence, sex, and profanity has absolutely no influence on viewer’s attitudes or behavior. Yet a media analysis group predicts that $3 billion will be spent on political TV ads before next year’s midterm elections. A report from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group and Cook Political Report has estimated that $6 billion will be spent on next year’s elections – and half of that will go for TV advertising. (Notably, 80% of the $3 billion will be spent on local broadcast TV, which the industry claims is no longer “uniquely pervasive.” It seems advertising firms think otherwise.) The point is this: what people see on TV DOES influence their choices, attitudes, decisions, and behavior. If it didn’t, why would politicians spend billions of dollars on election ads? Why would businesses spend millions for a single 30-second ad during the Super Bowl? Why would TV air commercials at all, if what people see doesn’t influence their behavior? Obviously, TV isn’t the ONLY factor in people’s actions. Seeing one murder on TV won’t cause every viewer to become a murderer, any more than seeing one ad for Budweiser will cause everyone to switch beer brands, or one ad for a political candidate to change their votes. But it is equally obvious that TV does have SOME influence on behavior, or else nobody would show ads on TV at all, and they certainly wouldn’t spend billions of dollars on it. And the more of something viewers see – whether it’s toddlers demanding their favorite cereal, teens wanting the latest fashions, voters choosing which candidate to support, or children seeing graphic sex and violence – the more influence it has. This is obvious to politicians, to businesses, to advertising agencies. The only reason the entertainment industry lies about it is that they don’t want to be held accountable for the negative influence their programs have.

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