- Fizzy drinks, fruit juices and squash most popular drinks in kid’s TV
- Water featured for just a fifth of time that drinks were shown in kid’s TV
- Alcohol accounts for more than a third of the time drinks are shown in TV soaps and dramas for adults
- Media psychologist calls for TV producers to stop missing the opportunity to influence healthy choices
Popular children’s TV programmes such as CBBC’s The Dumping Ground and CITV’s Horrid Henry are showing consumption of soft and fizzy drinks significantly more than water according to a new report, The TV Water Shortage.
Soft and fizzy drinks are shown on children’s TV for almost two thirds (64%) of screen time showing drinks. In comparison water appears for just a fifth (20%) of the time.
The research, commissioned by the Natural Hydration Council, took place over two separate weeks and analysed almost three thousand minutes of national TV, including almost 450 minutes of children’s TV programmes on CBBC and CITV.
Of the children’s programmes monitored  the Dumping Ground was the worst as no drinks of water were seen. CBBC’s Hank Zipzer gave the most exposure to water, featuring it for more than a third of the time when drinks were shown. However even when water was shown in the children’s programmes, it was not seen to be consumed at all.
Across all the children’s programmes a third of mealtime scenes featured no drinks at all, with only one scene including any water. Horrid Henry missed the most opportunities to include a healthy drink at a mealtime with four out of five of these scenes not showing any drinks at all.
Media psychologist, Emma Kenny co-wrote The TV Water Shortage, she said:
“There is no doubt that people are influenced by the antics of the characters portrayed in popular television programmes. This is especially true of the younger generation, who will often look up to their favourite fictional characters and view them as role models, mimicking their behaviour.
“The UK is in the midst of a growing obesity epidemic, and the government is well aware of the current strain this is placing on both the nation’s health and the NHS. We are now, as a nation, surely forced to consider whether programme-makers should, by way of good practice and in recognition of a duty of care towards the consumer, adopt an ethical approach to drink placements in their broadcasts with the aim of encouraging viewers to make healthier hydration choices.”
Dr Emma Derbyshire, adviser to the Natural Hydration Council and an expert in children’s nutrition, said:
“It is worrying that water isn’t appearing more in children’s programmes. We need to help children to develop healthy hydration habits from a young age and the TV programmes they are watching can play an important role in influencing these healthy habits. Sugar sweetened beverages should be an occasional treat for children whereas water should be something they are drinking plenty of, as it hydrates without containing sugar or calories.”
The research also showed that in adult programmes water was barely present.
In soaps, water accounted for just six per cent of the time drinks were on screen. In comparison more than a third (39%) of drinks time was devoted to alcohol and seven per cent soft or fizzy drinks. Hot drinks were the most popular beverage with 48 per cent of drinks screen time in soaps featuring a cup of tea, coffee or other hot drink.
In addition water was more likely to appear in dramas (18%), however this was still to a substantially lesser extent than alcohol (34%) and hot drinks (34%). In addition soft and fizzy drinks accounted for 15 per cent of the time devoted to drinks and milk just two per cent.
Three of the four dramas with the highest exposure of water relative to other drinks had a medical theme (Doctor Foster, Casualty and Holby City). This was also true of soaps, with Doctors the second highest soap for featuring water.
In contrast police/crime programmes such as Lewis, River and New Tricks didn’t feature water at all . BBC’s From Darkness was the anomaly with water accounting for 59 per cent of the time that drinks featured.
Kinvara Carey at the Natural Hydration Council said:
“We would love to see TV shows recognising their influence and helping encourage healthy habits where possible. For example, water on the table at mealtimes, or a child drinking water before going to school. More than half the population drinks just one glass of water or less a day  so it is something that needs encouraging.”
BBC Radio 4 Soap, The Archer’s, was also monitored and the findings were very similar to the TV soaps, with hot drinks accounting for 52 per cent of the time devoted to drinks, alcohol 44 per cent and no mentions of water.
Emma Kenny’s top tips for TV shows:
- When your characters sit down for a meal (whether in their homes or in a restaurant/pub) make sure healthy drinks are included, preferably water.
- If your characters are doing exercise (including the gym or walking) give them a bottle of water.
- In pub scenes include a jug or bottled of water with glasses at the end of the bar.
- When your characters enter a shop for refreshments, include more purchases of water.
- Swap one or two drinks in each episode for a drink of water.
Download the report below:
- “The TV Water Shortage” report
- Appendix One
- Appendix Two (Week One – programmes)
- Appendix Two (Week Two – programmes)
– ENDS –
Published 14 December 2015
 The analysis was carried out by PCP market research over the course of two separate weeks from: 26.09.15 – 02.10.15 and 10.10.15 – 16.10.15. In each of the two weeks, all programmes which met the following criteria were monitored:
- They appeared on BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5, CBBC or CITV;
- They were of a type classified as “soap opera”, “drama”, “sitcom” or “children’s programme”;
- They were produced in the UK;
- They were not repeats (except for programmes which had been shown on channels such as BBC3, ITV3, E4 previously but which were being shown for the first time on the above channels);
- They were not films;
- They were set in the present day (for this reason, a programme such as Downton Abbey, though screened in both the weeks under review, was excluded from the analysis);
- In the case of the children’s programmes, they showed “realistic” situations (for example, were not set under the sea or did not feature aliens);
- They were shown at the same time across the country as a whole.
 Percentage of drinks that were water: Hank Zipzer (36%), Horrid Henry (25%), Rocket’s Island (13%), House of Anubis (8%), Dumping Ground (0%)
 Percentage of drinks that were water: Lewis (0%), River (0%), New tricks (0%)
 60% of the population drink one or less glasses of water a day. The statistics were produced by Kantar Worldpanel using data from Kantar Worldpanel’s Food and Drink Usage panel. 52 w/e 21 June 2015. This is a single source purchase and consumption panel comprising of 11,000 individuals recording all that they eat and drink for four one week periods every year.