ACCORDING to research undertaken by the broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, when asked whether TV programmes had improved, stayed the same or worsened between 2012 and 2013, over half (55 per cent) of UK adults who watch TV said they had ‘stayed the same’; a similar proportion to the findings in 2008 (53 per cent).
Other findings include:
* Three in ten (30 per cent) adult viewers said TV programmes had ‘got worse’;
* As in 2012, older respondents were more likely than younger people to say that programmes had got worse (47 per cent of TV watching over-65s compared to 20 per cent among TV watching 16-34s);
* Among those who said programmes had got worse, the top two reasons given were ‘more repeats’ (70 per cent) and ‘lack of variety’ (52 per cent, a significant increase from 43 per cent in 2011);
* Just over one in ten (13 per cent) adult viewers said TV programmes had ‘improved’. Of these, younger respondents (16-34) were more likely to feel they had improved (16 per cent of TV watching 16-34s versus eight per cent among TV watching over-65s); and
* Among those who thought programmes had improved, the top two reasons given for programmes getting better were ‘wider range of programmes’ (58 per cent) and ‘improved quality’ (41 per cent). The proportion citing ‘more/better dramas’ as a reason increased from 22 per cent in 2012 to 35 per cent in 2013, while 14 per cent (up from six per cent in 2012) said that ‘more/better films’ was the reason for improvement.
Levels of offence on TV
* Less than a fifth (18 per cent) of adult viewers said they had been offended by something on TV in the previous 12 months – a similar proportion to the findings in 2012 (18 per cent);
* Younger respondents were less likely than older people to say they had been offended (11 per cent among TV watching 16-34s compared to 29 per cent among TV watching over-65s);
* Among those offended, bad language (47 per cent), violence (39 per cent) and sexual content (39 per cent) were the most common causes of offence. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of those who said they’d seen something offensive cited anti-social behaviour as the cause, a significant increase from 16 per cent in 2011;
* Among parent TV viewers who had been offended (17 per cent of all parent viewers), sexual content (48 per cent), bad language (44 per cent) and violence (38 per cent) were the top three causes of offence;
* Among those offended, over half (52 per cent) reacted by switching over the channel. Audiences today are less likely than in 2008 to switch the TV off completely when they see something that offends them (32 per cent in 2008 versus 19 per cent in 2013) and more likely to continue watching (five per cent in 2008 versus 19 per cent in 2013);
• Among those who had been offended, over two-fifths (44 per cent) said the statement ‘such things should only be shown when viewers are likely to expect them’ (eg after a clear warning) best described their attitude towards the cause of offence. Thirty-four per cent agreed that ‘even though I was offended, I accept that others should be allowed to see these things’, whereas 19 per cent thought that ‘it should not have been shown’;
* The majority of viewers felt that current levels of sex (66 per cent), violence (59 per cent) and swearing (59 per cent) on TV are ‘about right’. Since 2008, there has been a decrease in those saying there is ‘too much’ sex (26 per cent, down from 35 per cent), violence (35 per cent, down from 55 per cent) and swearing (35 per cent, compared to 53 per cent in 2008);
* Around one in four (26 per cent) adult TV viewers felt there was ‘too much’ sex on TV, compared to 35 per cent of the adult TV audience in 2008. These shifting attitudes appear to be driven by a decrease in older age groups saying there is ‘too much’; in 2008, 57 per cent of over-65s who watch TV said there was ‘too much’ compared to around four in ten (42 per cent) in 2013. In comparison, the proportion of TV watching 16-34s saying there is ‘too much’ sex on TV has remained stable at around a fifth (18 per cent in 2013 compared to 20 per cent in 2008);
* Older respondents (55-64 year olds and over-65s) were more likely than younger respondents to think there was ‘too much’ violence on TV. Since 2008, the proportion of TV watching over-65s saying there was too much has declined significantly; from three-quarters (75 per cent) to around half (52 per cent) in 2013. This compares to 40 per cent of TV watching 55- 64s and around a quarter (24 per cent) of the 16-34 audience who felt there was ‘too much’ in 2013;
* Since 2008, there has been a significant increase in over-65s saying there is ‘about the right amount’ of swearing on TV, from almost a fifth (18 per cent) of TV watching over 65s to around two-fifths (39 per cent) in 2013. This compares to seven in ten (71 per cent) TV watching 16-34 year olds, six in ten (61 per cent) TV watching 35-54 year olds and half (50 per cent) of the 55-64 TV audience who thought there was ‘about the right amount’ of swearing on TV in 2013;
* Fifteen per cent of TV viewers said they had seen something on TV in the past 12 months that they thought was harmful, either to themselves, or to other adults or children; a similar proportion as in 2012 (16 per cent); and
* Among those who said they had seen something harmful, over two-fifths reacted by switching channels (43 per cent), followed by a fifth (20 per cent) who switched off the TV completely and 22 per cent who reacted by discussing it with others (up from 11 per cent in 2012). The rise in those reacting by discussing with others might be accounted for by people discussing it via social media; Ofcom research shows that two-thirds (66 per cent) of online adults say they have a current social networking site profile, with 60 per cent of users visiting sites more than once a day.
Source: UK audience attitudes towards the broadcast media, July 3 2014. Read part two tomorrow, on allmediascotland.com.