The evil telly in the bedroom

'Behaviour guru'

'Behaviour guru'

Sir Alan Steer was appointed as Tony Blair’s ‘discipline Tsar’ in 2005 and spoke to the NASUWT’s conference this week. The Guardian reports him as saying that ‘children should not have televisions in bedrooms, and should be protected from the bad influence of footballers and celebrities.’ Media Studies folk need to ask ourselves, yet again, why is it politicians and there advisors still believe in the ‘effects’ model of audience behaviour because it’s bollocks:

Research based on the ‘effects’ debate works on the premise that audiences uncritically absorb media messages and act upon them. In this theory, if we watch a party political broadcast we would then desire to vote for that party; we would want to buy every product that we saw advertised; we would want to perpetrate violence if we saw violence represented in the media. It is often termed the ‘hypodermic model’ because it assumes that consuming the media is the same as injecting a drug as it has a direct affect upon audiences.

The ‘debate’ would be laughable, as it is ridiculous, if it was not for the fact that much censorship is ‘justified’ because of the alleged effect the material would have on (certain) audiences. David Gauntlett has surveyed the effects debate literature and one conclusion he has drawn is:

that if, after over sixty years of a considerable amount of research effect, direct effects of media upon behaviour have not been clearly identified, then we should conclude that they are simply not there to be found. (Gauntlett, 1998, p. 120 – see also here)

Despite this, the belief in the media can have a direct affect on audiences has a great influence on our lives. (Media Institutions and Audiences, p. 145)

The link between moral panics and new technology is  well established, which is why video games and the internet are favourite media topics for demonisation. However Steer’s focus on television harks back 30 years, though in those days few people could afford to have sets in bedrooms. It seems the place of children’s TV is a key to his worry: presumably he believes children are sitting alone watching footballers and celebrities as a way of learning how to behave. Of course children are more likely to be playing games on their TV (which, incidentally, is good for you – see EU report) or social networking online.

As the teacher quoted at the end of The Guardian‘s report said: ‘Which planet is he on?’


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