Alcohol portrayal in Australian prime time television in 1990 and 1997

Simone Parsons, Chris Rissel, Will Douglas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study examines the frequency of scenes involving alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinking acts in Australian TV serials in 1990 and 1997. Method: In 1990 and 1997, 87.5 and 85 hours (respectively) of prime time Australian serials were video taped. Tapes were coded using a standard protocol, including visual or verbal references to alcoholic beverages and the act of consuming or preparing to consume any type of beverage. Results: In 1990 and 1997, prime time viewers saw on average 2.6 acts of alcohol consumption per hour. There was a statistically significant threefold decrease in the total number of references to alcohol on prime time Australian serials (primarily accounted for by a significant reduction in the incidental depiction of alcohol), an almost halving of the number of episodes that made some reference to alcohol and less consumption of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) in 1997 compared with 1990. Conclusions: The decrease in incidental references to alcohol was not due to an obviously more socially responsible depiction of alcohol. In both 1990 and 1997, uncritical viewers could conclude from watching Australian TV serials that alcohol is everywhere, is there to be drunk, is used and accepted by all ages and both sexes and is rarely associated with any negative consequences. Implications: The portrayal of health or risk-taking behaviour on television may influence the perception of viewers that certain behaviours are 'normal', common or acceptable, may encourage modelling of that behaviour and may indirectly influence the policy agenda.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-71
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1999
Externally publishedYes


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