The authors behind the paper - published in the journal Alcohol & Alcoholism - suggest that more needs to be done to protect young viewers from alcohol imagery and its harmful effects, including a potential review of age classification policy for the programme. By coding 7 hours of footage over 10 episodes of season 11, they found that:
- 78 per cent of scenes contained alcohol content
- 30 per cent of scenes contained actual alcohol use
- 72 per cent of scenes contained inferred alcohol use
- 59 per cent of other scenes contained other alcohol references
- Alcohol brands occurred in nearly a quarter of all scenes (23 per cent)
- Smirnoff was brand that appeared most frequently, in 43 per cent of all brand appearances
- Over 60 per cent of brand appearances occurred in episodes which when released on DVD were classified by the BBFC as suitable for viewing by people aged under 18
The UK is currently struggling with the worst binge-drinking rates in Europe. Given the potentially young target audience for Geordie Shore, the wide reach of MTV, and evidence that media exposure to alcohol promotes alcohol consumption by young people, the research team suggest action needs to be taken to address their findings.
Advert for drinking
Lead researcher Dr Jo Cranwell from the University of Bath’s Department for Health explained: “We expected to find alcohol content across series 11 of Geordie Shore but not at such high levels, or the prominence of particular brands. Given MTV’s target audience can be as young as 12, this really is a concern and runs counter to a raft of public health measures currently designed to curb the excesses in drinking among young people, and counter to the policies of the companies which market these brands with respect to advertising to children.”
Professor John Britton from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham commented: “From a health perspective, this series of programmes represent one long advert for drinking in general, and for Smirnoff, Grey Goose and Corona in particular, for a teenage and young adult audience. I am surprised that the companies that market these brands are happy for their products to be promoted in this way.”
The research team will raise their findings with Lime Pictures, the production company behind Geordie Shaw, MTV, as well as Ofcom and the BBFC. They would like to see clearer alcohol warnings at the start of Geordie Shore episodes, the removal of all branding, adult age classifications for programmes released on DVD.
Dr Cranwell added: “We would be interested to hear from MTV about how many under 18s are watching Geordie Shore and if they are prepared to moderate the amount of drinking in it.
“At the very least the drinks industry has a duty of care not to expose those under the legal drinking age in the UK to their brands. Codes of practice are of course already in place by many companies not to associate their brands with excessive drinking or drunkenness. Whilst it may be the case that they are not aware of the amount of visible branded content in Geordie Shore, we believe that they absolutely should be and we will follow carefully their response to our findings.”
The study formed part of a wider programme of research exploring alcohol content in a range of media.
Other projects have looked at alcohol in TV, film and in music videos. It was supported by the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, with core funding from the British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; Economic and Social Research Council; Medical Research Council; and the Department of Health under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.
The Alcohol and Alcoholism paper, ‘Alcohol content in the ‘Hyper-Reality’ MTV Show ‘Geordie Shore’ will be available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agx116 .