Research on violence on TV

18 July 2014

This 2014 research, commissioned by Ofcom, is on consumer attitudes and trends in violence shown on UK TV programmes.

The research supports Ofcom in its role in protecting TV viewers, especially children. It looks at how violence on TV has changed since Ofcom issued guidelines to broadcasters in 2011 to avoid programmes being shown before 9pm that might be unsuitable for children.

The research comprises two separate reports. The first study focused on public attitudes towards violence on TV among people from a range of ages and socio-economic groups.  The second was an analysis of four popular UK soap operas, which looked at instances of violence, or threats of violence, and people’s views on them.

The first report, on the views of audiences, found that different demographic groups showed subtle differences in their views about violent content. However, all agreed that children should not be exposed to any sexual violence on TV before and straight after the watershed. People considered the time of broadcast to be the single most important factor in determining the acceptability of violent content on TV.

The study of soap operas not only looked at violent scenes, but also measured those with menacing or threatening behaviour, and violence that was implied off-screen. This report found that violence in soaps was usually clearly indicated in advance, so viewers were unlikely to be surprised when it took place. The report also found that the amount of violence, or threats of violence, has varied over the years in the soaps studied: EastEnders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks.

Ofcom has used this research to update its guidance issued to broadcasters about how to deal with violence on TV and to help inform Ofcom’s decisions when investigating TV programmes with violence shown before the watershed.

Full reports

Audience attitudes towards violent content on television (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Violence in UK soaps: A four-wave trend analysis (PDF, 615.3 KB)