Program Ratings Do Not Predict Negative Content in Commercials on Children's Channels

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Objective:The aim of this study was to determine the presence of negative content in commercials airing on 3 children's channels (Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network).Method:The 1681 commercials were coded with a reliable coding system and content comparisons were made.Results:Although the majority of the commercials were coded as neutral, negative content was present in 13.5% of commercials. This rate was significantly more than the predicted value of zero and more similar to the rates cited in previous research examining content during sporting events. The rate of negative content was less than, but not significantly different from, the rate of positive content. Thus, our findings did not support our hypothesis that there would be more commercials with positive content than with negative content. Logistic regression analysis indicated that channel, and not rating, was a better predictor of the presence of overall negative content and the presence of violent behaviors. Commercials airing on the Cartoon Network had significantly more negative content, and those airing on Disney Channel had significantly less negative content than the other channels. Within the individual channels, program ratings did not relate to the presence of negative content.Conclusion:Parents cannot assume the content of commercials will be consistent with the program rating or label. Pediatricians and psychologists should educate parents about the potential for negative content in commercials and advocate for a commercials rating system to ensure that there is greater parity between children's programs and the corresponding commercials.

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