Australia’s Obsession With Reality Television Needs To Be Reassessed

Reality television has become a staple in Australian households as of late. Prime time for the television landscape in Australia has long begun at 7:30PM. This is the time most families are home from school, university and or work, and […]

Reality television has become a staple in Australian households as of late. Prime time for the television landscape in Australia has long begun at 7:30PM. This is the time most families are home from school, university and or work, and are all snuggled around the television.


The shows that air at 7:30PM prime time in Australia across the week, whether it’s by chance or not, are all reality TV shows.


friends from friends watching reality television and laughing



This piece will focus on the big 3 channels. Channel 7, channel 9 and channel 10. All of which have a drastic percentage of viewership within Australia. Channel 7 currently has 29% of Australian viewership, channel 9 with 29.4% and channel 10 with 17.2%.


With such dominance by the big three it is no wonder they all opt for the same genre of programming during prime time… Reality Television.


Each channels prime time slot is as follows:


  • Channel 7: House Rules
  • Channel 9: Lego Masters
  • Channel 10: MasterChef


man from Masterchef saluting someone maybe he's saluting reality television


At the time of writing, these are the current shows which dominant the airwaves. However we cannot forget the shows which rule the rest of the year due to their controversy.


We cannot ignore channel 10s The Bachelorette, which is also on the 7:30PM slot. How about channel 9s social experiment Married At First Sight, also taking the coveted 7:30PM slot.


With such an array of reality television all allocated to the same timeslot, it begs the question. What is the psychological impact of viewing these shows in excess?


A study by Doctor of Philosophy at Kansas State University, Erika Rasure found that, “individuals who watch reality programming for learning purposes tend to adopt similar beliefs and values as those depicted.”


I’m sure you have all heard your friend say this, “I only watch reality shows for fun”. The same study by Rasure also concluded “that those who claim to watch for entertainment purposes only fail to distance themselves appropriately from the programming and unknowingly turn off their critical faculties, leaving the individual exposed to potential impact from the viewership activities.”


woman from reality television show agreeing


It is evident by Rasures study that excessive viewing of reality TV has inherent effects on the individuals who view them.


The Clay Centre, an American institute backed by Harvard Medical School that focuses on promoting mental, emotional and behavioural well-being conducted research on the impact of excess reality TV viewing.


Their study found that reality TV consists of core themes like any other genre of programming. These themes, however, in reality TV, all exhibited negative traits which could prove to be detrimental to viewers.


The Clay Centre found four common themes:


  • Physical beauty
  • Sex appeal
  • Materialism
  • Bullying


These four common themes are not only detrimental to viewers, but specifically younger viewers.


Being exposed to such harmful themes at any age can impact the core characteristics of an individual. To be made to think the four aforementioned themes are normal and a part of everyday life can lead individuals down a destructive path.

Prime time television does not seem like it is going anywhere. The percentage of viewers and amount of advertising income is unparalleled compared to any other genre of television.


man watching reality television and eating popcorn


A precedent has been laid by the big three channels. Reality TV is here to stay.  Both Rasures and The Clay Centres studies highlight a clear need for change. Over exposure to the aforementioned themes of physical beauty, sex appeal, materialism and bullying highlighted by The Clay Centre, and the unfortunate ability for individuals to copy and learn behaviours from reality TV mentioned in Rasures study both come together to form one underlying fact:


Australian TV channels must take responsibility and start to offer a variety of programming on free to air television. Reality television is always going to rely on the formula that exaggerated drama and larger than life characters equals reality TV gold. So there is no changing reality TV.


However there is changing our viewing habits. Instead of watching countless episodes of the same reality television drama. Even out your viewing habits and maybe watch a documentary. The power is in your hands.

Featured Image Via: ABC