Blog Post by Dr Paul Williamson
Fred Pearce, author of PeopleQuake, has recently argued in the Conservation Magazine that the spread of television is closely linked to falls in fertility rates, citing evidence from countries as far flung as India, Brazil, Jamaica and Mexico.
If this sounds a bit far-fetched, he is not alone in these views. For example, did you know that the British Government’s Department for International Development, along with Marie Stopes International (a charity that promotes sexual health and family planning) co-sponsor a TV soap in Kenya called Makutano Junction, which fosters an understanding of family planning issues.
The link between television and fertility rates is contested. It could simply be that television ownership is a proxy for local levels of economic development, with more affluent households and societies tending to opt for fewer children and own more TVs. Or it could be, as Fred Pearce argues, that TV shows model more affluent, emancipated (and childless) lifestyles for women that have a direct bearing on the attitudes and behaviours of those watching them.
Either way it is intriguing that TV shows appear to be seen as suitable recipients for ‘development’ aid; and equally intriguing to consider the relative importance of persuading the poorest people in the world to have fewer children versus, say, addressing the inequities in global trade that help keep them in poverty in the first place, or persuading those in the rich world to consume a less unfair share of the world’s resources… all debates that are covered as part of our geography degree programmes.