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TV ads shape the Pacific rim

A multinational survey of young people in the Asian Pacific region has revealed the profound influence of American television advertising.

Most of the 5,700 youngsters surveyed said they disliked mathematics - and vegetables - but liked to drink Coca Cola, eat at McDonald's, wear Nike sport shoes and Levi jeans, and admired basketball player Michael Jordan.

Overwhelmingly, they nominated the United States as the country they would most like to visit. But strong differences emerged among the various countries.

Young Australians, for example, rated playing sport and spending time with friends much more important than school compared with most of their counterparts in the Asian countries. Only the young in Japan agreed - in every other country, school was considered far more significant than being with friends.

Youthful Australians rated "being an individual and doing your own thing" as four times more important than "fitting in with others and going along with the crowd". By contrast, Japanese and Taiwanese children thought going along with the crowd was at least twice as important than being an individual.

The survey involved interviews with seven to 18-year-olds in 18 cities in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. All the children surveyed came from homes with television. The results showed that Australian youth watch less television than their peers in China, Malaysia, South Korea and Hong Kong, but they are less likely to be reading a book and are also far less likely than those from almost all the other countries to read a daily newspaper.

Almost 70 per cent of Malaysia's young people said they read a daily paper, closely followed by those in Thailand, South Korea, Japan and India. Only the Chinese were behind the 35 per cent of Australians who said this was a regular activity.

Yet while 88 per cent of the young Australians could name their prime minister, only 49 per cent could do so in Hong Kong and a mere 29 per cent in Singapore.

When asked "Who do you most admire?", Indian children were more likely to nominate a family member; Australians opted for figures such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, God and Jesus; while the Chinese, Koreans, Indonesians and Malaysians chose politicians. A third of the Japanese youngsters said they had no heroes.

Youngsters from Hong Kong fared best for pocket money: they enjoy an average Pounds 9 each per week. Singapore Pounds 8.40 and Australia Pounds 6.80 were next with Indian children (who receive 60p) at the other end of the financial scale.

One of the researchers, Professor Johanna Wyn from the University of Melbourne, said the appeal of US products was in the marketing, with advertisements promising immediate gratification.

Yet while the survey appeared to demonstrate the Americanisation of youth culture, it also showed that the youngsters of the Asian Pacific nevertheless maintained their own distinct community activities.

Geoff Maslen

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