About two in five (40 per cent) of people in Britain say that programmes or advertising on TV has inspired them to partake in positive acts such as donating to charity, eating healthily, driving carefully, voting, being environmentally friendly or taking part in sport.
The study, carried out by Ipsos Mori and commissioned by TV marketing body Thinkbox, found that 16 per cent of the 2,000 adults surveyed claimed the internet and newspapers were the next most likely media to have a positive influence on their behaviour.
Radio and magazines were said to inspire 14 per cent of people the most, while 9 per cent said high street advertising and just 6 per cent direct mail.
More than one in two (55 per cent) claim TV makes them more aware of issues and causes, while 47 per cent claim it makes them more sympathetic or emotional about them.
The news could influence the way charities choose to focus the bulk of their marketing campaigns.
In particular, advertising on TV was found to be the most effective way of changing behaviours towards charities. About two fifths (43 per cent) of those inspired by TV advertising have been encouraged to give to charity, compared with 33 per cent who were influenced by a programme.
Further still, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of people who donate to charity because they were influenced by TV do so by standing order, demonstrating a long-term commitment towards the cause.
Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox managing director, says: “This research shows that watching TV is a force for good and that it can and does change perceptions and behaviour for the better – something the TV coverage of the Paralympics has made clear recently. It is high time to put the case forward for how TV benefits society generally beyond its pure entertainment value.”