The exposure and effects of foods high in fat, sugar, or salt content and advertising on broadcast television and video-on-demand services in the UK

Project summary

This PhD programme builds on existing research into unhealthy commodity promotion in the media and seeks to understand the mechanism between exposure to content and advertising and behaviour.

Consumption of foods high in fat, sugar and/or salts (HFSS, or ‘junk food’) is a strong risk factor for obesity (NHS Digital, 2018). Advertising, and particularly television advertising, is a major driver of HFSS consumption, particularly among children (Boyland et al., 2016; Cancer Research-UK, 2018). Despite, regulations to prevent this, children are likely to continue to be exposed to advertising (Alfayad, Murray, Britton, & Barker, 2021, 2022; Barker, Bal, Ruff, & Murray, 2022; Barker, Parkin, Sinha, Wilson, & Murray, 2022)it is currently unknown how much content children are exposed to in this way and this content will not be prevented by the introduction of the 9 pm watershed ban. Instead, this project aims to understand the mechanism behind the effect of advertising on consumption in an attempt to reduce this effect by:

  1. Exploring the amount and types of HFSS content in audio-visual media 
  2. Investigating the effect of exposure to HFSS content on HFSS Consumption 
  3. Exploring the subjective effect of advertising on eating behaviour in children and adults  
  4. Investigating stakeholder perspectives on HFSS advertising 

Entry requirements

Applicants will need either a first-class or upper-second-class honours degree accredited by the British Psychological Society in Psychology or a related subject area.

International students may also need to meet our English language requirements. Find out more about our entry requirements for international students.

Project-specific requirements must align with the University’s standard requirements.

How to apply

Please contact Dr Alex Barker ( in the first instance for more information on how to apply.

The University has four starting points each year for MPhil/PhD programmes (September, January, March and June). Applications should be made at least three months before you would want to start your programme. Please note that, if you require a visa, additional time will be required. 


Self-funded by student. There is a range of options that may be available to you to help you fund your PhD.


Staff member Alex Barker sat in front of a green screen
Lecturer in Psychology

Alex Barker joined the University of Derby as a lecturer in June 2022. Previously, he was a lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University from 2021 to 2022 and held a researcher position at the University of Nottingham between 2016 and 2021.