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Junk food advertising ban ‘not enough’ to help kids

 

Steffan Rhys
Western Mail
January 1, 2008

 

 

A BAN on junk food advertising during programmes aimed at children is a “pathetic compromise between the economic health of broadcasters and the physical health of children”, campaigners have warned.

The measures, which come into force today, introduce a total ban on junk food advertising in and around all children’s programming and on dedicated children’s channels, as well as in adult programmes which attract a significantly higher than average proportion of viewers under the age of 16. Content rules will also apply to all food and drink advertising to children irrespective of when it is scheduled and include banning the use of celebrities and characters aimed at primary school children or younger.

But the Children’s Food Campaign last night criticised the measures, which they claimed would have no impact on the health of young people.

Campaign coordinator Richard Watts said, “This ban will make little difference to the amount of advertising of junk food children see.

“If the Government is serious about protecting the health of young children, it would introduce a 9pm watershed on advertising.

“These measures still leave the programmes which are most popular with children, like The X Factor, Ant and Dec, and Coronation Street, open to such advertising.

“Banning the adverts won’t solve the obesity crisis on its own but we know advertising affects what people buy or advertisers wouldn’t do it.”

Today’s ban follows the ban on similar adverts aimed at children aged four to nine which was introduced on April 1, 2007 and is aimed at improving the health of young people in Britain.

There has been a growing body of research over soaring obesity levels recently – including a leaked Department of Trade and Industry report in July which claimed that half of all primary school aged boys will be obese by 2050 – and government concerns around over-consumption of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) foods and the under-consumption of fresh foods, fruit and vegetables.

Rhys Evans, director of the Welsh Consumer Council, said that while the ban should be seen as a recognition of the need to address junk food advertising, it was, in effect, a failure to adequately do so.

“It is an admission that something should be done to protect children from exposure to this kind of advertising but if you follow that through to its logical conclusion you have to ban it in all programmes that appeal to children,” he said. “This is a halfway house measure that doesn’t do the job. If you talk to under-16s, they will name The X Factor and similar programmes as the most popular, yet these won’t be covered by the measures. We want to see them going the whole hog and doing the job properly, looking at what children are watching and making sure there is no advertising during those programmes.

“We have already seen a demarcation of adult and children’s programming through the 9pm watershed and it makes sense to translate that to advertising.”

Both the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency have identified television advertising as an area where action should be considered to restrict the promotion of HFSS foods to children and Ofcom’s co-regulatory partners, the Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice and the Advertising Standards Authority, are now responsible for implementing the new scheduling and content rules.

In a statement, Ofcom said, “After a detailed analysis of the evidence, including a full impact assessment, Ofcom has concluded it is appropriate and necessary to adopt restrictions intended to reduce significantly the exposure of children under 16 to HFSS advertising.”

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