Wants to Put Kids TV On Ad Diet
Broadcasting & Cable
If one powerful legislator has his way, educational
children's programming would not count toward a TV
station's three-hour minimum of such programming per
week, and fast food and snack food ads would be banned
from kids shows by the FCC.
That was one of the suggestions from House
Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey
(D-Mass.) to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and
commissioners Deborah Tate and Michael Copps.
The three were instrumental in the creation of the
Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity, a
government/private industry partnership on ways to
combat childhood obesity through changes in the
media's marketing of snack and fast foods.
Markey wants to make sure that the task force. While
Markey praised "purely voluntary steps, he said that
he didn't think "sprinkling public service
announcements for exercise and good nutrition into an
avalanche of television advertising for unhealthy
foods will be adequate.
Actually, the media effort goes beyond that to include
exercise initiative and pledges by major advertisers
to reduce the number of snack and fast food ads in
kids shows, as well as employing iconic characters
such as SpongeBob to do some host selling of spinach
and other veggies.
Markey said the FCC has the authority and the
"affirmative obligation" to "examine whether placing
limitations on certain food advertising to children
would further the public interest," which Markey
clearly thinks it is.
He suggests that unless there is a "dramatic and swift
elimination of advertisements for "junk food" during
kids shows, the FCC should reduce the number of
commercial minutes allowed--currently capped at 10.5
minutes per hour on weekends and 12 on weekends, and
discount educational shows from counting toward a
station's FCC-friendly kids quotas.
"If a "core" educational program tells kids to eat
healthy foods and exercise, but the advertisements
aired during the program encourage them to eat
Twinkies and Fruit Loops, the ads have the potential
to undercut the educational and informative value," he
Markey cites his Children's Television Act as giving
the FCC the power to restrict the ads.
Markey gave the three until May 4 to tell him 1)
whether they had examined other countries' efforts to
combat childhood obesity, 2) whether they think the
commission should limit or eliminate food ads on TV
watched by kids, 3) whether they supported
disqualifying educational shows with "junk food" ads
from the FCC-friendly moniker, 4) and what other ideas
they have for flexing the FCC's muscle to ensure
station licensees aren't making the obesity and poor
nutrition problems worse.