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Junk Food Advertising Needs Watershed Ban

Harry Wallop
UK Telegraph
July 26, 2010

Their call came after a study suggested the ban on advertising sugary, fatty foods during children's television programmes had not been as successful as hoped.

Controversial restrictions were introduced during 2007, which stopped fast food outlets and food companies from advertising during programmes watched predominantly by children. However, the rules meant some food, such as most cereals, Marmite, cheese, raisins and honey were classified as "junk".

Also, though it stopped adverts during programmes aimed specifically at children it didn't stop them during adult programmes popular with many children, such as soap operas and talent shows.

Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, predicted the restrictions would reduce children’s overall exposure to junk food advertising by 41 per cent. However, in a study which analysed the restrictions three years since their introduction, found the reduction has fallen short of this at 37 per cent, and for older children, the reduction is only 22 per cent.

The Ofcom study also showed that just over half of children’s viewing time is during adult airtime.

Peter Hollins, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Banning junk food adverts during children’s programmes has clearly had some positive effect. But the Government can – and should – go further.

“A complete ban on junk food advertising before 9pm would better protect them from the influence of slick advertising campaigns while they learn how to choose between treats and foods that are good for them.”

Christine Haigh, at the Children’s Food Campaign, a health lobby group, said: “We know that marketers are finding increasingly clever ways to target children through media such as the internet. If the Coalition Government is serious about protecting children from “excessive commercialisation”, then these loopholes need to be closed urgently.

"The figures show that a 9pm watershed would be a more effective way of protecting children."

However, food companies and advertisers said any watershed ban would be a complete overreaction.

Ian Barber at the Advertising Association said: "Ofcom's report clearly says that the role of advertising on obesity is marginal. Which is why it is recommending that the current set of regulations are proportionate.

"Any watershed ban runs the risk of restricting choice for adults, not children."






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