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CCFC NEWS - Spring 2005

 

IN THIS ISSUE:

CCFC’s Comments to the Federal Trade Commission:

Industry’s Experiment in Self-Regulation Has Failed

On July 14-15, the Federal Trade Commission will hold a workshop on Marketing, Self-Regulation, and Childhood Obesity.  In preparation for the workshop, CCFC submitted comments that declared the current system of advertising industry self-regulation a failure.  The comments were signed by fifteen of CCFC’s member organizations.  A summary of the comments appears below; the complete text of the comments is available at http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/comments/ftcobesityworkshop.pdf.

  • The advertising industry’s thirty-year experiment with self-regulation has failed. Children see more marketing in more venues than ever before and much of this marketing is for unhealthy food.  Child-targeted marketing influences children’s food choices, contributes to the childhood obesity epidemic, and makes parents’ lives more difficult. 

  • The industries responsible for this marketing cannot fix these problems without government restrictions; merely tweaking the existing system of self-regulation is not the answer. Far too often there is a conflict of interest between industry’s mandate to make a profit – a legal mandate in the instance of corporations – and public health and safety. Ultimately it is the government’s role, not the role of corporations, to safeguard the health of our children.   

  • There is no doubt that food marketing is a factor in children’s consumption of unhealthy food and in the rise of childhood obesity.  Studies of food marketing to children conducted by such august bodies as the World Health Organization, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the British Food Commission, and the Institute of Medicine all point to a link between child-targeted marketing and childhood obesity.  While food marketers tend to minimize or deny the connection between children’s food choices and advertising, this stance is puzzling.  Either advertising works or it doesn’t.  If it works, then the marketing targeted to children will lead to a rise in consumption of the products being advertised to them.  If it doesn’t work, then why are companies spending billions of dollars annually to target children? 

  • Any legitimate conversation about marketing—including one about self-regulation—must include the point of view that government regulation, not self-regulation, is the best way to minimize the negative effect that advertising and marketing have on the health and well-being of children.

CCFC Member News

Child-Responsible Media Campaign Joins CCFC

A warm CCFC welcome to our newest organizational member, the Child-Responsible Media Campaign.  The Child-Responsible Media Campaign works to protect children from the negative effects of violent media by raising awareness of media violence issues and advocating for polices that limit children’s exposure to media violence.

 

The Campaign’s website, http://www.childresponsiblemedia.org, is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to track legislation related to media violence.  And right now, there’s quite a lot to keep track of!  Since the 2005 legislative session began, eighteen states, the U.S. House, and Washington D.C. have introduced legislation aimed at protecting children from violent video games.  Most notably, in Illinois, a bill that bans the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to children overwhelmingly passed the state house and senate.  To find out what legislation is being considered in your state, visit http://www.medialegislation.org/States.html

 

TV-Turnoff Week Report

This year’s TV-Turnoff Week, organized by CCFC member TV-Turnoff Network, was the biggest and best one yet.  More than seventy organizations endorsed TV-Turnoff Week and more than 8 million people, from all fifty states and more than a dozen countries, took part in this year’s turnoff. 

Among the participants:  CCFC member organization, Peace Through Play Nursery School, where children danced and sang “Let’s Not Watch TV” and wrote a story about all the fun they would have during TV-Turnoff Week. 

From The Motherhood Project:  The Motherhood Study

How do mothers in the United States today feel about being mothers? What are their most pressing concerns and priorities?  CCFC member The Motherhood Project (headed by steering committee member Enola Aird) explores these and related questions in its latest report, "The Motherhood Study"-- a national investigation of mothers' attitudes, values, concerns, and needs. Read the report at www.motherhoodproject.org.

 

CCFC To Coca-Cola:  Stop Targeting Our Children

On April 19, CCFC joined with other organizations at Coca-Cola’s annual meeting to protest Coke’s business practices.  During the meeting, CCFC’s Josh Golin challenged Coke CEO Neville Isdell to:

  • Publicly acknowledge that some of Coca-Cola’s products are contributing to health problems for children;
  • End all marketing aimed at children – including Coke toys, product placement, tie-ins with children’s media, and in-school marketing.
  • Stop lobbying against policies that would help combat childhood obesity.

Click here to read the complete text of CCFC’s comments.  To learn more about CCFC’s Coke campaign, please visit: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/actions/tiaacrefcoke.htm.

Free Press Action Alert: Tell Congress to Save Children’s Educational Programming on PBS

A congressional subcommittee has voted to slash more than $200 million in funding for public broadcasting, including $23.4 million earmarked for "Ready to Learn" children's educational programming -- the money that keeps shows like "Sesame Street," "Arthur," and "Clifford the Big Red Dog" on the air.  While the increased commercialization of PBS’ children’s fare is deeply disturbing, cutting public funding for these shows will only force PBS to look even more to corporations for support.  If we ever hope to return PBS to its original mission of providing a commercial-free haven for children, the first step is ensuring that children’s programming survives.

The media reform organization Free Press and others have organized a campaign to save public funding for PBS.  To learn what can you do, please visit: http://www.freepress.net/action/callcongress.php?a=savepbs

Events

Media Literacy In A Violent Society: Confronting The Hazards Of Media Culture

Where: Wheelock College, Boston

Date: July 6 - 9

Time: Wednesday - Saturday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

For the past nine years, Wheelock College has offered this summer institute for educators, parents, human service providers, policy makers and community activists. This 4-day event examines the role media (television, movies, magazines, video games and advertising) play in shaping children's development, attitudes and behaviors, as well as our overall culture. A central focus of the institute is on exploring the nature and effects of violent, sexist, racist, consumer-driven media content and commercial media culture. Attendees learn to develop broad- based media literacy curricula and to integrate conflict resolution and consumer education into work with children and youth. The institute provides a forum where participants from diverse backgrounds can work together to positively effect the media's role in shaping our children's lives and society. Faculty teaching the institute are CCFC’s Diane Levin, author of Remote Control Childhood and Teaching Young Children in Violent Times, Gail Dines, author of Gender, Race and Class in the Media, and Petra Hesse, Rambo Meets Care Bears in the Classroom.

Available for no credit or as a 3 credit graduate course. For more information, visit http://www.wheelock.edu/pdi/pdihome.asp or Diane Levin at 617-879-2167 or dlevin@wheelock.edu.

CCFC in the News

Classical Baby Becomes Classic Controversy

Last month, CCFC issued a press release warning parents to keep their infants and toddlers away from the HBO special Classical Baby.  CCFC urged parents to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children under the age of two should not watch any television and challenged HBO’s claims that the show was beneficial for infants

CCFC’s Diane Levin said that the push to get babies to watch television is depriving them of the real learning and exploiting parents’ desire to be good parents. “Babies learn best by interacting with people and objects and seeing how they can affect their world. What they learn from television is to turn to screens for stimulation and soothing.”

CCFC’s objections to Classical Baby were aired in media outlets across the country including Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, several radio programs and a widely syndicated story by Associated Press. 

CCFC  Raps McDonald’s Supersized  Hypocrisy

CCFC also led the criticism of McDonald’s announced plan to pay rap artists to integrate the Big Mac into their lyrics.  CCFC’s Susan Linn noted, “Even as food companies pay lip service to the idea of responsible marketing, they increasingly turn to new and deceitful ways of targeting children. Listeners won’t know the rappers are being paid to push Big Macs -- these ‘adversongs’ are inherently deceptive.”

CCFC’s critique was included in many of the stories written about McDonald’s hip-hop campaign.  Through our efforts, journalists are increasingly questioning the ethics of marketing to children, rather than simply reporting on the latest marketing developments.  You can find these stories in the “In the News” section of our website.

Guest Opinion

The Danger of Marketing Loud as Fun

Arline Bronzaft, Professor Emerita of Psychology, City University of New York, and one of the nation’s foremost experts on the effects of noise on children, has written an article for CCFC on the loud products that are marketed to kids.  From toys for toddlers to video games and sound systems for preteens and teens, children are consistently marketed the idea that loud equals fun.  And, according to Dr. Bronzaft, parents are often unaware that these loud toys and products can affect children’s hearing.  Click here to read The Danger of Marketing Loud as Fun.

 

Things We Wish We Didn’t Know

Babies are 350% more responsive to smells than adults.  In order to grow brand loyal babies, marketers are going to be putting signature smells in baby products to evoke positive memories when children are exposed to that brand later in life. 

Kids who want all 72 collectible Stars Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith M&M wrappers will need to buy more than 45 pounds of M&M’s (containing more than 10,000 grams of sugar).

McDonald’s has given Ronald McDonald an image makeover, and is featuring the world’s most famous junk food spokesman as a snowboarding fitness guru in a new series of ads.  Even more disturbing:  MSNBC’s morning show recently “interviewed” the fictional corporate mascot to talk about his new look.

Editorial: Celling To Children:  The New Frontier 

Interstitial:  a medical term used to designate the narrow spaces between tissue or parts of organs.

In commercial land, the word interstitial is often used to refer to the spaces between programs where ads or public service announcements, are shown  Now the industry is using the term to mean the time between activities in children’s lives—and they intend to fill that time with marketing.  Referring to Nickelodeon’s partnership with Verizon to produce programming for cell phones, Mike Sakgerlind, of Nickelodeon Online said, “We want to fill the interstitial parts of kids’ lives, in the doctor’s waiting room, at the supermarket-checkout line . . .we want to provide our content to kids wherever they are.”

From a marketing perspective, cell phones are a good way to do that. And marketers are mounting aggressive, dual-edged, campaigns to make it happen.  Cell phones are being marketed to parents as a safety device, and to children as a cool new “must have” accessory.   What marketers aren’t tell parents is that cell phones are yet another way that companies can make an end run around them to reach children directly.  Advertisers view cell phones as the next marketing frontier. Brands like Frito Lay and Pepsi are already incorporating cell phones into their marketing campaigns aimed at teens and pre-teens.

Of course, as many parents are discovering, last year’s phone is no longer cool enough.  Between upgrades to camera and video phones, calling plans, and accessories such as ring tones, cell phones have quickly become a very pricey “necessity.”  And cell phones are being marketed to younger and younger children. 190,000 kids under the age of ten already have one and that number is expected to double in the next year.   Giudetek Technology has a new line of pale pink and blue models shaped like cute little bears--for children as young as three.  Giudetek will be joined later this year by toy giants Mattel and Hasbro, which are both adding a line of cell phones for the very young.

Meanwhile, DIC Entertainment is creating the first ever cell phone animation channel featuring characters like the Care Bears who already shill for sugary fruit snacks and cereals.  Sesame Workshop and Nickelodeon are partnering with Verizon to target toddlers with cell phone programming.  Parents are being encouraged to hand video phones to babies for soothing during travel.  A recent article in Advertising Age equated cell phones with pacifiers and rattles.

 

Getting infants to turn to cell phones for stimulation and soothing may be good for corporate profits, but it’s bad for babies who are losing yet another opportunity to initiate active engagement in the world, and to learn to calm themselves through their own internal resources or the comfort of other people.  Like baby videos and computer lap ware, foisting cell phones on babies and toddlers becomes one more step toward creating a generation of children who are bored or anxious unless they are glued to a screen. 

 

And that’s exactly where the marketing industry wants them.

 

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