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CCFC NEWS - December, 2006

IN THIS ISSUE:

CCFC Summit Report:  Consuming Kids: Marketing in Schools and Beyond

On October 26-28, diverse participants from around the world gathered at Judge Baker Children's Center and Wheelock College for a weekend of education and activism and a celebration of "Child Honoring." 

 

Thursday, October 26:  BusRadio Protest

Events kicked off with a protest against BusRadio, a new Massachusetts-based company created to force children to listen to commercial radio broadcasts on school buses around the country.  The demonstration was held at the Boston offices of Sigma Partners, the venture capital firm that is funding BusRadio.  Legendary children's entertainer Raffi Cavoukian joined advocates for children from all over the world to say, "Turn off BusRadio" and "Our Students are Not for Sale!"  In a sign of how concerned BusRadio is about CCFC's activism, the company sent four undercover employees to monitor the goings-on.  The protest received significant media coverage and was filmed for the upcoming documentary Corporations in the Classroom.

 

Joe Kelly, Dads and Daughters; Monique Tilford, Center for a

 New American Dream; Burt Simpson, Troubadour Records

 

Thursday, October 26:  An Evening with Raffi

Thursday evening CCFC presented the Fred Rogers Integrity Award to Raffi Cavoukian, the beloved children's troubadour.  Raffi was honored for his strong stance against the commercialization of childhood and his refusal to market directly to children.  He has even turned down film proposals based on Baby Beluga – his signature song – because the film’s funding depended on child-targeted advertising.

 

After receiving the award, Raffi gave an unforgettable presentation -- in word and in song -- of his unique philosophy of Child Honoring.   Raffi's heartfelt and inspirational performance set the perfect tone for the summit.

Friday and Saturday, October 27 & 28:  Presentations and Workshops

Friday featured presentations and workshops on an array of important topics, including the ways that marketing affects children in poverty and children of color; and the impact of commercialized sex and violence on children.  Saturday’s highlights included a keynote address from Alex Molnar on marketing in schools, an inspiring panel on effective advocacy strategies, and the surprise presentation of the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Citation to CCFC’s Susan Linn.   

You can read summaries of many of the presentations by clicking here.

 

Here's what some of the attendees had to say about their experience:

 

"As someone who has traveled to all sorts of media literacy conferences in the States and the world, this one was extraordinary! . . . Drawing from the work of experts and advocates in education, psychology, law, cultural studies, communication, and women's studies, the sessions explored the myriad ways that childhood is compromised by materialism marketed as choice, happiness, and independence. Unlike other "critical" conferences that can leave you with an overwhelming desire to move to Canada or Switzerland, CCFC empowered its audience with a culminating session on the successes of diligence and activism."  Julie Frechette, Worcester State College

 

"I came home jazzed and non-stop talking about things I heard that were meaningful to me and I wanted to immediately integrate into work." - Cordelia Anderson, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

 

And from our anonymous summit evaluations:

  • "Wonderful mix of presenters and participants."

  • "Extremely useful and gave appropriate strategies to use within my classroom and during interactions with parents."

  • "The workshops I attended (Media/Brazil, KoolMixx, ACME) were wonderful examples of inspirations for advocacy…these stories keep you going."

  • "I can use much of what I’ve learned in my school counseling work. Much of this extends what I already teach in nutrition and health. As a person, it has brought awareness to me of the depth of the problem so I can be more of an informed activist."

  • "A total inspiration."

  • "This was so useful and helpful. Really fired me up and I made lots of connections with activists in my local area."

New Voluntary Guidelines for Marketing to Children are Pure Window Dressing

In November, and with much fanfare, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) – the advertising industry’s self-appointed regulatory body - released its revised guidelines on marketing to children.   The new guidelines are the clearest indication yet that, when it comes to marketing to children, self-regulation has failed. In the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity, the industry has proposed a series of guidelines that will little to reduce the barrage of junk food advertising aimed at children:

• The food industry will be allowed to continue to promote unhealthy food to children by adding token messages about “lifestyle.” A scene of kids snowboarding inserted in a commercial for Big Macs is not going to reduce children’s junk food consumption or childhood obesity.

• Cartoon characters will continue to be used to promote unhealthy food. The guidelines only call for this kind of marketing to be reduced—there are no specific goals or restrictions.  

• Advergaming will be allowed to continue, including for unhealthy food like candy bars and sugary cereals.

• Corporate sponsored educational materials and other in-school programs that promote company brands will still be allowed, even in elementary schools. Ronald McDonald and other company spokescharacters will continue to visit schools all over the country.

• CARU’s guidelines are not enforceable. A recent study found that 82% of food industry websites for children do not comply with CARU's guidelines. Specifically, only 18% provide ad breaks or ad alerts for children on their website ads.

National Study Finds School Beverage Contracts a Raw Deal for Schools

This new study from the Public Health Advocacy Institute and the Center for Science in the Public Interest analyzed 120 school beverage contracts across sixteen states.  The finding:  Schools receive very little financial benefit from these contracts while soda companies are given exclusive opportunities to sell and market unhealthy beverages to a captive group of children.  On average, the contracts only raised $18 per student per year.  Many contracts also penalize schools for not meeting sales quotas, which gives school administrators an incentive to encourage soda consumption.  An invaluable resource for anyone trying to get sugary beverages out of schools, the report is available at http://www.phaionline.org/downloads/contractanalysis.pdf

News from Britain:  A Must-Read Report and New Proposals to Curb Junk Food Advertising

There’s been a great deal of activity in Britain recently around marketing to children.  The advocacy group, Compass, has just released a searing report, Commercialisation of Childhood.

 

In addition, there’s been significant progress in the effort to protect children from junk food marketing.  Our colleague Kath Dalmeny, from the British Food Commission, kindly agreed to explain the new proposals from Ofcom, Britain’s advertising regulatory agency.  One thing that’s clear is that Ofcom, in contrast to our current Federal Trade Commission, is actually proposing regulation.  Here are some highlights from her response:

 

In summary, very little is in LAW, but quite a lot has been done by regulatory bodies, so there has been good progress, e.g.:

 

Ofcom (the government regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries) recently came out with recommendations to government for how food marketing to children should be addressed. These are not yet law, and may well be modified before a law is passed, since this is now a political decision. Jane Landon has summarized the Ofcom recommendations as follows:

 

Scheduling

  • Restrictions should be limited to high fat, salt / sugar (HFSS; junk) foods only (using the FSA nutrient profiling model).

  • No HFSS advertising in children’s programmes (including pre-school children)

  • No HFSS advertising on dedicated children’s channels.

  • No HFSS advertising in programmes of particular appeal to children under 16. (Programmes will be affected if the proportion of children in the demographic mix of the audience is at least 20% higher than the proportion of children in the population at large).

 

Content

  • No celebrities or licensed characters to be used in ads for HFSS products aimed at primary aged children.

  • No nutritional or health claims in HFSS ads aimed at primary aged children.

  • No promotional offers (giveaways) in HFSS ads aimed at primary aged children.

Impact of Ofcom’s proposals

Ofcom’s assessment is that this package of rules will reduce children’s exposure to advertising impacts by 41% for 4-15 year olds. (51% for 4-9 year olds).

Reasons to be cheerful

  • It is very good news that Ofcom has proposed that rules should apply only to HFSS food and drinks, using the FSA nutrient profiling model.

  • It is also very good news that Ofcom has accepted that the scope of rules should cover children up to 16, not just under-9s.

  • It is significant that Ofcom has said that the content rules on promotional gifts, celebrities and licensed characters and nutritional and health claims should only apply to HFSS.   This imposes nutrient profiling into the self-regulatory code.  If the code owners can be held to their stated objective that advertising rules should be “media neutral,” this paves the way for interesting discussions about differentiated rules being mirrored into non-broadcast media.  

  • Despite industry pleadings, Ofcom has held firm that the new rules should apply both to advertisements and programme sponsorship credits.

Causes for concern

  • Ofcom has not proposed a 9pm watershed (despite very strong support for this option from health organisations, consumer and children's organisations, and parents).

  • Brand advertising (where no product is shown) is not covered by the regulations. However, Ofcom is sensitive to the warnings we have raised about this potential loophole and stated that: “…Ofcom will look to advertisers to act responsibly in their wider interpretation of, and response to, the measures to restrict HFSS product advertising. The Government intends to conduct a review next year to determine changes in the nature and balance of food promotion across broadcast and non-broadcast media. This will then be followed by Ofcom’s review, which Ofcom expects to begin in autumn 2008. Should advertisers choose to use brand advertising to seek to avoid product-based restrictions, this would form the focus of scrutiny in future.

  • The content rules define children as “primary aged”, not under 16.

The National Conference for Media Reform, January 12-14, 2007, Memphis, TN

Mark your calendars and make your reservations today -- registration for the Free Press' 2007 National Conference for Media Reform is now open. This one-of-a-kind event will take place on January 12-14, 2007 in Memphis, Tennessee.  This energizing weekend will present ideas and strategies for winning the fight for better media and connect you with thousands of media reformers from across the nation. 

Join Amy Goodman, Jane Fonda, Jesse Jackson, Bill Moyers, Geena Davis, Phil Donahue, Helen Thomas, Van Jones, Laura Flanders, Davey D, Juan Gonzalez, Katrina vanden Heuvel, FCC Commissioners Copps and Adelstein, CCFC’s Susan Linn and many more for an unforgettable and inspiring weekend.

Sign up now for the 2007 National Conference for Media Reform:  www.freepress.net/conference. 

Recommended Reading

2006 was a great year for books about commercialism.  Here are four of our favorites:

Michele Simon , Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back.

Written by the founder of the Center for Informed Food Choices, a CCFC member organization, Appetite for Profit is a must-read for anyone concerned about childhood obesity, the politics of food, or how corporations avoid much needed regulation.  Simon deftly helps readers cut through industry spin and details Big Food tactics such as “nutriwashing,” co-opting government and nutrition science, and funding anything goes attack groups such as the Center for Consumer Freedom.  Complete with an entertaining glossary that explains corporate rhetoric, including phrases like “better-for-you foods” and “frivolous lawsuit,” Appetite for Profit will help you understand what companies really mean when they claim the mantle of social responsibility and why our current system of self-regulation can never serve the public interest.

 

Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown, Packaging Girlhood:  Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers Schemes.

In Packaging Girlhood, Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown (founder of CCFC organizational member Hardy Girls, Healthy Women), describe for parents the devastating image of girls (sexy, diva, boy-crazy, shoppers) that's being packaged and sold to their daughters.   In an engaging and compelling manner, the authors describe how girl power has been co-opted by marketers to mean the power to shop and attract boys and how girls are encouraged to use their "voice" to choose accessorizing over academics, sex appeal over sports, and boyfriends over friends.  Packaging Girlhood includes plenty of sound advice and tips for parents. 

 

Dimitri A. Christakis and Frederick Zimmerman, The Elephant in the Living Room:  Make Television Work For Your Kids.

Two of the nation’s leading researchers on television and young children have written a great book detailing the effects of TV viewing on kids’ emotional, mental, and physical development.  Christakis and Zimmerman synthesize the latest research and explain it in an easy and conversational manner.  Packed with solid information and good advice, The Elephant in the Living Room helps us understand the urgent need to take control of TV’s impact on our children and ourselves – and provides us with the tools to do it. 

 

Inger Stole, Advertising on Trial:  Consumer Activism and Corporate Public Relations in the 1930’s.

Advertising on Trial tells the forgotten story of the confrontation between Depression-era consumer rights groups and advertisers.  Met with fierce political opposition from organized consumer movements when it emerged, modern advertising was viewed as propaganda that undermined the ability of consumers to live in a healthy civic environment.  Stole examines how these consumer activists sought to limit the influence of corporate powers by rallying popular support to moderate and transform advertising.  Drawing on a wider range of archival sources, this riveting account offers many important lessons for those who wish to limit advertising’s influence today.

Things We Wish We Didn’t Know

Northwest Airlines has begun including Baby Einstein videos on many of their flights.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two.

In Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a new videogame in stores this holiday season, players are rewarded for killing or converting non-Christians.

McDonald's new PR effort involves replacing their in-house playgrounds with exercise gyms for kids—and, unfortunately, it seems to be working on some parents. "Normally, we don't give her junk food,” said one California mother who normally “steers clear” of the chain, “but I figure she could come here and work off her meals."  It would take a child about two hours of vigorous exercise on a stationary bike to work off a typical happy meal.  

Editorial: Marketers ≠ Pediatricians

By Susan Linn, Ed.D.

 

The American Academy of Pediatric’s recent policy statement on children and advertising drew expected ire from the marketing industry.  While I wish that the statement had been stronger, taken together the AAP’s recommendations would go a long way toward limiting advertising and marketing in the lives children.   

 

Perhaps the most bizarre and troubling response came from Dick O’Brien, of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.  He was quoted in Advertising Age as saying, “It’s as dangerous for pediatricians to make recommendations about advertising as for me to write a prescription for a child’s ear infection.”  

 

“Dangerous to whom?” I wonder.  Clearly, examining the impact of societal influences on children’s health is within the purview of pediatrics.  On the other hand, it is dangerous for corporations to have responsibility for children’s health, since they are legally bound to place shareholder profits above all other considerations.

 

It would be easy to dismiss Mr. O’Brien’s analogy as too ridiculous to bother about.  But it is emblematic of the societal tendency to blur what ought to be obvious and needs to be preserved—the essential differences between the marketplace and public health.  There are obvious benefits to corporations if these lines are fudged.   In this instance, it’s great PR for ad executives to equate themselves with pediatricians, psychologists or other health professionals who are bound—at least by their codes of ethics—to have human welfare at the center of their mission.  But when companies blur public perception of the boundaries between public health and corporate well-being, children are harmed.  It becomes more difficult for us to know when their needs are being subordinated to the bottom line.

 

Confounding the distorted view that marketing and medicine are the same is the culpability of the “helping professions” themselves.  Psychologists and pediatricians on a corporate payroll compromise their objectivity and the integrity of their professions when they extol the virtues of that company's products without disclosing their financial ties.

 

As the movement to stop the commercial exploitation of children continues to grow, we can expect more of this kind of spin from the advertising industry.  We hope you’ll join us this year in challenging the notion that corporate America knows what’s best for children and reminding people that the public health community, commercial media companies, and marketers do not all have the same priorities. 

 

Support CCFC

Your tax-deductible contribution will help us:

  • Raise public awareness about how marketing harms children

  • Advocate for policies that will help protect children from corporate marketers.

  • Build a coalition of individuals and organizations that value children more than corporate profits.

All contributions of $100 between now and January 1 will be matched by an anonymous donor!

Click here to donate today!

 

 

 

 Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Lesley University

 

 

 

Raffi delights the crowd.

 

     

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