Friday, November 24, 2006

The ban has landed

So, Ofcom have finally made their decision on advertising junk food to children. You might remember we were discussing earlier this month the problem of childhood obesity and the proposed changes in advertising such foods to children being considered by the regulator. At that time it was believed that Ofcom would bring in a ban for junk food to be advertised to the under-fives and would place timing restrictions on all food high in fat, salt and sugar. Announcing their recommendations last Friday, November 17th, Ofcom went even further.

Not only is the advertising of junk food within dedicated children’s programming being banned, but also advertising on any show with a high proportion of under-16s in their audience. Ofcom did however reject calls from health food lobbies to put a 9pm watershed in place. It is estimated that £39 million per year of ad revenues will be lost, and even then, many believe this figure to be very conservative.

Apart from dedicated children’s programmes, shows that may be affected by the ban include TV favourites such as the X Factor, Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, family movies, The Simpsons, Hollyoaks, Friends, early showings of Big Brother, Pop World, Make me a Supermodel and Pimp my Ride, to name a few. And, on Sky One, Domino’s have already had to pull out of their sponsorship of The Simpsons on the channel.

The new rules come into place in January, although dedicated children’s television channels will be given until the end of 2008 to phase in the restrictions. In some cases, the ban could wipe out up to 10% of some children’s channels revenue and there is a worry that the long-term future of UK-produced children’s programming outside of the BBC could suffer badly as a result. There is also concern that advertising will simply move to different media, such as children’s magazines, outdoor media and the Internet. In fact, it is estimated that £10-15 million of the revenue lost to TV could go online.

The big bad admen have therefore been defeated and children will no longer be brainwashed into buying all the junk food on the market. Hmmm…

Will the ban really tackle childhood obesity significantly? This is ultimately the most important question. It could be the case that all it does is take money away from programming and we will continue to see child obesity rates rise. Then who will parents have to blame?



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