Junk Food Ad Rules ‘Flawed’

Some of the TV shows most popular with children will not be covered by proposed new advertising restrictions, a consumer group has said. Rules developed to curb the impact of junk food commercials on under-16s are “completely flawed”, according to Which?

They would ban adverts for food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) from all TV shows targeted at under-16s and some adult programmes of “particular appeal” to that age group.

Ofcom is consulting on the measures until December 28 and will announce its decision on the issue in the New Year. But Which? has criticised the criteria for assessing which shows were of “particular appeal” to children. The communications regulator Ofcom looks at the ratio of children to adult viewers per show rather than the actual number of under-16s watching.

Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Coronation Street, Emmerdale, The X Factor, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Heartbeat and The Bill would all be excluded from the restrictions, Which? said.

The consumer group is lobbying for a total ban on all adverts for HFSS products before 9pm. But advertisers, TV channels and children’s programme makers fear that even the current proposals will slash their revenues.

Which? chief policy adviser Sue Davies said: “While Ofcom has recognised that its objective should be to protect children under 16, its proposed approach is completely flawed. Producers of foods high in fat, sugar and salt will still be free to advertise their products during the programmes most children are watching.”

The Which? findings are based on a snap-shot of ITV1 viewing figures during a fortnight in October. It found that many children aged four to 16 years were watching television in the evenings rather than specific children’s shows.