UK regulator institutes total ban on junk food ads around kids shows

MUMBAI : Indian broadcasters riled that India is moving too fast from “unregulated to over-regulated”, might consider trying to digest this piece of news. UK’s broadcast regulator Ofcom has announced a total ban on junk food and drink advertisements in and around all programmes of particular appeal to children under 16, broadcast at any time of day or night on any channel.

The “significant restrictions” Ofcom is planning to introduce in Britain is intended to limit children’s exposure to television advertising of food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar.

The new rules would come into effect from the end of March 2007. Restrictions would be phased in over 24 months to the end of 2008. Ofcom will review the effectiveness and scope of new restrictions in autumn 2008.

In addition to general content rules requiring responsible advertising to all children at all times, Ofcom has also put forward new rules on the content of advertisements targeted at primary school children. These rules would ban the use of celebrities and characters licensed from third-parties (such as cartoons), promotional claims (such as free gifts) and health or nutrition claims.

All restrictions on product advertising will apply equally to product sponsorship.

The restrictions would apply to all broadcasters licensed by Ofcom and based in the UK, including international broadcasters transmitting from the UK to audiences overseas.

Ofcom has estimated that the impact on total broadcast revenues would be up to £39m per year, falling to around £23m as broadcasters mitigate revenue loss over time. The commercial public service broadcasters (ITV plc, GMTV, Channel 4, and five) could lose up to 0.7% of their total revenues. Children’s and youth-oriented cable and satellite channels could lose up to 8.8% of their total revenues; up to 15% of total revenues in the case of dedicated children’s channels.

While TV and advertising industries have called the new rules draconian, consumer groups have slammed Ofcom as having “caved in to the powerful food and advertising lobby” and not going far enough on the matter.

Sustain, an alliance of over 300 organizations in the UK that campaign for better food, have said a 9 pm watershed for junk food advertising was the "only way" to tackle childhood obesity.

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