It seems as though the regulations surrounding advertising junk food are about to be tightened further. Yesterday adverts for junk food were banned during programmes aimed at 16-year-olds and under.
But Netmums reckon this isn’t enough — they want such adverts to be banned until after 9pm! That’s right. Tomato ketchup is on an equal footing with blood and guts. Baps with burgers in them are now as offensive as bare baps.
An incredible fact appears in the Telegraph article as well. If breast milk were to be advertised, it would also be classed as junk food. These new regulations are not intended to do any real good at all. They are just designed to placate the authoritarian parents who think the answer to the world’s ills is more government legislation.
This ban will be completely counter-productive. It is against the interests of children. It is estimated that children’s channels could lose as much as 15% of their revenue as a result. Children’s programming has already seen an appreciable decline in quality. Terrestrial channels have begun to shunt off their children’s programming to various graveyard slots like 5am, to begrudgingly meet the quota.
The new advertising restrictions will accelerate this trend. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some children’s channels begin to go out of business. No doubt Netmums would then be complaining about the lack of decent children’s programming, but it would be partly their fault.
I don’t doubt that junk food is a problem. But is it caused by advertising? Surely only tangentially.
I have always been sceptical about the power of advertising. I spent a huge chunk of my childhood obsessively watching Formula 1 and I never became a smoker or a problem drinker. I’m sure advertising works — otherwise firms wouldn’t do it. But surely it is more about brand recognition than forming habits.
The real cause of the junk food problem is right under parents’ noses — but they can’t bear to accept it. If parents are worried about junk food, there is a simple solution that they can all apply. Don’t feed your children junk food.
It shouldn’t be difficult. If you are too weak-willed say “no” to your child’s requests for junk food, you are not doing your job as a parent.
The Netmums campaign is symptomatic of a wider problem with society. There is not a hint of Netmums suggesting that parents take personal responsibility for the upbringing of their children. Instead, they lobby the government to ensure that their preferred solutions are imposed on everyone — regardless of anyone else’s views on the matter.
The approach is summed up by a quote on the Netmums website.
The amount of ‘junk’ food advertising aimed specifically at children (especially during children’s programmes) is of particular concern to me. This advertising does work (with brand recognition), as my children ask me to buy the foods they have seen advertised.
Oh, and I take it you said no to your children? If not, then take some responsibility and do your job as a parent. If so, then congratulations! You have solved the problem yourself — without having to resort to yet more needless and counter-productive government legislation.
I would like to see a total ban on highly processed foods being promoted to young children (in shops and in the media) and instead see healthy foods advertised (fruit, vegetables, wholemeal bread etc.) using the same type of well-known characters, catchy jingles etc.
So not only does this person want to force junk food manufacturers to stop promoting their products (even in shops!), she also wants to force healthy food companies to advertise!
Nice try getting that to work, but some economic realities are working against you there. If fruit companies found it beneficial to advertise with catchy jingles, they would be doing it already. Perhaps if it is such a great — and financially viable — idea, then Netmums could buy the slots and advertise healthy foods themselves.
The reality? The junk food ban means that children’s television channels are now courting car manufacturers to fill the rather hefty gap (ahem) left by the junk food companies.
As Robert Sharp suggests though, developments in the future (and even in the present) will be even more sinister. Companies will start to resort to more subliminal (and therefore harder to police) forms of advertising such as product placement. And junk food manufacturers are now diverting their substantial advertising budgets (which won’t disappear just because Netmums would like them to) to the increasingly popular children’s websites.