Ofcom says public supports food and drink ad ban for under fives

The public does not support a total ban on advertising junk food to children but believes there should be some restrictions, according to new research from Ofcom.

The media regulator commissioned Opinion Leader Research to undertake an investigation into views on television advertising to children for food and drink products, comprising a series of workshops with adults, youngsters aged 12 to 15, and children aged 8 to 11.

The groups seem to agree with Ofcom that a total ban on ads before 9pm would have a disproportionate effect on the media industry, compared to the likely impact on childhood obesity. But respondents do support a ban on such ads aimed at children aged under five.

Public consultation began in March, with Ofcom developing three potential packages for regulating food and drink advertising to children.

Remedies included the introduction of timing restrictions only on foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar, timing restrictions on all food and drink products, or volume-based restrictions.

While the first option proved the most popular alternative among consumers, it was not viewed as a total solution as it still allows ads to run at peak viewing times for children.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) says the report shows consumers share its concerns over the implementation of a pre-9pm watershed ban. “Even though radical consumer groups have campaigned hard on this, it’s clearly not what they want,” says Julian Hunt, director of communications at the FDF.

The Advertising Association (AA) agrees the research confirms there is little support for a pre-watershed ban on TV ads for food and soft drink high in fat, sugar or salt, arguing that a more “moderate” approach should be adopted.

“The research also demonstrates the concerns of parents that celebrities, cartoon characters and promotional offers should not feature in food and soft drink advertisements targeted at young children at any time,” states Sue Eustace, director of public affairs at the AA.

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