Ofcom rubberstamps ban on HFSS TV ads

Ofcom has rubberstamped a decision to ban TV advertising of all food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) in and around all programmes that appeal to children under 16. However, it says scheduling restrictions will be phased in for all channels.

It published the proposals in November, but launched a second consultation because the original proposals only suggested banning ads targeting under nine-year-olds. Chief executive Ed Richards said that “significant but proportionate” measures should be introduced to protect children under 16.

However, the proposals were roundly criticised by broadcasters, who argue the ban is excessive, and health groups, who had lobbied for a ban on all food advertising aimed at children before the 9pm watershed.

The rules affect all children’s programmes and those “of particular appeal” to children and will hit channels such as MTV and soaps including Hollyoaks, which would not have been affected by an under nine-year-olds ban.

A statement issued today (Thursday) reads: “Ofcom has considered all responses to this consultation carefully. After a detailed analysis of the evidence, including a full impact assessment, Ofcom has concluded it is appropriate and necessary to adopt restrictions intended to reduce significantly the exposure of children under 16 to HFSS advertising.”

From April, HFSS ads will not be permitted in or around programmes made for children (including pre-school), or in or around programmes that are likely to be of particular appeal to children aged between four and nine. The age will be raised to children aged up to 15 from January next year.

Children’s channels will be allowed a graduated phase-in period up to the end of December 2008.

Ofcom calculated in November that the impact on total broadcast revenues would be up to £39m a year.

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