Junk food ads beat Ofcom ban

TV ads for “junk food” products are still being shown during programmes most watched by children, according to consumer watchdog Which?. It claims research shows that current ad restrictions do not cover the top five shows with the most child viewers.

The research, released today (September 19), says that shows such as Beat the Star and Emmerdale are not covered by the ad ban, which was introduced in January.

Under the rules, introduced by broadcast regulator Ofcom, foods that are deemed “less healthy” by the Food Standards Agency’s Nutrient Profiling criteria, are not allowed to advertised around shows that appeal to kids under 16 years old. A show is considered to appeal to children if the number of under 16 year olds watching is higher than 20%.

Which? carried out its research over a two-week period and found that ads for products such as Coca-Cola, Oreos and Coco Pop were shown during programmes that fell outside of the ad ban.

Which? food campaigner Clare Corbett says: “They ad restrictions may look good on paper but the reality is that the programmes most popular with children are slipping through the net. If these rules are going to be effective, then they have to apply to the programmes that children watch in the greatest number.”

Corbett adds that the watchdog is not “anti-advertising” but is “against the fact that most of the ads children see are for unhealthy products”.

Advertising Association chief executive Baroness Peta Buscombe has hit back
at the “sensationalist” report, saying it “misses the point”. She adds
that its claims are “weaker” than those the consumer watchdog has made
before.

She says: “I am afraid the report released by Which? is sensationalist,
unconstructive and misses the point. It is very similar – indeed weaker –
to claims that they have previously made.” She says their list includes
programmes not aimed at children and films screened after 10pm.

“Which? appears to want to unfairly restrict the ability of companies to
deliver commercial messages.”

Ofcom is currently reviewing the restrictions and is expected to report later this year.

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