Purnell plays down threat of watershed ban on ads

The Minister for Culture, James Purnell, appears to have ruled out a 9pm watershed on food and alcohol advertising on television in favour of focusing on “personal responsibility”.

In an interview with a news channel, Purnell said that he needs to look at the Ofcom review of the impact of the new rules on the ban on advertising of “junk food” to children before he can talk about any further restrictions.

Ofcom introduced a ban on the advertising of foods high in fat, sugar and salt during programmes specifically targeted at, or likely to appeal to, children up to 16 years old in two stages, in April 2007 and from 1 January 2008.

A DCMS spokeswoman adds: “We must have a proper opportunity to assess the impact of these rules, which are among the toughest in the world, before considering whether further restrictions on TV are justified.”

Labour MP Nigel Griffiths has meanwhile tabled a private members bill in December calling for a 9pm watershed and other restrictions on non-broadcast advertising. The Promotion of Food to Children Bill received pledges of support from some of the UK’s most influential health and consumer organisations, including the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the National Consumer Council, Which? and Sustain.

A pre-9pm ban on junk food advertising has also been supported by the Food Standards Agency, and Gordon Brown has talked of the need to curb the promotion of “inappropriate foods”.

The DCMS spokesperson adds: “Any further regulatory action needs to be proportionate in terms of effectiveness and should take account of the overall impact on the broadcasting sector.”

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