Proposed changes to television advertising of food and drink products to children

Ofcom is has recently been reviewing policy on the advertising of HFSS products (high in fat, salt or sugar) on television in an attempt to reduce the over consumption of these products by people in general and children in particular. This work has been undertaken against a background of public health concerns about rising childhood obesity due to dietary imbalance.

Proposals Ofcom is today setting out four alternative proposals for new restrictions:

OPTION 1: Timing restrictions on specific food and drink products

  • No HFSS product advertising to be shown in programmes specifically made for children;
  • No HFSS product advertising to be shown in programmes of particular appeal to children up to 9 years old;
  • No sponsorship by HFSS products of programmes affected by the above restrictions;
  • BCAP’s rules will be applied to food and drink advertising and sponsorship.

OPTION 2: Timing restrictions on all food and drink advertising

  • No food or drink advertising to be shown in programmes specifically made for children;
  • No food or drink advertising to be shown in programmes of particular appeal to children up to 9 years old;
  • No sponsorship by food or drink products of programmes affected by the above restrictions;
  • The above restrictions do not apply to healthy eating campaigns supported or endorsed by the Government;
  • BCAP’s rules will be applied to food and drink advertising and sponsorship.

OPTION 3: Volume based restrictions on all food and drink products


No food or drink advertising at all to be shown in programmes made for pre-school children.
A limit to the amount of food and drink advertising when children are most likely to be watching. This could be:

  • A limit of 30 seconds per hour between 6am and 9am and between 3pm and 6pm on week days, as well as 6am to 1pm at the weekend.
  • A limit of 60 seconds per hour during family viewing times – between 6pm and 8pm on week days and between 1pm and 8pm at the weekend; and
  • A limit of 30 seconds per hour throughout the day for children’s channels – except pre-school channels, which would carry no food or drink advertising at all.

For context, cable and satellite broadcasters are allowed to show an average of nine minutes of advertising per hour; terrestrial broadcasters can show an average of seven minutes per hour, rising to eight minutes at peak times (7am to 9am and 6pm to 11pm). These proposals would therefore restrict the advertising of food and drink products to a small minority (between 7 and 12%) of all available advertising airtime.
BCAP’s rules will be applied to food and drink advertising and sponsorship.

OPTION 4: an invitation to propose a workable and effective option, combining some or all of the above and/or new elements, which commands industry support

With this last option Ofcom is making an open invitation to all parties to put forward an alternative common position, if one can be identified, through the consultation process.

This fourth option could draw from – or combine – some or all of the measures in the three options. Alternatively, it could be a completely new proposal. However, Ofcom will only consider proposals which both command broad support across broadcasters, advertisers, retailers and manufacturers and which also demonstrate a realistic prospect of contributing positively and significantly to the social policy aim of altering children’s preferences towards – and actual consumption of – HFSS products.

Ofcom Chief Executive Stephen Carter said: “Proposals to increase regulation in open and competitive markets should always be subject to rigorous scrutiny.”

He added: “With childhood obesity, the case for targeted action has been made; but which action – and how this should be implemented – is the focus for this final stage of consultation.” ” – Source – Ofcom website, 14/08/2006, see main link.

The consultation closed on 6 June 2006.

More like this in the Diet and Nutrition section

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