It’s all very well restricting adverts for unhealthy foods during children’s TV, but what about the shows watched by families that don’t fall under that category? It’s time the rules caught up with our viewing habits.
Research published last week from the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) showed that children are still bombarded with adverts for foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) when they are watching TV.
Prime time to target children
Despite rules that were introduced in 2007 that restrict HFSS foods being advertised during children’s programmes, the research showed that only 27% of the programmes children watch are covered by these restrictions. Nearly half (49%) of their viewing is when the restrictions don’t apply during ‘family viewing’ hours.
The current rules are based on the proportion of children watching, which means that some programmes such as reality talent shows, Hollyoaks, Ninja Warrior and The Simpsons, that children watch in large numbers, but which adults also watch, are not covered by the advertising restrictions.
This doesn’t make sense – it’s estimated that during one week in February 2017, The Voice was watched by 918,000 children whereas Ben and Holly (which falls under the restrictions) was watched by 195,000.
Close the advertising loopholes
Which? has supported restrictions on HFSS advertising to children, but we feel that they don’t go far enough. We would like to see advertisements for unhealthy foods that appear in programmes that receive a large audience of children covered by advertising rules.
We also want the rules to take into account the changes in the way that children now watch TV, by including catch-up and on-demand streaming services.
While the recent tightening of non-broadcast media rules was welcome, there are also still ways that children are exposed to advertising of unhealthy foods that haven’t been tackled, for example on packaging and sponsorship. And even when they are covered, there are gaps such as cartoon characters invented by food companies.
These loopholes need to be dealt with as research shows a clear link between the food and drink adverts children see and the food they choose and how much they consume. This is especially important as now more than a third of children in England leave primary school overweight or obese.
Have you noticed these adverts appearing at times when you are watching family shows with your children? If so, do you agree that wider rules need to be applied across different TV slots?