Advertisers' Last Stand Over UK Junk Food Ad Curbs

30 June 2006

Having read the writing on the wall, UK advertisers are today mustering for one last stand against a proposed pre-9pm ban on all TV advertising for food and beverage products with high levels of salt, sugar or fat.

Ofcom, the nation's media regulator, is mulling such a prohibition prior to the 9pm 'watershed' - after which hour there is a [dubious] presumption that few children are watching TV.

Opposing these across-the-board restrictions are the Advertising Association and the Food & Drink Federation, both of whom will today jointly submit an alternative proposal to the media watchdog

This posits a ban on such advertising - but limited to key times when child viewing is at its highest: weekdays between 4pm and 6pm plus Saturday mornings across mainstream channels including ITV1, Channel 4, Five and Sky One.

The industry's counter-proposals also veto ads for food and drink products during programmes at other times if they are of particular appeal to children below the age of nine. Also prohibited would be sponsorship of these programmes by certain food products.

The AA and FDF initiative reportedly has the backing of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising - the official body representing British advertising, media and marketing communications agencies - and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers.

It has been estimated [by Ofcom] that a total ban on pre-watershed food and drink advertising would cost the industry £140.8 million ($259m; €206m) annually - less than one quarter of one per cent of its aggregated annual advertising income of £5.6 billion.

The trade bodies' proposition will arrive on Ofcom's desk at the eleventh hour. The consultation deadline is at close of business today (Friday).

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff