Junk Food Ad Ban Would Lop £140.8m from UK TV Revenues

15 June 2006

UK media regulator Ofcom estimates that commercial TV companies could lose up to £140.8 million ($259m; €206m) in ad revenues if the government proceeds with plans to ban child-targeted TV food and soft drink ads before the 9pm 'watershed'.

The watchdog is charged, both by the UK secretary of state for culture, media and sport and the Department of Health, to propose methods by which children are properly protected from advertisers' urgings to consume foods with high fat, salt and sugar content.

The brief not only includes during child-specific programming but also other TV timeslots when large numbers of children are watching, such as breakfast and early evenings.

In an interim report, Ofcom estimates that the biggest loser among the terrestrial channels would be breakfast-time franchise GMTV with 6.7% of revenue at risk. At the other end of the risk scale with a projected revenue loss of 0.2% is Welsh-language channel S4C.

The main commercial terrestrial TV channels would see an estimated average advertising revenue reduction of 3.9% - equivalent to £113.8m collectively .

When satellite channels are included in the equation, total revenue loss rises to £140.8m - less than one quarter of one per cent of the industry's aggregated annual advertising income of £5.6 billion.

Ofcom - not noted for its hostile approach to commercial interests - believes some action is required to curtail advertisers' influence over children's eating and drinking habits.

Says the report: "Action against advertising junk food to children is appropriate and necessary against a background of public health concerns over rising childhood obesity due to the over-consumption of unhealthy foods."

The period of public and industry consultation closes at the end of this month, after which a government decision concerning a pre-watershed junk food ban is expected within weeks.

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