Ofcom Opens Door to UK Ad Ban Debate

23 June 2006

UK health campaigners have called off their legal pursuit of media regulator Ofcom after it agreed to invite consultation on a blanket pre-9pm television ban on 'junk' food advertising.

The lobbyists, led by the British Heart Forum, had been demanding a judicial review after they claimed the watchdog had caved into TV industry pressure because of the potential loss of advertising revenue.

It has been estimated TV channels would be out of pocket by as much as £240 million ($44m; €349m) a year if rules outlawing the advertising of unhealthy food pre-9pm were introduced [WAMN: 15-Jun-06].

Ofcom, however, insists a pre-9pm ban was always an option despite calling it a "disproportionate" response to the problem of childhood obesity.

The regulator will now will send out a supplemental consultation document that sets out the costs and benefits of a 9pm watershed and will make clear to those companies and individuals that have already responded to its proposals [WAMN: 29-Mar-06] that they can make a revised response.

Comments NHF deputy ceo Jane Landon: "We are happy that Ofcom has made these significant concessions. It remains to be seen when the final proposals are published, whether the concessions squeezed out of Ofcom by our legal challenge amount to a genuine willingness to consider the 9pm option."

She adds: "If not, we do not discount the possibility of a future action being necessary."

Data sourced from mad.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff