UK Ad Interests Mull Legal Challenge to Junk Food TV Ban

18 January 2007

LONDON: ISBA (the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers) has served notice on communications regulator Ofcom that it is mulling a legal challenge to its planned ban on TV advertising for HFSS [High in Fats, Salt and Sugar] brands to children and teenagers.

Following a period of consultation - now ended - the TV regulator estimates the new restrictions will reduce annual TV revenues by £39 million ($76.46m; €59.19m) annually. Buyers, however, believe the eventual figure could be much higher.

ISBA on Wednesday declared it is "unable to accept that [the ban's] extension [from younger children] to the under-16s is justifiable in practice or defensible in law".

The statement continues: "The evidence collected and presented by Ofcom focused almost exclusively on young children and is not applicable to older children. There is a real prospect the proposed extension to cover under-16s would be found unlawful if challenged."

Nor is Ofcom's proposal to the liking of three major multinational junk food purveyors.

Complains McDonald's: "The proposed extension to cover young people aged under-16 goes well beyond Ofcom's regulatory objective of reducing significantly the exposure of younger children to HFSS advertising."

Coca-Cola is likewise miffed, accusing the regulator of ignoring existing efforts by advertisers to avoid advertising to younger children.

While Masterfoods condemns Ofcom's proposals as based on "supposition and anecdote".

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