If the prospective ban on junk food ads during children's TV shows [WAMN: 23-May-06] is implemented, the UK's largest commercial broadcaster ITV would cease to commission its own programming and instead buy-in readymade material from other sources.

That threat was levelled by ITV director of regulatory affairs Christy Swords during last week's Westminster Diet and Health Forum Consultation Seminar on food promotion to children.

Said Swords: "ITV spends £25 million ($47.0m; €36.4m) per year on producing children's television programmes rather than acquiring shows from other networks. Ad revenue is vital for the funding of these productions and a pre-watershed [before 9pm] ban on all food advertising would result in ITV no longer being able to sustain the production of these shows."

He argued that the problem of child obesity cannot be laid solely at the door of TV food advertising. The key issue, he said, "is that regulation must be proportionate and targeted".

Swords pointed out that not only children watch TV before 9pm, and a ban prior to that hour would also impact on food manufacturers' reach to adults.

Another speaker, Richard North, media fellow at right-wing think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, argued that imposing a ban on food advertising would be counterproductive as it is parents that should take responsibility for children's eating habits.

The Westminster seminar was one of many lobbying and discussion events taking place during the run-up to June 30 - the date on which UK media regulation Ofcom will end its period of consultation on child-targeted TV advertising.

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