Threatened with the likelihood of a legally imposed ban on the advertising of junk foods and beverages to children, Britain's advertisers and agencies have countered with a voluntary package: The Better Balance.

Backed by the Advertising Association and its associated Food Advertising Unit, the counter-proposal submitted to media regulator Ofcom prohibits the advertising of branded food and drink products during terrestrial TV programming specifically directed at children.

On dedicated children's channels, food and drink ads would be limited to 30 seconds per hour all day, and a similar restriction placed on breakfast channel GMTV during kids' programming on weekend mornings.

Moreover, cartoon characters and celebrity pop bands, movie characters and collectible gifts will all be excluded from ads directly targeting children.

The AA's initiative is also supported by the Food and Drink Federation, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising -representing advertising, media and marketing communications agencies.

Says AA director general Andrew Brown: "We are committed to playing our part in tackling childhood obesity and we accept the need for new restrictions on food advertising to children."

However, the industry's proposal moots no restriction on child-targeted ads in programmes that - while not specifically directed at children - are aired at times when large numbers of juveniles are known to be glued to TV sets.

Ofcom is also considering a raft of demands from politicians, health professionals and consumer groups to introduce a draconian blanket ban on all junk food ads prior to the so-called 'watershed' at 9pm - after which hour children apparently no longer watch TV.

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