WELLINGTON: New Zealand television channels have accelerated self-regulation of 'junk' food advertising in tandem with manufacturers as they attempt to head-off legislation aimed at reducing child obesity.

The Television Broadcasters Council has unveiled details of new restrictions that will come into effect from July 1.

Commercials for unhealthy food and drinks will be banned during TV 'zones' for children aged between five and 13, currently defined by broadcasters as: 
TV2, Monday-Friday 7-8.35am, 3.30-5pm, Saturday 7-10am. TV3 Monday-Friday 3-4.30pm, Saturday 7-9am. Maori Television Monday-Friday 4.30-6pm, Saturday 5-6pm.

The judgement about what constitutes a junk food and whether a commercial for such products can be aired during the kids' zones will be made by the Television Commercial Approvals Bureau or a nutrition consultant.

Health lobbyists, however, are unconvinced by self-regulation, arguing that many children watch TV beyond the specified hours and that restrictions should go much further.

Says Obesity Action Coalition director Leigh Sturgiss: "Over 30% of children are still watching TV at 8.30 at night ... Kids' favourite TV shows are The Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants, Shortland Street and Home and Away. Only Spongebob Squarepants is shown during the recognised children's viewing time."

TV bosses have already warned the government that the proposed Public Health Bill to ban all junk food ads would cost around NZ$36 million ($27.6m; €17.8m; £14.1m) in lost revenues.

Data sourced from nzherald.co.nz; additional content by WARC staff