A high level conference of eurocrats, consumer groups, children’s societies and communications professionals yesterday fended-off a Swedish-backed drive to ban advertising to children across the European Union.

Sweden has already imposed a national ban on advertising to children and the extension of this across the EU is prominent on the agenda for its upcoming presidency of the Union.

The threat was parried – temporarily at least – by Jean-Eric de Cockborn, the EU’s head of policy. Delegates endorsed his argument that the burden of proof must lie with those individuals or bodies seeking advertising bans or restrictions; they would have to demonstrate the need for a ban and justify this before action is taken, he said.

According to the Swedes, children under twelve are unable to differentiate between TV commercials and programming, one speaker even grouping advertising alongside violence and pornography as a “dangerous social evil”.

Delegates from other nations disagreed: the existing regulatory structure is effective, they insisted. They also argued that ad revenues are essential to improving children's programming.

One delegate, Andrew Brown, director-general of Britain’s Advertising Association described the debate as a “ding dong”, adding, "there was a furious exchange of views; it was an emotional start." Rejecting the case for a ban, Brown insisted: "Children cannot be isolated from the commercial world."

News Source: CampaignLive (UK)