LONDON: Plans to ban TV ads touting junk food prior to the so-called 'watershed' hour of 9pm (when younger children are presumed to no longer be watching) have been dropped by the UK government.
A sustained barrage of lobbying by the TV, food and advertising industries carried the day despite powerful voices in support of a ban – among them the Department of Health, child welfare organisations and medical practitioners.
Pivotal in tilting the balance is said to be James Purnell, a former Blair groupie and policy wonk, now secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport
The ban was also opposed by the communications watchdog Ofcom, whose key executives hold their positions courtesy of a governmental nod – and are overseen by Purnell's department.
Ofcom has publicly stated that a pre-9pm ban would have a "disproportionate" effect on commercial TV companies, depriving them of up to £211 million ($412.06m; €281.93m) annually in ad revenues.
Says Richard Watts, coordinator of the Children'sFood Campaign, with a note of bitterness: "It sounds as if the advertising and food industries owe the Department for Culture Media and Sport a large pat on the back."
In place of the feared embargo is a new plan – Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives – a title more suggestive of the Atkins Diet than a state initiative.
It will be unveiled today (Wednesday) by health secretary Alan Johnson and the public health minister, Dawn Primarolo.
Data sourced from MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff