All TV advertising for fast food and drink products aimed at children in the Irish Republic is to be required to carry an on-screen warning, in response to concerns about obesity.
The restriction is a key element of a new children’s advertising code agreed by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, following consultations with interested groups, including the food sector, the advertising industry and broadcasters.
The code, the first statutory regulation in the area, will be published in October, but implementation has been delayed until January 1 as a result of representations from those affected that they need time to adjust advertising plans and budgets.
Despite lobby group pressure, the Broadcasting Commission has refused to place a ban on the advertising of particular products during the showing of children’s programmes. Instead, it stipulates that fast food advertising must carry an on-screen message that such food should be eaten in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. A similar warning, rather than a toothbrush symbol, must be used when advertising food and drink with a high sugar content.
The code also prohibits the use of celebrities, sports stars and TV characters in advertising food and drink products during kids’ programmes. But, in response to concerns voiced by advertisers, the Commission stresses promotions such as the Gary Lineker Walker crisps ads, for instance, are not outlawed and can be freely screened outside kids’ viewing hours.
Critics claim a major weakness in the code is that it can be applied only to broadcasters within Irish jurisdiction, which could mean advertisers switch spending from local stations like RTE and TV3 to Sky, Channel 4 and MTV. RTE said the code could cost it E3m a year in lost revenue.