£100m at risk after BMA food salvo

TV companies could lose up to £100 million a year if Britain's doctors succeed in their demand for an advertising ban on unhealthy foods before the 9pm watershed.

The call was made this week by the British Medical Association, which condemned the "bombardment" of children with ads for junk food.

Dr Peter Tiplady, the chairman of the BMA's public health committee, said he had contacted MPs "informally" and hoped a pre-9pm ban would become public policy. Such a move would particularly hit GMTV and children's channels such as The Cartoon Network, Fox Kids, Boomerang and Nickelodeon.

The Advertising Association's Food Advertising Unit, which is marshalling industry efforts to prevent a ban being imposed, said it would be making contact with the BMA about its initiative. Last month, a Commons health select committee inquiry into obesity stopped short of recommending a ban on TV food advertising to children.

Jeremy Preston, the FAU's director, said: "Every day, somebody expresses an opinion on the subject but this is the first time anybody has suggested a ban before the watershed. There's no evidence that it would work."

However, Tiplady insisted: "This is going to be a powerful message to the Government. Our voice will be listened to."

Meanwhile, some senior agency executives are said to be frustrated at what they see as the failure of the Food and Drink Federation to win the PR war following the report.

But Preston insisted this had not translated into a reluctance to fund the FAU.