McDonald's under fire for kids' TV tie-up

LONDON - McDonald's has signed a controversial deal to sponsor the ITV weekend children's programming strand, prompting one Labour MP to call for fast-food TV tie-ups to be banned.

McDonald's is spending an estimated £1m to back GMTV kids' programming strand 'Diggit', which covers all ITV's weekend programming from 7.10am to 9.25am.

The core audience is three-to eight-year-olds. McDonald's' ad agency Leo Burnett is creating sponsorship idents that combine cartoon characters the Happy Hyenas with the McDonald's logo.

The sponsorship has infuriated Stourbridge MP Debra Shipley, who is lobbying the Independent Television Commission (ITC) to clamp down on what she describes as the "saturation" of kids' television with fast-food and toy brands.

Industry sources suggest McDonald's is negotiating to sponsor additional children's TV programmes.

Shipley is one of a 100-strong group of MPs who believe the trend is creating unhealthy eating habits among children and the unacceptable pestering of parents.

In an exclusive interview with Marketing, Shipley accused broadcasting minister Kim Howells of "an abdication of responsibility" over the government's failure to introduce a ban on ads during children's television. An Early Day Motion tabled by Shipley in March was backed by 118 MPs.

Despite a pledge by culture secretary Tessa Jowell to raise MPs' concerns with the ITC, Shipley said she was furious because a reply from Howells showed that the government "was not taking the issue seriously".

A spokeswoman for McDonald's said it "fully embraced the need for responsible marketing to children".

Separately, Media Smart, the industry-wide initiative to educate young people about the use of ads, is delaying its launch by four months. Kellogg, Mattel, Hasbro and Masterfoods are the only advertisers to sign up to date.

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