Advertising to children under threat

Ad industry under siege as religious and political groups unite in call for total ban.

A campaign to ban all forms of advertising aimed at the under-12s is to be launched by Labour Party activists, religious and pressure groups.

The call to protect young people from advertising goes much wider than the demands for junk-food TV commercials to be outlawed before the 9pm watershed.

The growing political pressure for a clampdown was highlighted when Tony Blair won strong applause from the Labour Party conference on Tuesday for saying: "Ten years ago ... I would have baulked at restrictions on advertising junk food to children. Today, I say unless a voluntary code works, we will legislate for it."

Compass, a left-of-centre pressure group chaired by Neal Lawson, a former aide to Gordon Brown, will launch the campaign in November to coincide with the pre-Christmas advertising blitz.

It will call for a ban that would extend from television to pop-ups on the internet. It is expected to form a powerful coalition, which includes the Church of England and organisations representing parents and children.

One proposal is for Britain to implement a law similar to Sweden's 1995 Marketing Act, which prohibits commercials designed to attract the attention of children under the age of 12.

In a report this week, Compass said: "Children are subjected to very powerful marketing forces, which impact upon their desires and their values.

"The targeting of children by companies is now a major concern to the great majority of parents. Children need to be protected from the full force of marketisation until they are fully able to understand that they are being marketed to."

Comment, page 52.

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