Brown backs curbs on ads to children

Gordon Brown, the clear frontrunner to succeed Tony Blair as the prime minister, has backed calls for controls on "aggressive" advertising aimed at children.

The Chancellor promised "practical proposals" to help today's children through the "pressure culture" of the multimedia age in which they live.

His intervention in the debate over advertising follows a campaign for children to be protected from commercial influences, led by Compass, a left-wing group chaired by Neal Lawson, a former aide to Brown, and backed by church leaders and pressure groups.

Speaking to parents in London, Brown said: "The commercialisation of childhood, matched by advances in technology, has expanded so that children's food, clothes, entertainment and toys and games are billion-pound industries, with huge advertising budgets that are powerful influences on children. This has increasingly exposed children to the pressures of very aggressive advertising. But most worrying, it has exposed children to images that sensationalise violence, drugs and sex."

Brown also revealed that Ofcom would be promoting common labelling standards to offer information on the type of content on TV, radio, video games, the internet and in the cinema.

"Parents are under pressure as children are influenced by multimedia sources and from more aggressive commercial advertising," he said, "which compounds the usual problems of peer pressure."

- Comment, page 40.