Doctors want junk food firms to pay for public health campaigning

LONDON - Doctors are calling for a 'fairness doctrine' in television advertising whereby junk food firms are forced to pay for public health messages.

Delegates to the British Medical Association's public health medicine and community health annual conference backed the motion put forward by alcohol addiction and research council chairman Dr Noel Olsen.

As part of the proposal, delegates said they wanted to see these public health messages being given equal space to junk food advertising.

"Under the polluter-must-pay principle, we say that there should be equal access to advertising time and media coverage where there is clear evidence of damage to health," Dr Olsen said.

Dr Olsen said of particular concern was advertising for alcohol, fatty foods and products aimed at children, such as crisps and biscuits.

He added that the "fairness doctrine" could be a suitable "halfway house" measure, although he preferred a total ban on advertising of unhealthy products.

Dr Olsen's suggestion is just the latest in the medical community's battle with the marketing of unhealthy food. However, culture secretary Tessa Jowell has indicated that a ban on junk food advertising during children's programming is unlikely.

In March, she said such a ban would have little impact on the health of children and would seriously dent the finances of commercial broadcasters. 

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