Hancock move to health secretary raises industry hopes of softer food ad restrictions

Culture secretary Matt Hancock's move to head the Department of Health has raised hopes the government will be more receptive of industry concerns about restrictions on food advertising.

Matt Hancock: appointed health secretary on Monday
Matt Hancock: appointed health secretary on Monday

Three weeks ago the DoH, under then health secretary Jeremy Hunt, said the government would consult on introducing new TV and online advertising restrictions to prevent children from being targeted by foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). It said it would consider a 9pm watershed.

The consultation is likely to be jointly run by the DoH and the DCMS, according to spokespeople from both departments today. A spokeswoman said the intention is to finish the 12-week consultation before the end of 2018, meaning it is working to publish the consultation document by October.

Hancock’s move from DCMS to Health (after Hunt was made foreign secretary) led the IPA to remark that his knowledge of the ad industry might contribute to a "proportionate" policy result.

Janet Hull, the IPA director of marketing strategy and a Creative Industries Council member, said: "We hope that Matt’s knowledge of our industry can only help in leading to a balanced and proportionate approach to the advertising and promotions measures proposed in Chapter 2 of the Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan, in particular, the proposal for a 9pm watershed for the advertising of HFSS products on TV and online."

Hancock has impressed the IPA and other ad industry bodies during his two years at DCMS, which included 18 months as digital minister before his promotion to culture secretary in January this year.

Hull described him as "a keen advocate of the creative industries within government", while the Advertising Association’s chief executive Stephen Woodford said he was "a real champion for our industry during his time at DCMS" and ISBA director-general Phil Smith called him "a passionate advocate for our industry and its place in the economy".

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