At the launch of Media Smart, Tessa Jowell, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, told a meeting of food manufacturers and advertisers that there were no plans to ban food advertising during children's programming. Reportedly, she again reassured the delegates in private that there would be no ban.
Media Smart is a new body that aims to make children more aware of how advertising works, and its backers include Kellogg's and Procter & Gamble.
There have been moves among health groups to restrict advertising for junk food during children's television, as obesity among young people rises at a dramatic rate. As many as 50 to 60 different food ads will be shown on commercial television during an average Saturday morning.
One group lobbying for a ban, Sustain, says that more than 90% of food products advertised during breaks in children's programmes and entertainment shows are full of fat, salt and sugar. The worst offenders, according to the group, include McDonald's and Cadbury's.
The argument against a ban is that it will lead to a decline in standards of children's programming. Food manufacturers also argue that the increasing problem of overweight children is not caused by their products, but because young people are doing less exercise.
Media Smart has confirmed that Jowell said that an advertising ban was not planned. In a report in The Observer, Media Smart chairman Paul Jackson said: "At the top level, both here and in Brussels, people increasingly feel that a ban is not the solution. The government is saying to us, we are prepared to work with you in a self-regulatory environment, otherwise Ofcom will step in."
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