Media Lifeline: Junk-food ad regulations

Campaigners are preparing to go to court to demand a ban on junk-food ads before 9pm.

2002: Concerns about the health of the nation's children have been simmering for well over a decade. But they leap right to the top of the political agenda when the Government's chief medical officer publishes a report arguing that child obesity is not only worsening, but is starting to reduce life expectancy.

2003: The Food Standards Agency says it now has proof of a link between ads and bad diets. The industry finds itself in the dock when Cilla Snowball (pictured), the Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO chief executive, is called before a Parliamentary Select Committee looking into the obesity problem. She admits that the advertising industry could do better.

2004: The culture secretary, Tessa Jowell (pictured), rules out new legislation on junk-food advertising and calls instead for voluntary action from the marketing industry to help tackle the child obesity crisis. But she also says she will be guided by Ofcom's ongoing review of the broadcast code.

2005: Still nothing definitive from Ofcom, but more pressure is heaped on it when a progress report on the Department of Health's White Paper urges the regulator to produce effective amendments to the broadcast code. If these fail to appear, the report says, moves towards primary legislation should begin in 2007.

2006: Still nothing definitive from Ofcom but pressure groups prepare to take the battle into the courts as the regulator reveals that it is minded to reject calls for a blanket ban on junk-food advertising before the 9pm watershed. Broadcasters warn that such a move will create a £141 million revenue hole in the TV airtime market and severely threaten investment in programming.

Fast forward ...

2008: With politicians and Ofcom continuing to dither, it is revealed junk-food companies have contributed multimillion-pound sums to the coffers of both major political parties. As the scandal rumbles on, the issue gains momentum at a grassroots level. As organisers prepare a parents' crusade - including a march on the Houses of Parliament - pressure groups now prepare to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus