childrens advertising regulation

Here are some of the regulatory developments of significance to broadcasters from the past week, with links to where you can go to find more information as to how these actions may affect your operations.

  • Revisions to the pending Journalism Competition and Preservation Act were released to the public this week (revised draft bill

The advertising to children of food deemed unhealthy has been the subject of government concern for many years.  We wrote about the efforts of then-Senator Brownback to limit such ads – either by voluntary industry action or by government regulation.  These concerns led to the formation of a public-private task force to come up with voluntary actions to limit advertising unhealthy foods to children.  The FTC this week released a draft of that report – proposing prohibitions on advertising most unhealthy food to children that would be in place by 2016 (with certain additional restrictions becoming effective 5 years later).  These guidelines would apply not only to broadcast advertising, but also to marketing on the Internet and in many other media.  While the report talks about voluntary industry guidelines, the NY Times quotes some as asking just how voluntary such guidelines really would be – asking if the government might not step in to mandate compliance if industry was unsuccessful (see the Times article here, subscription may be required).  Comments on the FTC proposals are due on June 13, 2011.

The guidelines published by the FTC ask many questions about how to define what foods are considered unhealthy, and also about whether the timeline of 2016 for implementing a ban on unhealthy food advertising is reasonable (the later 2021 deadline would apply to certain restrictions on salt in food).  Advertising would be restricted for those up to 17 years of age, and extends to 20 categories of advertising including radio and TV, online ads, sweepstakes, ads in video games, and other marketing in traditional and digital media directed to children.  Broadcast programming that reaches an audience that is 30% children 2 to 11 would be deemed "targeted" to them, for children 12 to 17, the programming would be deemed targeted to children if there were a 20% representation of those age groups in the audience.  Internet ads would also use the 20% standard.

Continue Reading FTC Requests Comments on Guidelines for Advertising Unhealthy Foods to Children

Three of the FCC Commissioners have responded to the Congressional inquiry about the Commission’s rules regarding junk food advertising about which we wrote here.  This inquiry was initiated by Congressman Ed Markey, Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. The Congressman’s letter had urged the FCC to move quickly to implement rules limiting the advertising of unhealthy food aired during broadcasting directed to children.  The Commissioners’ responses uniformly indicate the potential for regulation, depending in part on the outcome of the activities of the industry Task Force formed at the initiation of, and with the participation by, the FCC and Congress. See our reports on the formation of the Task Force, here.  The Commissioners all note that should the Task Force fail to conclude that the industry has achieved satisfactory results through self-regulation, FCC proceedings might be required to insure that children are not unduly exposed to junk food advertisements. 

Two commissioners, Chairman Martin and Commissioner Tate, responded jointly, and indicated that the FCC could explore regulation of unhealthy food, perhaps looking at guidelines adopted in other countries as a model for US regulation.  These Commissioners’ statement even address the issue of regulating children’s programming on cable television networks, where they claim that there is much exposure to ads for junk food.  These statements make clear that this is not just an issue for the broadcast industry.

Continue Reading Commission Responds to Congressional Inquiry on Children’s Junk Food Ads