Queenslanders given opportunity to comment on junk food ad ban proposal

Posted by Isobel Drake on 21st October 2008

Queenslanders have until the end of October to have their say on a proposed junk food ad ban during children’s TV viewing hours.Health Minister Stephen Robertson has called for more community feedback on the already strong response to the Bligh Government’s junk food discussion paper.

“So far, more than 1,500 Queenslanders have completed our survey on regulating junk food and drink ads during kids’ TV programming,” he said. “But we want to hear from even more Queenslanders. If our poor diets and lack of exercise continues, this generation of children may be the first to die younger than their parents.”

The discussion paper, released in August, includes three possible times to ban junk food advertising:

a. Children’s peak viewing times – 7.00am to 9.00am and 5.00pm to 8.30pm weekdays and weekends. Currently, 209,000 Queensland children are watching TV during these hours every day.

b. Children’s general viewing times – 7.00am to 8.30pm every day. Approximately 289,000 children watch TV during this period.

c. Children’s viewing times when they are unlikely to be supervised – 7.00am to 9.00am and 3.00pm to 6.00pm weekdays and 7.00am to 6.00pm weekends.”Unless we tackle the emerging childhood obesity epidemic, we’ll be failing our kids and guaranteeing a public health nightmare in the future,” Mr Robertson suggested. “TV ads for extravagant junk food products like the 1,080 calorie Hungry Jack’s Quad Stack Burger, which contains an estimated 71 grams of fat, make it harder for parents to raise healthy kids. That’s why we’re urging Queenslanders to have their say by completing our junk food advertising survey to help us build a healthier future for all Queenslanders.”

Mr Robertson said the proposed ad ban had been welcomed by parents and certain stakeholders.

“The AMA Queensland recently joined forces with other leading State health bodies – Diabetes Australia Queensland, The Heart Foundation and the Cancer Council Queensland – in supporting the proposed ban on junk food advertising during children’s viewing hours,” Mr Robertson said.

The debate over junk food advertising to children continues to rage, with the Queensland Government’s opinion in contrast to that of ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority).

ACMA recently released their draft Children’s Television Standards 2008 based on a significant body of commissioned research which did not recommend general restrictions on food and beverage advertising to children.

“ACMA has formed the view that restricting food and beverage advertising, particularly without a tool to identify high fat, salt, sugar (HFSS) products, would be a blunt form of regulatory intervention, with significant cost to the commercial television sector and uncertain national benefits. Such restrictions would also prevent healthy food and beverage products from being advertised,” they advised.

“ACMA is, however, proposing to strengthen certain provisions regulating advertising to children,” the Authority added. “These proposals would further restrict the use of licensed characters, popular personalities and celebrities to promote and endorse products immediately before, during and after ‘C’ and ‘P’ periods. They would also clarify rules for premium offers, such as toys offered with food and beverage purchases.”

The Queensland discussion paper ‘Have your say: junk food advertising on children’s television’ is available at www.health.qld.gov.au.

The survey is open until October 31.