Junk food ads: Is industry self-regulation making a difference?

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released a report into the operation of two key food industry initiatives developed in response to community concerns about junk food advertising to children.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (the ‘AFGC Initiative’) and the Quick Service Restaurant Industry’s initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (the ‘QSR initiative’) have been operating now for 18 months. The ACMA had agreed to monitor these initiatives when it reviewed the Children’s Television Standards (CTS) in 2009.

The ACMA found that:

  • It is unclear whether the AFGC and QSR Initiatives have resulted in a real reduction in the level of children’s exposure to food and beverage advertising on free-to-air television, and
  • There is continuing community concerns around food and beverage advertising to children.

The report notes the recently created Australian National Preventive Health Agency (‘ANPHA’) and the key role it will play in monitoring food advertising and devising obesity prevention strategies in the future.

‘As the broadcasting regulator, the ACMA reiterates that it is neither equipped nor resourced to make independent judgements on issues of preventive health’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. ‘The ACMA’s view is that the ANPHA is ideally placed to inform and promote a whole-of-government response to the challenges of childhood overweight and obesity and looks forward to working collaboratively with the ANPHA on these issues wherever appropriate.’

While the ACMA will not develop program standards on food advertising to children at this time, it will continue its role of administering the CTS and investigating complaints about prohibited advertising during children’s television programming periods.

Read the full report on the ACMA website

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