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International: Do TV ads cause childhood obesity?

25-January-2007
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International:  Do TV ads cause childhood obesity?

The controversy over whether TV ads cause obesity in children is mounting again as Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin unveil plans for a Valentine's Day forum to look at voluntary steps that might lessen the risk.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin will be part of a forum that will include marketers, media companies, health groups, consumer groups and advertising associations to discuss advertising and childhood obesity.

Public-private effort

Mr. Brownback, now a GOP presidential candidate, described the forum as a public-private effort and said major marketers, media companies, health groups, consumer groups and advertising associations would participate. He said General Mills, McDonald's, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola would be represented. From the media side, the following companies are expected to participate: Walt Disney, Viacom, Discovery Channel, Telemundo and the Black Family Channel.

Mr. Brownback had joined with Mr. Martin and Deborah Tate Taylor, an FCC commissioner, last September to announce the task force but had provided few details about forum until today.

In a statement, Mr. Brownback said he was pushing the event as a "bipartisan effort to provide a forum for the public and private sectors to jointly examine the impact of media on childhood obesity and to explore voluntary recommendations that will address the alarming rise in childhood obesity rates."

Harkin to participate

He also said that Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps will participate along with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who has been highly critical of children's advertising.

"I am concerned about links between media, advertising and children's health, but I do not necessarily think that more government regulation is the answer," Mr. Brownback said in a statement. "I'm hopeful that this task force will forge a voluntary, public-private partnership to effectively address the pressing issue of media and child health."

The voluntary approach and the attempt to involve marketing-industry players quickly drew praise from the American Association of Advertising Agencies, one of the associations that will participate.

"The [task force] has all the signs of enlightened policymaking," said Adonis Hoffman, senior VP-counsel for the group. "It's noteworthy that Congress and the FCC chose to confer with many of the key stakeholders on the issue before they chose to act."

Source: Adage

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