Discovery puts its Kids on healthy diet


In the most aggressive move yet by a major programmer to comply with government wishes to slim down American kids, Discovery Communications said Monday that it will license the name and characters of its Discovery Kids brand only to healthy food and beverage products.

The move comes as pressure has been building from Congress, the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission to get food and beverage companies and TV programmers to quit marketing sugary foods and drinks to children.

In its announcement, Discovery said that all food and beverage products bearing the name or image of Discovery Kids or any of its characters or shows will satisfy U.S. dietary guidelines.

The network made one exception, however, allowing the licensing of special-occasion sweets like birthday cakes.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin called Discovery's announcement an "example of voluntary commitment, high standards and good corporate citizenship."

Commissioner Michael Copps said he hoped other media companies would follow Discovery's example.

"This is the kind of commitment we hope more media companies will soon make," he said. "It will take tough and concerted action by both food and media businesses if we are really serious about putting an end to junk-food ads aimed at our kids."

Several big food and beverage companies already have taken steps to lessen marketing pitches to kids. In July, 11 major food and beverage companies pledged to take part in the Council of Better Business Bureaus' food and beverage advertising initiative, designed to lessen the impact junk-food marketing has on children.

Advertisers spend about $900 million each year on television tailored to children under 12, according to industry estimates.

Disney — one of the most recognizable brands in children's entertainment — as well as Nickelodeon and BET also have taken steps to make healthy foods more attractive.

French fries have been excised from McDonald's Happy Meals in Disney's theme parks. The company also plans to offer a line of packaged kids meals — one shaped like Mickey Mouse's head — that contain healthy food.

BET also is making a push to make its viewers aware of the problems associated with childhood obesity.