FCC's Tate has a healthy take on media


WASHINGTON -- A Republican FCC commissioner wants such healthy foods as celery and carrots to get equal TV time with doughnuts and candy bars as a way to combat the childhood obesity epidemic in this country.

Commissioner Deborah Tate on Wednesday told the first meeting of a Senate-FCC industry task force examining the problem that her wish list of policy changes would include balancing the dietary habits actors project during shows and the advertisements that pay for them.

"There should be the same number of ads for healthy foods as for unhealthy foods," Tate told the task force in opening remarks in the Senate Caucus Room. "The story line should include healthful messages and activities. ... There should be a balance."

Since Tate first came onto the commission, she has expressed an interest in trying to induce the media into policies that help reign in Americans' desire for fatty foods. The task force, which includes FCC chairman Kevin Martin and Democratic commissioner Michael Copps, was assembled by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Sen. Tom Harken, D-Iowa.

Brownback has been a longtime critic of the media, particularly on its depictions of sexual activity. He was instrumental in pushing though legislation that raised the fines broadcasters' face for indecent programming tenfold to $325,000 per incident.

Tate said her desire to see a equal treatment for healthy food was more on the lines of a "magic wand" and that the Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity members are serious about finding solutions. The task force includes representatives of media companies, health-care officials and the food and beverage industries.

"I am confident that the joint task force will be able to accomplish its goal of working with the industry to combat the rising rates of obesity," Brownback said. "As a diverse coalition, there is more that brings us together than separates us in finding a solution to childhood obesity."

The task force hopes to develop its recommendations by midsummer.