Ofcom trimming more fat from kids TV advertising

Scope of junk food ban upsets b'casters

British broadcasters are reacting with dismay to news that media regulator Ofcom plans to ban all junk food advertising to children younger than 16 as part of a more draconian set of anti-obesity measures than the industry had expected (HR 11/20).

The move, announced Friday, is intended to address the growing issue of childhood obesity in Britain and will affect any advertisements for foods deemed high in fat, sugar or salt — the so-called HFSS foods.

The industry has been bracing itself for the outcome of Ofcom's two-year review of junk food advertising aimed at those younger than 9, but the news that all programs with more than 20% of viewers younger than 16 also will be affected could prove a hard blow, some broadcast bodies warned Friday.

By broadening the restrictions to under-16s, the ban will affect such broadcasters as Sky One, MTV, ITV1 and ITV2 well into their early evening schedules, instead of just the children's channels and kids programming blocks that had been expected.

According to a report Friday in the Guar-dian, Domino's Pizza is set to become the first casualty of Ofcom's new advertising restrictions, admitting that it is "highly likely" to scrap its long-running sponsorship of "The Simpsons," which airs on Sky One.

Ofcom, the independent regulator of the U.K. communication industries, has priced the policy shift at £40 million ($75.7 million) a year in terms of lost advertising revenue, but broadcasters have warned that the impact could be far higher and put the local production of kids' programming in serious jeopardy.

"This is a tough decision, and we are disappointed it is even more draconian than the stringent measures that Ofcom originally proposed," Five CEO Jane Lighting said, adding that prospects for the kids' production business were "bleak."