Sue Kedgley Sue Kedgley CREDIT: New Zealand Green Party

Vetting of kid-focussed junk food TV ads far too timid

Thursday 3 May 2007, 7:56PM
By Infonews Editor

Green MP Sue Kedgley welcomed the announcement today that an agreement has been reached between major broadcasters and the Government, aimed at reducing advertising of unhealthy food to children.

“It’s good news that free to air television is initiating a pre-vetting system for food advertisements targeted at children, to reduce the numbers of advertisements for unhealthy food that children are exposed to - even though this initiative covers only a small portion of the hours that children watch,” Ms Kedgley says.

“Once the pre-vetting system is in place, it must be extended to cover all programmes that children watch, or to cover all programmes that screen before 9 p.m," Ms Kedgley says.

Ms Kedgley said a survey by the Broadcasting Standards Authority found that most children watch television outside the 21 hours categorised as children’s television viewing hours by TV2 and the 15 hours categorised as children’s viewing by TV3.

The survey found that on weekdays 61 percent of children watch television between 6 pm and 8.30 pm and a further 15 percent are still watching after 8.30 p.m. It found that 73 percent of children aged 10-13 years regularly watch adult only or parental guidance recommended television, and 85 percent of children aged 10-13 years watched television after 8.30 pm on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Ms Kedgley pointed out that there is strong international evidence that television advertisements influence children’s food preferences, food choices and requests, and encourage children to want to consume the high sugar, high fat foods they see advertised on television.

“Given this evidence it is of huge concern that the number of food advertisements on television have increased from 8 per hour in 1997 to 12.8 per hour during children’s viewing time on TV2 and TV3. An estimated 70 percent of these advertise high fat, high sugar, high salt foods that contravene health guidelines and will encourage children to eat unhealthy food.

“New Zealand children watch 15 hours of television every week, and during this time they will see approximately 192 advertisements for unhealthy food.

“I am therefore delighted that broadcasters are taking this initiative and reducing the amount of unhealthy food that is advertised on television. The challenge now is to extend their initiative to cover more than the tiny fraction of television viewing hours proposed in the current initiative,” Ms Kedgley says.