Many of the TV shows most popular with children will not be covered by proposed new advertising restrictions, Which? warns today.
We believe the rules developed to curb the impact of junk food commercials on under 16s are ‘completely flawed’ as the programmes most children watch won’t be caught.
The rules would ban adverts for food and drink products high in fat, salt and sugar from all TV shows targeted at under-16s and some adult programmes of ‘particular appeal’ to that age group.
But Which? results show that the criteria used to define which programmes ‘appeal’ to children under 16 is fundamentally flawed.
Which? looked at a snap-shot of TV viewing figures for ITV1 over two weeks in October and found that many more children aged four to 16 are watching TV during the evening rather than during specific children’s programmes.
None of the top 20 programmes children were watching during this period would be covered by Ofcom’s proposed Viewing Index – which only takes account of the proportion of children watching rather than the actual numbers.
For example, Spongebob Squarepants, which attracts around 170,000 child viewers, would be covered whereas Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Take-Away, with well over a million children watching, would not.
Sue Davies, Chief Policy Adviser for Which? said: ‘While Ofcom has recognised that its objective should be to protect children under 16, its proposed approach is completely flawed. Producers of foods high in fat, sugar and salt will still be free to advertise their products during the programmes most children are watching.
‘Which? believes that a 9pm watershed is the only way to ensure that the restrictions are meaningful. If Ofcom cannot re-think its approach in the face of industry pressure, the Government needs to step in and legislate.’
An Ofcom spokesman said the Which? viewing figures were accurate.
But he said adult viewers outnumbered child viewers by around nine to one between 6pm and 9pm.
A pre-9pm watershed would end up quashing commercials aimed at adults and was therefore not feasible, he said.
The spokesman added: ‘Our proposals are targeted at the under-16s and are proportionate responses that acknowledge our statutory duties.’