Junk food ads still shown to childrenWhich? research reveals broadcasting loophole

19 September 2008

Two kids watching TV

Research released today by Which? shows that TV adverts for foods high in fat, salt and sugar are still being shown during the programmes most watched by children, despite rules designed to prevent this having been in place since January.

Which? revealed that none of the programmes with the five highest child audiences, and just four of the top 20, were covered by the restrictions under existing Ofcom rules, which are currently under review.

The TV advertising restrictions are based on the proportion of the audience made up of under 16s, rather than the actual number of children watching. This means that programmes such as The Simpsons and Spongebob Squarepants are covered, while shows like Beat the Star and Emmerdale are not, even though they are watched by thousands more children.

Ineffective rules

During the two week period that Which? analysed ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky One, adverts for products including Coca-Cola, Oreos and Coco Pops were broadcast during programmes not covered by the restrictions.

Which? food campaigner, Clare Corbett, says: ‘The ad restrictions may look good on paper but the reality is that the programmes most popular with children are slipping through the net. If these rules are going to be effective, then they have to apply to the programmes that children watch in the greatest numbers.

Once the Ofcom review is finished, the Government has a great opportunity to update the restrictions so they stop children from being exposed to ads for unhealthy foods. We're not anti-advertising, we're just against the fact that most of the ads children see are for unhealthy products, rather than the healthier foods they should be eating more of.’