Congress, FCC to Examine TV Ads and Kids Obesity

Jan 23, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The controversy over the role TV ads play in kids obesity is mounting again as Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin today unveiled plans for a Valentine’s Day forum to examine potential voluntary actions that might ease any negative effects ads might have on children.

Mr. Brownback, now a GOP presidential candidate, described the forum as a public-private effort and said major marketers, media companies, health groups, consumer groups and advertising associations would participate. He named some of the marketers to be represented as General Mills, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods and Coca-Cola. Media companies involved as include Walt Disney, Viacom, Discovery Channel, Telemundo and the Black Family Channel, he said.

Mr. Brownback had joined with Mr. Martin and FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate last September in announcing the task force, but until today had provided few details of its activity plan.

In a statement, Mr. Brownback said he was pushing the event as “a bipartisan effort to provide a forum for the public and private sectors to jointly examine the impact of media on childhood obesity and to explore voluntary recommendations that will address the alarming rise in childhood obesity rates.”

He also said that Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps would also participate, as will Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who has been highly critical of children’s advertising.

“I am concerned about links between media, advertising and children’s health, but I do not necessarily think that more government regulation is the answer,” Mr. Brownback said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that this task force will forge a voluntary, public-private partnership to effectively address the pressing issue of media and child health.”

The voluntary approach and the attempt to involve the industry quickly drew praise from the American Association of Advertising Agencies, one of the associations that will participate.

“The Media Task Force has all the signs of enlightened policymaking,” said Adonis Hoffman, senior VP and counsel for the group. “It’s noteworthy that Congress and the FCC chose to confer with many of the key stakeholders on the issue before they chose to act. I’m sure they will find industry to be a guiding light on strategies and solutions to a difficult societal problem.”

(Editor: Gilbert)