Task Force Urges Rapid Action on Childhood Obesity

Mar 21, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Suggesting marketers and media companies haven’t yet acted sufficiently to halt the rise in childhood obesity, a Republican senator and three FCC commissioners demanded they join together to quickly develop a further action plan.

At the first meeting of an ad hoc government/private industry task force on Wednesday, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a GOP presidential candidate, called on the group’s members to put together a new proposal by July.

“Nineteen percent of kids are overweight. That’s just unacceptable,” Sen. Brownback said. “We must take responsible action to protect the nation’s children.”

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin J. Martin said the issue has gone from a national problem to “a national crisis,” citing reports indicating the number of kids under 2 already watching TV everyday.

Neither cited specific ideas, but FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate said if she had a magic wand, her list would include a commitment by marketers to alter their TV ads.

She suggested marketers devote more of their kids food ads to healthy foods and balance “input” and “output” messages within every ad so kids seeing eating messages would see a healthy lifestyle message. She also suggested more ads be devoted to healthier products.

FCC commissioner Michael Copps said the need for action is clear.

“The last thing we need is another report. We need a plan of action,” he said.

Marketers, media companies and representatives of their associations said they have already taken steps. One said the government is the only one falling down, having failed to re-fund one program to provide healthy messages to kids and underfunded another.

All said, however, that they would be willing to work on the task force.

The task force was formed by Sen. Brownback, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and the FCC commissioners, but has no official government role. Companies represented on the task force include Disney, Telemundo Group, General Mills and PepsiCo. Also included are representatives of health and consumer groups.

(Editor: Horowitz)