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FTC Reports Lower Number of TV Food Ads

Jun 1, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Trade Commission tossed a bombshell into the debate over the role TV food ads play in childhood obesity with its report that the number of TV ads kids see is far lower than some recent estimates—and decreasing.
“Our data do not support the view that children are exposed to more television food advertising today,” FTC staff said in a report issued today.
Several senators and three of the five Federal Communication Commissioners have been pressuring food advertisers to rein in their ads. But the FTC report could diminish the likelihood of any legislation or regulation affecting TV ads.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and commissioners Michael Copps and Deborah Taylor Tate have questioned whether food ads increase childhood obesity; they suggested the FCC might take action if the food industry didn’t voluntarily rein in its ads.
Today’s FTC study cited the amount of time children view ad-free content on public TV and cable channels as one reason for the lower numbers, and the amount of time they spend watching general entertainment as another. The report said that in 2004, kids 2-11 saw 25,629 TV ads, including 7,300 “ads” promoting other programming or public service announcements. Without the PSAs or programming, kids saw 18,300 ads annually.
That number is significantly less than some recent reports. In March, the Kaiser Family Foundation said kids of some ages see 30,155 TV ads annually, not including PSAs or promotional announcements.
The FTC said kids 2-11 saw 5,538 food ads—about 40% less than Kaiser’s 7,600 food ad estimate for 8- to 12-year-olds. The FTC said food ads are 21.6% of all the ads kids see, but that the exposure is down 9% from 1977.
Victoria Rideout, VP of the Kaiser Family Foundation, who headed up the Kaiser study, said the differences in numbers in the FTC’s report reflected Kaiser’s breaking the kids into age groups with younger kids seeing fewer ads and older kids seeing more. She said that if results of different age groups cited in Kaiser’s study were combined, the numbers would show “a remarkable similarity.”
The report said the commercials aren’t for a balanced blend of products, but there was no indication kids “are seeing more advertising for low-nutrition foods” than they’ve seen in the past.
“While the foods advertised on children’s programming in 2004 do not constitute a balanced diet, that was the case as well in 1977, before the rise in obesity,” the report said.
(Editor: Horowitz)

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