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Keywords:

  • food advertising;
  • television;
  • children;
  • regulation

Abstract

This study analysed a sample of food advertisements shown during 63 hours of children's programming to investigate compliance and non-compliance with one of the Australian Children's Television Standards (CTS): CTS 20.2a. This standard regulates the way premium offers may, and may not, be used to sell products to children. Of the 1721 advertisements contained in the sample, 544 (32%) were for food. A significantly higher number of food advertisements (41%) were shown during ‘C’ programs (which are specifically regulated and produced for children six to 13 years of age and suitable for viewing without adult supervision), compared with 30% during the less regulated ‘G’ programs (P= < 0.001) (suitable for children to view without adult supervision but not produced specifically for a child audience). Over one-third of food advertisements (36%) in ‘C’ time contained a premium offer compared with 17% in ‘G’ time (P= < 0.0001). Using a precisely defined interpretation of CTS 20.2a, this study found 30 (31%) of food advertisements breached the standard during ‘C’ programs. This was a significantly higher proportion than the 54 (12%) of breaches in ‘G’ time (P= < 0.0001). From this study, the current regulatory system has not resulted in more responsible food advertising during ‘C’ programs, and the widespread breaches of CTS 20.2a indicate this standard is ineffective as a means of regulating food advertising. The Australian Broadcasting Authority has recognised that children need protection from unfair marketing practices and the improper use of premium offers to promote a food product, therefore CTS 20.2a needs urgent review to make it more effective.