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Regulating TV advertising of food and drink to children

09 Hydref 2006

Ofcom has commissioned research from Opinion Leader Research (OLR) to assess consumer responses to Ofcom's consultation proposals setting out potential new restrictions on the television advertising of food and drink products to children. OLR's summary of the aims of the research can be found in the summary text below. OLR's full report (in pdf format) is available below that.

Executive Summary


1. Against a background of increasing concern about growing childhood obesity, the Government asked Ofcom to research the contribution of television advertising of food and drink to children to the problem. In 2004, Ofcom reported back on an extensive body of research which demonstrates that television advertising has a modest direct effect, as well as a larger indirect effect, on children’s food and drink preferences.

2. The Government also asked Ofcom to consider whether to tighten the rules on advertising food and drink to children. Given the evidence, Ofcom concluded that there was a case for strengthening the rules for the advertising of food and drink to children on television. As a result, Ofcom developed three potential regulatory packages, each incorporating ways to reduce the number of food and drink advertisements children see. The three regulatory packages were:

  • Package 1 – Timing restrictions targeting foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) using nutrient profiling
  • Package 2 – Timing restrictions on all food and drink products
  • Package 3 – Volume-based restrictions on all food and drink products

A fourth option - an invitation to interested parties to develop an acceptable alternative which met core objectives - was also included.

3. Ofcom launched a public consultation process to gather responses to these options on 28th March 2006. As part of this consultation, Ofcom wished to actively seek public opinion on this issue, in particular:

  • To explore the extent to which the public feels that voluntary self-regulation can meet Ofcom’s regulatory objectives and public policy objectives
  • To gauge the public’s response to the spectrum of policy options (i.e. from no action to a complete ban in all airtime)
  • To understand whether the public considers it desirable to distinguish between foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) and those that are healthier in order to achieve the regulatory objectives, or whether an undifferentiated approach could provide a reasonable alternative
  • To explore whether the public feels that the exclusion of all HFSS advertising would be disproportionate
  • To explore whether the public agrees that all food and drink advertising and sponsorship should be excluded from programmes aimed at pre-school children
  • To understand which of the three policy packages the public would prefer to be incorporated into the advertising code and for what reasons
  • To understand whether the public would prefer to see an alternative combination of elements from the three policy packages; if so, which specific elements they would favour within the alternative package, and why

4. To meet these objectives, Ofcom commissioned Opinion Leader Research to conduct a programme of deliberative research, consisting of; six one-day deliberative workshops with adults, four one-day deliberative workshops with teenagers (aged 12-15) and six one-hour group discussions with children (aged 8-11).

5. It should be noted that deliberative workshops and mini-groups are qualitative methodologies. Neither approach provides robust quantitative data, which would allow us to accurately measure consumer responses across the general public in the UK. Therefore, it is not possible to detail the precise proportions of responses on all discussion points, but an indication is given wherever possible of whether the findings represent a majority or a minority view.

The full document is available below