Advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages: How to protect children - workshop



According to the WHO, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Part of the problem is also the advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages (so-called HFSS) to children that until now has been left more for self-regulation. But his might change with the new provisions of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, that is also currently being transposed into Slovak media law. That is why Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission (CBR) has led the organisation of an ERGA Workshop in Brussels on the topic “Protecting Children in Audiovisual Media Services - How AVMSD can help to tackle advertising of HFSS foods to children”.

As shown by the WHO statistics over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016. And the problem is only getting worse. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents aged 5-19 has risen dramatically from just 4% in 1975 to just over 18% in 2016, and the prognosis is more dramatic still. Of course, media regulators cannot be in the first line of the battle against this problem. However as has been discussed during the workshop they can play a small, but vital, part in it.

This ERGA (The European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services) workshop is already the third edition of the “Protecting Children in Audiovisual Media Services” series with a previous focus in 2017 on “Current and Future Measures” and in 2018 on “The effectiveness of age verification and media literacy”. The organisation of these events is lead by the CBR with the area of Protection of Minors as a long term priority. The topic of the advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages has been brought to the attention of the media regulatory authorities again by the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, that contain strengthened provisions for this area.

The workshop has been moderated (including one of the panels) by the director of the Office of The Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission, Ľuboš Kukliš, who is currently the chairman of ERGA. It was divided into three parts. First, to guide further discussions and help all the gathered regulatory authorities, some of which might have less experience in this field, a general context – sometimes including some striking statistics that clearly showed the extent of the problem - was described by the experts from the European Commission and the WHO. Secondly building on an overview of existing policies in EU and around the world some of the most active authorities provided national case studies.

The last part concentrated on one of the most novel areas of the AVMSD – the extension of the scope for the VSPs (YouTube, Facebook etc.). Since this extension also includes provisions on the commercial communications (including provisions on the HFSS foods) - this represents one of the major challenges for the media regulatory authorities since this extends their activities beyond the traditional TV/VOD sector that was the focus of the many policy measures in this area in the past. As a result and a contribution to the policy debate in this area, an activity report is going to be prepared and published from this meeting to help the media regulatory authorities to build up their policies in this area.

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