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NMA: Ban on paid-for HFSS advertising online will harm news media

The Government's ban on paid-for HFSS advertising online announced last week is a draconian measure which will harm news media publishers instead of the tackling the problem of childhood obesity, the News Media Association has said.

NMA: Ban on paid-for HFSS advertising online will harm news media
Sayra Tekin: “News publishers do not target their publications at children, so it is disproportionate for them to be in scope of the online ban.” Photograph: NeONBRAND on Unsplash.

As reported last Friday on the News Media Association website:

NMA legal, policy and regulatory affairs director Sayra Tekin, said: “We are very disappointed that the Government has chosen to implement a ban on paid-for HFSS advertising online despite widespread concern that the evidence does not demonstrate a compelling causal link between advertising exposure and childhood obesity.

"News publishers do not target their publications at children, so it is disproportionate for them to be in scope of the online ban. It is, therefore, inappropriate for news publishers to be collateral damage in a policy designed to target platforms. Perversely however, given the carve outs, the likes of Facebook will continue to benefit.

“Instead of tackling the problem of childhood obesity, this draconian measure will harm news media publishers who rely on advertising revenue to fund the journalism which keeps us all informed. We urge the Government to reconsider and work with the industry to come up with a workable solution instead of implementing these ill-considered measures.”

Sue Eustace, Advertising Association public affairs director, said: “We are dismayed Government is moving ahead with its HFSS ad ban on TV before the 9pm watershed and increased restrictions online. This means many food & drink companies won’t be able to advertise new product innovations and reformulations and larger food-on-the-go, pub and restaurant chains may not be able to tell their customers about their menus. Content providers – online publishers and broadcasters – will lose vital advertising revenue to fund jobs in editorial and programme-making.

"We all want to see a healthier, more active population, but the Government’s own analysis shows these measures won’t work. Levelling up society will not be achieved by punishing some of the UK’s most successful industries for minimal effect on obesity levels.”

ISBA director-general Phil Smith said: “Advertisers agree that Britain has an obesity problem and that action must be taken. But in seeking to regulate rather than innovate, government has tied itself in knots.

“There is no evidence that what Ministers are proposing will have any meaningful impact on children’s health. The possibilities of technology have been ignored, and industry’s attempts to deliver the desired outcome in a way which would also prevent economic harm to business have been waved away.

“We will look carefully at the detail, but at a moment which calls for economic recovery and serious, evidence-based policy to improve children’s health, it seems that government has plumped for headlines over meaningful reform.”

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