Deborah Taylor Tate got to be Acting Chair of the FCC for a day as it convened a special session in Nashville to discuss the media’s role in causing and battling against childhood obesity. She said that effective self-regulation could stave off government intervention. Tate spent some time praising positive results already gained by the Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity, which included limiting the use of child-friendly characters as endorsers of unhealthy foods, and the voluntary measures adopted to many companies to limit their advertising to children. She noted that the United Kingdom has adopted a ban on such advertising, and that in the US Congress has held hearings on the topic. She advised private companies to continue making progress on their self-regulatory efforts. Jonathan Adelstein seemed more ready to jump in with some regulation, saying the FCC should look at what actions were available within its power and jurisdiction. He also suggested development of clear guidelines as to what constitutes positive children’s programming to assist broadcasters and producers as they strive to meet the educational programming requirements that the FCC already has on the books.
RBR/TVBR observation: Any time the word “children” is mentioned in Washington, it is a prime opportunity to grab some cheap glory, and it is the rare politician or bureaucrat who can resist the temptation. For that reason alone, this issue is highly unlikely to go away. Tate is absolutely correct – the more that stakeholders do to head this off, the less they’ll be paying lawyers and consultants to figure out if they’re in compliance with a new body of regulation down the road.