First Lady Michelle Obama has been heading up a group tackling the epidemic of overweight children, and the group has produced a study identifying five main areas where actions can be taken. The good news for the media is that it is not one of the five areas – but it does get mentioned in several of the 70 underlying recommendations.
The five main areas include getting kids off to a good start in their early years, empowering parents and caregivers, focusing on the schools (both quality of food served and nutritional education), making healthy food more affordable and available, and encouraging exercise.
Marketing comes up in the empowerment portion of the report. It offers four recommendations for food advertisers and media/entertainment companies, and in the fifth suggests that the FCC consider regulation if voluntary efforts prove unsatisfactory.
Here are the five media-related recommendations:
Recommendation 2.5: The food and beverage industry should extend its self-regulatory program to cover all forms of marketing to children, and food retailers should avoid in-store marketing that promotes unhealthy products to children.
Recommendation 2.6: All media and entertainment companies should limit the licensing of their popular characters to food and beverage products that are healthy and consistent with science-based nutrition standards
Recommendation 2.7: The food and beverage industry and the media and entertainment industry should jointly adopt meaningful, uniform nutrition standards for marketing food and beverages to children, as well as a uniform standard for what constitutes marketing to children.
Recommendation 2.8: Industry should provide technology to help consumers distinguish between advertisements for healthy and unhealthy foods and to limit their children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertisements
Recommendation 2.9: If voluntary efforts to limit the marketing of less healthy foods and beverages to children do not yield substantial results, the FCC could consider revisiting and modernizing rules on commercial time during children’s programming
RBR-TVBR observation: There really is no escape for the media in a matter such as this. The good thing, as far as we’re concerned, is that for once we don’t have people jumping up and down trying to pin the entire problem on advertising. Here, reining in food marketing to children is but one small part of a comprehensive plan that focuses strongly on core issues. Five media recommendations out of 70 is about 7% — that seems like a fair share of the burden.