If you think the advertising climate is bad now, imagine it without being able to accept business from manufacturers of alcoholic beverages and junk food. That’s what the media is looking at right now in Australia. A federal government taskforce there has been on the case for a year and a half, and the question is whether the result will be reduced advertising for these categories or an outright ban.
The Preventative Health Taskforce has been commissioning studies with the aim to reduce childhood obesity and fight overconsumption of alcohol, and going after advertising of such products is a big part of the program.
According to The Australian, the media has been given six months to reduce the amount of advertising in these categories, or the government will step is and order the reductions.
It’s not clear if the ultimate goal is to completely eliminate ads in these categories completely, but there may be exceptions – for example, a total ban on ads aimed at children would be very possible. Ads could also be banned during certain hours, much like the US bans certain adult content from 6AM-10PM.
The PHT felt it couldn’t very well go after junk food while at the same time allowing alcoholic beverages to advertise, particularly during sporting events.
All media is being considered, but most of the attention has been directed at television.
RBR/TVBR observation: Protecting children from food advertising was all the rage in Washington last year. A number of manufacturers and media companies partnered with government agencies in setting up voluntary programs to limit the amount of junk food advertising. Such agreements are critical to avoiding a drastic program such as being contemplated in Australia right now, so we suggest the media take them seriously. Remember, commercial speech does not enjoy nearly as much constitutional protection as other forms.