Ed Markey (D-MA) has taken point on Capitol Hill in when it comes to the fight against childhood obesity, and across the mall at The Portals, FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate has done the same. The media is inextricably tied to the issue, and both Markey and Tate are congratulating two cable services located at ground zero, Nickelodeon and The Cartoon Network. The two web nets closely followed similar action from Discovery Kids. In particular, the trio are going to restrict the use of their animated talent as celebrity spokespersons for unhealthy foods. Markey said, "In my view, limits on the amount of junk food advertising seen on children’s television, along with strong nutrition standards for food and beverage products advertised and utilized with licensed characters for such children’s TV shows, will help address childhood obesity in a positive way." Tate, speaking to the Nickelodeon announcement, added, "It’s another great day for families. Nickelodeon joins a growing group of children’s programmers pledging to America’s families that their characters will promote healthier foods and lifestyles. I hope announcements like this one challenge other children’s programmers to consider similar pledges."
RBR observation: Washington is just itching to do some regulating when it comes to the issue of childhood obesity and the promotion tactics of junk food manufacturers. It is important to remember that the courts have traditionally held that commercial speech is not quite as free as standard, every day speech, which allows regulators and legislators room to maneuver. So far this summer, stakeholders on both the media and manufacturing end have been adjusting in advance of a childhood obesity task force report which is expected to be out in September. It looks like this may well be a case where voluntary action will be sufficient to head off regulatory action.