Advertisements for junk food to disappear from broadcasts aimed at children – the result of NBC monitoring
The NBC, in accordance with the provisions of the Broadcasting Act, Article 16b, paragraph 3a, monitored the contents of advertisements broadcast on channels catering to children and on universal appeal channels during broadcasts aimed at children in terms of the proper application by broadcasters of the terms of the Agreement on limiting advertisements and sponsorships concerning food and beverages containing components which are not advisable in excessive amounts in the diet of children.
The Broadcasters’ Agreement is an initiative of a self-regulatory nature, which was approved by the regulatory body and signed on the 29th of October 2014 by seven television broadcasters: ITI Neovision, Telewizja Polsat, Telewizja Polska, Telewizja Puls, TVN, VIMN Poland, and The Walt Disney Company (Poland). In essence, it encourages broadcasters to follow the recommendations of the Nutritional Criteria developed by the Polish Federation of Food Producers and the Polish Employers’ Union, as confirmed by the Institute of Hygiene and Nutrition, effective as of the 1st of January 2015.
By the terms of the agreement, broadcasters are obliged to exclude advertisements of so-called junk food from broadcasts aimed at children.
For the second time since the Agreement has been in force, the NBC monitored the extent to which broadcasters have honoured this commitment. This monitoring involved in particular commercial broadcasts regarding food products which we shown on specialised channels addressed to children, as well as those which have a concession issued by the Polish regulatory body (TVP ABC, MiniMini, Nickelodeon, TeleToon) and those which direct their services to Polish audiences which operate based on concessions issued in other countries (BOOMERANG, DISNEY CHANNEL, DISNEY JUNIOR, DISNEY XD, POLSAT JIM JAM). The monitoring period lasted six months, from the 1st of October 2015 to the 31st of March 2016.
A second group of channels covered by the monitoring program comprised channels with a universal appeal which nonetheless include programming directed towards minors (POLSAT, POLSAT 2, TVN, TVP 1, TVP 2, PULS, PULS 2, TV 4, TVN 7, TV6). In this case, the analysis was conducted over three selected weeks: 19-25 October 2015, 14-20 December 2015, and 14-20 March 2016. Additionally, although the Agreement itself does not cover such a broad scope, the participation of advertisements for junk food on channels of universal appeal in broadcasts directed to all types of audiences was also monitored if their audiences comprised at least 5% children between the ages of 4 and 12.
The relatively long monitoring period made it possible to compare the appearance of undesirable advertisements currently with their appearance in the period immediately preceding the entry into force of the Agreement, and with the initial stage of its implementation.
Special attention was paid to advertisements for food products which may not be directed towards audiences under the age of 12 (products which contain large amounts of sugar, soft drinks, chips and potato-based snacks, including pastries). A separate group comprised products which should meet „nutritional criteria" in order to be advertised to children. In practice, this means that broadcasters must obtain from advertisers declarations of the factual contents of undesirable ingredients in the product advertised (mainly concerning ice cream, fast food, packaged soups, multi-element dishes, main dishes, filled sandwiches, grain products, and pastry products).
It should be noted that in the group of broadcasters specialized in children’s programs, both those with concessions from Polish authorities and those operating based on foreign-issued concessions, the number of food advertisements decreased, confirming a trend noted in the previous monitoring period. However, the most significant and most encouraging observation was a repetition of the results of the previous monitoring period indicating complete elimination of a group of commercial products which were identified in the broadcasters’ Agreement as unacceptable, in other words the previously mentioned high-sugar content products, sweetened non-alcoholic beverages, chips and potato-based snacks, including pastries. The strict adherence to this ban from all children’s broadcasters confirms that advertisements do in fact conform to the current principles.
In the group of universal appeal channels with broadcasts directed towards underage children as well as in the group of broadcasts directed towards a general audience but which are eagerly watched by children (comprising at least 5% of the total audience), advertisements for these banned products did appear, including ones for sweets and carbonated beverages, though in significantly lower numbers.
For this reason, during the presentation of the results of the monitoring period, the NBC brought to the attention of broadcasters of universal appeal programs the need to make greater efforts to develop a portfolio of advertisements suitable for programs which may be watched by children. The aim of such operations should be, as in the case of specialized children’s channels, the total elimination of advertisements for sweets, high-salt snacks, and sweetened carbonated beverages.
It should also be noted that the NBC views advertisements broadcast to children for restaurants belonging to fast food chains with considerable reserve. Even if the advertised product meets the requirements of the Nutritional Criteria, such advertisements promote not merely a product but also a brand, which may have negative consequences on the development of children’s dietary habits.
Despite such reservations, however, the results of the monitoring period should be counted as highly satisfactory. In all channels directed towards children, the advertising of sweets, high-salt snacks, and sweetened carbonated beverages has been totally eliminated, and in channels of universal appeal, their frequency has dropped considerably.
The NBC states that the detailed monitoring process undertaken has confirmed that self-regulation among broadcasters is an effective means in the struggle against advertisements for high-sugar, high-salt, and high-fat products, excessive amounts of which in the diets of children are harmful for their proper development.