The Scotsman carries a quote from Winston Fletcher about advertising aimed at children in an article about same.
"In Sweden advertising to children has been banned ever since commercial television began there, but 18 per cent of Swedish children are overweight - much the same as in Britain," says Winston Fletcher, who chairs the Advertising Standards Board of Finance and is a director of advertising agency DLKW. "Advertising to children was banned in Quebec more than 20 years ago, but 28 per cent of children in the province are overweight - about the same as in the rest of Canada where advertising to children has always been permitted."
Unfortunately, this quote has been allowed to go unchecked by journalists. Fletcher seems blissfully unaware that both the laws he quotes are completely toothless and have no effect at all in diminishing the amount of advertising children in Quebec and Sweden see every day which undermines his argument.
In Sweden the advertising law states that ads may not be aimed directly at children under the age of 12, this might sound like some ad-free dream land to Mr. Fletcher but it is not the case. This does not prevent the cities from being plastered with McDonald's billboards. Children's cinema always has ads before the feature film, and so on.
If you look closely at this law it states that TV can not, take a break in
children's programming to show adverts, nor "book-case" a childrens TV show such as the telly-tubbies with adverts before it begins and after it ends. This applies to television that is broadcast to Sweden from Sweden. However, the popular channels TV3 which first broadcast on new years eve in 1987, and TV 5 which was born in 1989 are aired from the United Kingdom, and thus follow UK advertising laws.
In other words, children's programming has been intertwined with advertising aimed at children for the last 18 years. Coincidentally, the last 15 years is when the obesity in Swedish children skyrocketed to 18 percent, competing for a top spot with the UK children's 20.
Similarly the children of Quebec are watching all sorts of Canadian and US TV-programming, since they have cable and/or satellite TV as well. The laws, while admirable, are quite impotent in the real world and comparing statistics as if they had any effect when they clearly have none is a pointless exercise, though it makes for great (misinformed) soundbytes. Winston Fletcher might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, or he is deliberatly spreading misinformation as keeping lax laws is after all a large source of income for the industry which he represents as he is on the Advertising Standards Board of Finance.
Former Swedish Culture Minister Marita Ulvskog spent most of her EU presidency working for a ban on all advertising aimed at children in all of the EU, because the laws have no effect when only applied in some countries.
Maren says the ban was instituted in order to control what children are seeing when they watch television, which, in Sweden, they do for an average of two hours a day.
"The law is there to protect them," he said.
But, says communications professor Erling Bjurstroem, "in reality, Sweden's ban hasn't worked completely."
While the state-run television channels SVT1 and TV2 and semi-public channel TV4 do not broadcast commercials aimed at
children, "the two major private networks, TV3 and Kanal 5, use a loophole in the law" and broadcast by satellite from Britain.
"And the (Swedish) government can't do anything about it."
Increased EU support for measures to combat advertising to children - The meeting has exceeded my expectations enormously. This was how the meeting's chairman, Minister for Culture Marita Ulvskog, summed up the three-day informal meeting of ministers in Falun. Cultural and media cooperation in an enlarged EU was one of the themes of discussion.
Last years rant from me on the same topic: Advertisers that are quoted in UK press need to do their homework.