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Fresh proposal for junk food ad restrictions considered

LONDON - Media watchdog Ofcom is considering a less rigorous fourth proposal for controls on junk food and drink advertising to children, which could see characters such as Scooby Doo banned from ads.

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As well as the three proposals presented by Ofcom, looking at how foods high in fat, salt or sugar should be marketed to children, trade bodies for the food and advertising industries, including the Advertising Assocation, have offered a less stringent final option in response to the watchdog's consultation.

This proposes a ban on food and drink advertising on terrestrial channels at times when children are likely to be watching television. It also calls for a restriction on the amount of junk food advertising on children's satellite, digital and cable channels.

Under the latest option characters such as Scooby Doo, would be banned from ads, while brand icons such as the Sugar Puffs Honey Monster or the Kellogg's Frosties mascot Tony the Tiger would not.

Compared with the watershed ban that some parties are calling for, the move is a compromise. Those proposing this fourth option believe that an all-out ban is unnecessary and would prove too damaging not only to the food and advertising industries but to the broadcasters as well.

The proposal is backed by the Food and Drink Federation, the Food Advertising Unit and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, as well as the Advertising Assocation.

The Ofcom consultation is now closed and the watchdog plans to make its final recommendation in October.

The news comes as Jeremy Preston, director of the AA's Food Advertising Unit, a key figure in the junk food and drink advertising debate, steps down from his post.

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