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Government considers 9pm alcohol ads watershed

LONDON - Children's minister Ed Balls is considering a 9pm watershed on alcohol advertising and a ban on drink advertising on replica football shirts, as part of an inquiry into the commercialisation of childhood.

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The proposals, first revealed by Marketing on Friday, are part of the government's 10-year Children's Plan, which will set new policies for all aspects of children's lives.

The plan includes an inquiry into the commercialisation of childhood, with a ministerial group examining the links between advertising and underage drinking, and academics looking at the issue of commercial pressures on children.

Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, discovered that there was a surge of alcohol ads between 4pm and 6pm, following a warning earlier this year from charity Alcohol Concern that booze brands are being advertised around programmes that are popular with children, including 'The Simpsons' and 'The X Factor'.

Alcohol Concern cited examples such as a Morrisons ad promoting lager brand Grolsch running during 'The Simpsons', and supermarket chain Lidl promoting its range of wines during 'Coronation Street'.

Balls said: "Clearly if we are serious about improving the health and well-being of young people, we have to consider the impact of advertising."

The plan will also include curbs on accessing pornography on the internet and a possible code of conduct to prevent the "sexualisation" of young girls on TV and in ads.

ISBA, the voice of British advertisers, said that the debate over further restrictions on ads is no more than "red herring politics".

Ian Twinn, ISBA's director of public affairs, said: "Government is right to look at the factors that have an impact on the health and wellbeing of our children but casting advertising in a negative light will not help find solutions.

"Whether it is obesity or anorexia or alcohol abuse, the causes of childhood troubles are far more complex than a single issue and have more to do with the fact that we live in an increasingly affluent society."

The Portman Group, the drinks industry's own body, has already instigated a voluntary ban on alcohol drinks sponsorship on children's replica shirts, which will come into force from January 1.

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