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BMA warns DCMS of 'harmful marketing influences' on kids

LONDON - The British Medical Association has voiced its opposition to product placement for alcohol, gambling and junk food in a submission to the government's consultation on allowing brands to pay to be featured in TV programmes.

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The BMA, which supports a total ban on all marketing of high fat, salt and sugar foods as well as alcohol and gambling, has written to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to express concern about product placement allowing the delivery of "embedded brand messages" to children.

The BMA submission says: "The BMA is deeply concerned about the decision to allow any form of product placement in relation to alcohol, gambling and foods high in fat, sugar or salt [HFSS] as this will reduce the protection of young people from harmful marketing influences and adversely impact on public health.

"By its nature product placement allows marketing to be integrated into programmes, blurring the distinction between advertising and editorial, and is not always recognisable. Studies show that children are particularly susceptible to embedded brand messages and these operate at a subconscious level."

In addition the British Heart Foundation is opposing the move because of concerns over the marketing of junk food to children.

Chief executive Peter Hollins said: "At a time when concerns about childhood obesity have never been higher it makes no sense to introduce a loophole which would provide junk food manufacturers with a new way of peddling unhealthy products.
"The Government's reassurance that product placement will not be allowed during children's programming is of little value as we know it won't cover many of the shows most popular with youngsters."

Lifting the ban on product placement would lead to UK broadcasters making annual revenues in the region of £25m to £35m per year after five years, according to Ofcom.

According to The Guardian several other organisations are opposing "some or all of the plan", including the National Union of Teachers, consumer group Which?, the National Children's Bureau, the National Heart Forum and the Children's Food Campaign.

A Which? spokeswoman told BR this morning she was unable to provide details of the content of its submission to the consultation as the organisation has not yet analysed the research on which its submission will be based.

The consultation followed a government u-turn after new culture secretary Ben Bradshaw decided to allow product placement despite opposition from his predecessor Andy Burnham, now the health secretary.

The Guardian claims several cabinet ministers "share at least some of the critics' concerns" over product placement.

The closing date for responses to the consultation is Friday 8 January.

At the end of December the Church of England made a submission that warned lifting the ban would be to the detriment of the advertising and media planning industries.

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