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TV food ads code not working: Otago study

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/10/2016

Self-regulation is failing to protect children adequately from junk food marketing on television, an Otago University study has concluded.

The study recommends a complete ban on unhealthy food ads on TV until 9pm and independent monitoring.

Researchers looked at 96 hours of weekday programming across four stations - the free-to-air TV2 and TV3, and pay channels Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

They found that 144 of 267 food ads shown, or 62 per cent, were for unhealthy foods as defined by the Ministry of Health, and all were on the two free-to-air stations.

They also found that broadcaster definitions of children's viewing times did not correspond with their actual viewing times.

Researchers said the evidence showed that the Advertising Standards Authority's self-regulatory system and the associated free-to-air broadcasters' Getting It RIght for Children code were "getting it very wrong".

They noted that one broadcaster, in advertising unhealthy foods in the afternoons, was in breach of its own restrictions.

The study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, said one positive finding was the absence of unhealthy food advertising on the child-orientated subscription channels.

That made them a good choice for families, if they could afford pay TV.

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