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Background and context

A great deal of advertising on television is aimed at children, promoting not only toys and sweets but also products such as food, drink, music, films and clothing to young consumers from toddlers to teenagers. Increasingly this practice is coming under attack from parents organisations, politicians and pressure groups in many countries. Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Denmark and Belgium all currently impose restrictions, and these have also been proposed in most other EU countries and in the USA. Within Europe, the forthcoming EU Television Without Frontiers Directive, due to be issued by 2004, is likely to focus attention upon the issue as the advertising industry and anti-advertising groups battle over whether age restrictions should be imposed upon the whole EU in the future. A key factor in any debate will be the age definition of children. Recent campaigns in the USA and Britain have concentrated upon banning advertising to under-fives watching "toddler-television", but a Swedish proposal for an EU-wide ban applies to under-12s (a definition which might produce a livelier and more focused debate).

Products: Do ads to children foster a "must-have" mentality?


Yes
y

Ads cause children to beg for products; harms child-parent relations. Advertising specifically to children is unethical because they have little or no money of their own and have to persuade their parents to buy the products for them. Rather than advertising directly to parents, companies use a "nag and whine" campaign that leads to bad feeling between parents and children. They rely on pester power to make adults spend money they dont have on things they dont want to buy, and which their children may well only play with for a few hours. Ads for "must-have" products alienates children that "can't have". Advertising which presents products to children as "must-have" is also socially divisive, making children whose parents cannot afford them appear inferior, and creating feelings of frustration and inadequacy, as well as leading families into debt.

No
y

Banning ads shirks the individual responsibility of children and parents. Advertising has no magical power to create unnatural desires for material possessions. Children who nag are simply badly brought up. Poor parenting and undisciplined children cannot be solved by banning advertising, as children have many influences upon them which can stimulate their desires for toys, etc., particularly their friends. It is also untrue that children have no spending power of their own; many children under 12 receive pocket money and teenagers are often able to earn a little themselves. Learning to manage money is part of growing up, and advertisements help them to choose what they would like to save up for.

Social: Do TV ads targeting children have negative social consequences?


Yes
y

Advertising aimed at children brings negative social consequences. Much of it is for food and drinks that are very unhealthy. Encouraging gullible children to consume so much fatty, sugary and salty food is unethical because it creates obese, unhealthy youngsters, with bad eating habits that will be with them for life. Society also has to pay a high price in terms of the extra medical care such children will eventually require, so the government has a direct interest in preventing advertisements which contribute to this problem.

No
y

Children naturally like foods that are rich in fats, proteins and sugar. They give them the energy they need to play energetically and grow healthily. It is true that eating only such foods is bad for people, but this is again a problem of bad parenting rather than the fault of advertising. And of course, if advertising to children were banned, then governments would not be able to use this means of promoting healthy eating, road safety, hygiene, and other socially useful messages.

Argument #4
Yes This measure stands alone but has a good precedent in the restrictions placed in most countries upon advertising tobacco and alcohol. It also takes a stand against increasingly exploitative marketing campaigns that ruthlessly target children. In the USA marketing companies are already offering schools free televisions in exchange for their students being forced to watch a certain amount of programming and advertisements each day, and selling marketing data on those children. It is time that childhood was protected from such commercialisation. No This measure sets a bad precedent which is likely to result in ever more restrictions upon the freedom of expression. Children watch many programmes that adults also enjoy, and some adults are also particularly suggestible; should we then extend this ban to all television advertising. And why stop at television when children are also exposed to radio, cinema, the internet and billboards in the street as well? Perhaps companies should also be banned from sponsoring entertainment and sporting events for children, and prevented from providing free branded resources for schools. On the other hand, any restrictions will be impossible to enforce as television is increasingly broadcast by satellite across national borders and cannot easily be controlled - nor can the internet.

Argument #5
Yes Exploitative advertising brainwashes children into becoming eager consumers and capitalists. Multinational companies deliberately encourage them to be materialistic so that they associate happiness with purchasing power and the possession of particular goods. A study recently found that children in Sweden, where marketing campaigns to the under-12s are banned, wanted significantly fewer toys than children in Britain, where there are no restrictions. No Banning advertisements is a severe restriction upon freedom of speech. Companies should be able to tell the public about any legal products, or innovation will be restricted and new companies will find it hard to market their products successfully in the face of established rivals. Children also have a human right to receive information from a wide range of sources and make up their own minds about it. They are far from being brainwashed by advertisements, which form only a small part of their experiences; family, friends, school and other television programmes are much more important and all give them alternative views of the world.

Pro/con resources
Yes
y

This pro/con resources section needs expanding. See how in the getting started tutorial

No
y y y y

"Television Advertising Leads to Unhealthy Habits in Children; Says APA Task Force". APA Online. 23 Feb. 2004 Brandon Mitchener. Sweden Pushes Its Ban on Children's Ads. The Wall Street Journal. May 29, 2001 "Call for TV food ads ban". BBC. 4 Nov. 2003 Kathleen Thurber. "Unhealthy food ads targeting children deserve foreign ban". Daily Skiff. 27 Mar. 2007

Argument #6
Yes Broadcasting is increasingly diverse, with state-funded, commercial and subscription channels all available in most countries. Restricting advertising a little will not make much difference to revenues of commercial broadcasters, and they can be regulated to ensure that they continue to offer a good standard of childrens programming. Programme quality is likely to improve as much childrens television these days involves considerable product-placement and advertising tie-ins, which result in poor programmes and unimaginative formats. No Advertisements are the means by which most television stations are funded. If advertising to children is banned, then broadcasters will stop showing childrens programmes, or greatly reduce their quality and quantity, which is clearly not in the public interest. State broadcasters funded by a license fee, such as the UKs BBC, and specialist subscription channels that are also not dependent upon advertising revenue would both welcome restrictions upon the ability of commercial broadcasters to compete with them in childrens programming. As competition is the best means of improving choice, diversity and quality, their lobbying on this issue should be disregarded. Nor does advertising only benefit commercial broadcasters, consumers also benefit. Greece has banned advertising of toys, and this has led to a more limited selection of toys being sold in Greece. Childrens magazines rely upon advertising to be affordable - logically under this proposal they should be prevented from doing so, and so effectively shut down.

Should advertising aimed at children be banned?

A great deal of advertising on television is aimed at children, promoting not only toys and sweets but also products such as food, drink, music, films and clothing to young consumers from toddlers to teenagers. Increasingly, this practice is coming under criticism from parents organisations, politicians and pressure groups in many countries. Many western countries have currently imposed national restrictions, and these have also been proposed in most other European Union countries and in the USA. Negative Many people consider that it is unethical to target children with advertisements, as they are not yet able to distinguish advertising from actual programming in the way adults can. This would mean that advertising aimed at children is misleading and unfair. It is also clearly effective, or else, advertisers would not spend such huge amounts of money each year targeting children who are not able to resist their sales pitch. Advertising specifically to children is unethical because parents are forced to buy products for them as they scarcely have any money of their own. Rather than advertising directly to parents, companies use a "nag and whine" campaign that leads to bad feeling between parents and children. For example, children pester adults to spend money, on unnecessary toys, which their children may play with, only for a few hours. Moreover, advertising which presents products to children as if they are necessary to them is also creates social divisions. It creates an inferior feeling in children, whose parents cannot afford them, resulting in frustration and inadequacy, as well as leading families into debt. Again, advertising aimed at children can also lead to negative social consequences, as a substantial portion of it is for food and drinks that are very unhealthy. Encouraging vulnerable children to consume great amounts of fatty, sugary and salty food is unethical because it would create obese, unhealthy youngsters, with bad eating habits that will last for a lifetime. Society also has to pay a high price in terms of the extra medical care such children will eventually require. Therefore, the government has a direct interest in preventing advertisements which contribute to this problem. Furthermore, companies increasingly indulge in exploitative marketing campaigns that ruthlessly target children. To exemplify, in many developed countries marketing companies offer schools free televisions in exchange for their students being forced to watch a certain amount of programming and advertisements each day, and selling marketing data on those children. It is time that childhood was protected from such commercialisation. Exploitative advertising brainwashes children into becoming eager consumers. Multinational companies deliberately encourage them to be materialistic, and as a result, they associate happiness with purchasing power and the possession of particular goods. A study recently found that children in Sweden, where marketing campaigns to the under-12s are banned, wanted significantly fewer toys than children in Britain, where there are no restrictions.

Finally, restricting advertising a little will not make much difference to revenues of commercial broadcasters, and they can be regulated to ensure that they continue to offer a good standard of childrens programming. Positive Children are not naive or innocent, but canny consumers who can distinguish between advertisements and programmes, and understand that advertisements can be misleading. This essential learning process is actually developed through exposure to advertisements. It is also assisted by responsible parenting that does not just dump children down in front of the television, but spends some time watching with them and discussing what is seen. Advertising hardly has any magical power to create unnatural desires for material possessions. Children who nag are result of bad parenting. The problem of poor parenting and undisciplined children cannot be solved by banning advertising, as children have many influences upon them which can stimulate their desires for products like toys, sweets and other entertainments. For example, in many cases friends can be the most influencing forces on them. It is also untrue that children have no spending power of their own, as many children under 12 receive pocket money and teenagers are often able to earn a certain amount of money for themselves. Learning to manage money is part of growing up, and advertisements help them to choose from the vast ocean of childrens products. Children naturally like foods that are rich in fats, proteins and sugar. They give them the energy they need to play actively and grow healthily. It is true that eating an excess amount of such foods is bad for children, but this is again a problem of bad parenting rather than the fault of advertising. And of course, if advertising to children is banned, then governments will not be able to use this means of promoting healthy eating, road safety, hygiene, and other socially useful messages. Even if television advertising aimed at children is banned, children are also exposed to radio, cinema, the internet and billboards in the street. Perhaps, companies should also be banned from sponsoring entertainment and sporting events for children, and prevented from providing free branded resources for schools. On the other hand, it is impossible to enforce any restriction, as television is increasingly broadcast by satellites across national borders and cannot easily be controlled. So is the case with the internet. Banning advertisements is a severe restriction upon freedom of speech. Companies should be able to inform the public about any legal products, or innovation. If it is restricted, new companies will find it hard to market their products successfully in the face of established rivals. Children also have a human right to receive information from a wide range of sources and arrive at their own decisions about them. They are far from being brainwashed by advertisements, which form only a small part of their experiences. Family, friends and school are much more important and all give them alternative views of the world.

Advertisements are the means by which most television stations are funded. If advertising to children is banned, then broadcasters will stop showing childrens programmes, or greatly reduce their quality and quantity, which is clearly not in the public interest. State broadcasters funded by the government and subscription channels that are also not dependent upon advertising revenue would welcome such restrictions on childrens programming. As competition is the best means of improving choice, diversity and quality, their views on this issue should be disregarded. Advertising not only benefits commercial broadcasters, bust also consumers. For example, childrens magazines are sold at an affordable price as they rely upon advertising to cut the cost.