In November the Department of Culture, Media and Sport launched an 8 week consultation on whether to allow product placement. This raised some eyebrows not only because consultations normally run for 12 weeks, but because the department had already consulted on the same matter in 2008.
Food and consumer groups have heralded the exclusion of HFSS foods as a victory for their campaigns. Jackie Schneider, coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign at Sustain, said: “It is good news that the massive pressure from health, consumer and children’s groups has forced Ben Bradshaw to drop plans to allow the product placement of junk food.”
However Schneider does still have some lingering doubts; Sustain was campaigning for a blanket ban on all food and beverages being game for product placement.
“We are very uncomfortable that plans to allow some product placement will still go ahead. This creates the possibility that a future government could still allow placement of junk food through the back. The political parties should be warned that any attempt to reintroduce product placement of junk food in the future will be met by the same massive level of opposition that won this argument.”
A host of other organisations joined Sustain in their campaign to stop product placement for unhealthy food and drink, including Which?, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Medical Association, and The Food Commission.
Placement of such products would have contradicted policy elsewhere, as the government already recognises the marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and salt to children as a problem. There are curbs on the explicit advertising of such products around salt around children’s TV programmes.
In his statement yesterday, Ben Bradshaw, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said: “An alternative to a ban on placement of HFSS foods and alcohol might have been restrictions of some kind on their placement in shows which have a large child audience, or which are shown before the watershed. But this would be complex to administer and would not provide the certainty which the government seeks.
In the circumstances we intend to legislate for a complete bar on placing these products. This is an important aspect of the cautious approach that we need to take.”
Following Bradshaw’s announcement, the question of product placement must now pass to broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which will have to run a consultation on changes to its code. Only after that, and after the Code has been changed, will product placement be permitted.