ANPHA says alcohol advertising is reaching and influencing children

Louise Sylvan

Louise Sylvan

Banning the advertising of alcohol brands around televised sports is one key recommendation from a report which has found this type of promotion is reaching and influencing children more than has previously been thought.

A draft report from The Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) into the current system of regulation around alcohol marketing and advertising to protect children is inadequate, and will make a number of recommendations for changes to the Federal Government before June.

Among them are for the self-regulatory code for alcohol advertisers be extended to include all forms of marketing, including sponsorships which currently fall outside its remit., which the top advertisers’ association in Australia opposes.

ANPHA CEO Louise Sylvan said this report has taken into account new evidence around alcohol use by young people and the most recent guidelines around safe ages for parents to allow their children to have alcohol.

“We’re conducting this review in the context of this and what we found the 15-17 year olds who are involved with social media and still watching quite a bit of television, involved with sports and so on, they’re seeing as much alcohol advertising as adults are seeing. That’s of great concern,” Sylvan told Mumbrella.

“When people say it has no influence on children and on adolescents, we think it’s not possible for the industry to do an ad that appeals to a 20 year old or a 19 year old that somehow doesn’t appeal to a 16 or 17 year old, it’s just not reasonable to suggest that.

“These are really appealing advertisements, the only way to deal with it is to ensure they’re just not in the space children and young adolescents are watching.”

As a result of this finding the agency is asking for the removal of the exemption in the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice that allows for direct advertising of alcohol products before 8:30pm as an accompaniment to the broadcast of live sporting events on weekends and public holidays.

“We recommend that the exemption be withdrawn, that it shouldn’t be in place, this is still the biggest area of exposure for young people and children,” Sylvan said.

“We haven’t made a recommendation that sport sponsorship be prohibited from taking alcohol brands, we’ve made a recommendation that advertising needs to come out of that equation.

“The other recommendations are to cinema – that it move to an 8.30pm timeline as well and also subscription broadcast TV. We’re saying it should be across the board, it’s the visual media that is important.”

The draft report documents a number of surveys from the last decade which show public concern about the proliferation of alcohol advertising, and about the industry self-regulating.

Based on these findings the agency recommends the alcohol industry’s self-regulator code – the Alcohol Beverages Advertising (and Packaging) Code (ABAC) be improved by ensuring all forms of marketing are included.

“We’ve made major recommendations to them and one of those is that any sponsorship material be under that self-regulatory code as well, it doesn’t necessarily fall there at the moment so nobody is scrutinising it, and that any merchandising that accompany sport sponsorship be under that code as well,” explained Sylvan.

“We’ve actually seen examples in Australia of spirits and beer companies putting out alcohol merchandise like clothing in children’s sizes. It’s entirely inappropriate. This sort of thing shouldn’t be slipping through, and it is, and that’s because these things aren’t clearly covered by the ABAC code.

“We also say very strongly that a code of this kind which is regulating a product which is harmful in the society, particularly harmful to young people, ought to be under more public scrutiny and this code should be authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.”

Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has said it is concerned with the agency’s recommendations for further regulation.

CEO Sunita Gloster said: “AANA is particularly concerned at suggestions that more regulation is necessary when there is no evidence that advertising is leading to excessive drinking.  Advertisers acknowledge that they have a responsibility when advertising alcohol and this is reflected in their commitment to a range of self and co-regulatory restrictions.

“If implemented, these recommendations will undermine the work of the self regulatory system to provide platform and technology neutral protections for children, while acknowledging marketers’ right to advertise responsibly to adults.”

However, the AANA is pleased the report has acknowledged that “the current system is the appropriate model to provide protections for community standards”.

“This acknowledgement is testament to the commitment of the industry to maintaining and evolving the system as marketers seek opportunities to engage with consumers in innovative ways and by utilising technology,” said Gloster.

“The AANA self regulatory and ABAC co-regulatory system have the flexibility to respond appropriately to changing consumer behaviour and this was demonstrated by the extension of the Codes to digital and social media and the inclusion of user generated content within the community standards piece within the Codes.”

The draft report is now open for public comment, with the public invited to submit their concerns and views in writing to the agency by March 21.

“People now have an opportunity to put their views into us, we welcome individual points of views as well as the views of industry bodies and sports bodies that will be affected,” said Sylvan.

AANA has said it will “participate actively” in this stage and is reviewing the Draft Report in detail.

The Final Report is due to be provided to the Commonwealth Minister for Health before June 2014.

The full Draft Report can be read on the ANPHA website.

Miranda Ward


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