Blaming junk food TV ads for obesity is wide of the mark

In this guest post, Peter Miller argues that banning junk food advertising on TV wouldn’t make our children thinner

Late last year I attended a presentation by Roy Morgan Research entitled ‘Australia’s changing demography’. I was unsure about attending. But then I noticed there was alcohol involved, and Gary Morgan is the kind of guy who can make the world’s dullest statistic sound interesting.

My eye was caught by the significant rise in the number of Aussies enjoying a tertiary education, up from 15% in 1998 to 24% today. No wonder new recruits are so annoying.

It is interesting to note that in this same time frame, support for the Greens has doubled from 5% to 10%. Oh, and that internet thing has gone nuts. And 42% of us think it is OK for gay people to adopt kids. And we all love the environment as long as we can have it for free.

Gary and I were yarning about the changing political landscape after the show and he observed that now the Greens were in government ‘they would have to become more sensible’.

Message to Gary – everyone has an off day.

Like the rest of you, I sleep nights safe in the knowledge that the Franklin River runs still and that the Greens, led by the passionate Bob Brown, will stand against the Spawn of Beelzebub, AKA forestry workers, to the last.

However, once in government the party needed to establish policies on social, economic and other issues. This did not include defence on the basis that uniforms are nasty. This may sound harsh. But it seems to me that a lot of the Greens’ seminal thinking on non-environmental policies occurred at a home-brew fuelled jamboree where they ran out of food and had to eat mushrooms.

A case in point is the Greens revived attack on the advertising of cheeseburgers and chicken wings on television in prime viewing times. Their objective is obviously to get all the little Aussie tackers down a uniform size – and I wish them luck. A policy might help. One that recognizes the fundamental reality that if it was that simple we’d all be skinny.

Bob Brown appears to have fallen under the sway of the Obesity Policy Coalition whose slim spokesperson declares: “It is unethical to leave children to the mercy of these marketers and say it’s just up to parents”. They have clearly concluded that television is the chosen tool of ultimate evil for the promotion of trans-fats to littlies.

Apparently parents are not responsible for allowing them to get to Level 16 in Crazy Birds.  And kids don’t look out the window on the way home from school and think ‘gee I’d love some hot chips’. And Word of Mouth? Twitter? Facebook? Nah.

An element of a real strategy might be to creatively and energetically promote what we want more of, like exercise and apples. Maybe checklists for healthy eating ideas and lifestyle habits might be published. Maybe new media might be exploited. I mean, apparently there is this Facebooky thing? Maybe there is a way to exploit that? Gee.

Look, these ideas are clearly rubbish. But come on, calling switching ads off TV a policy is just a way to get your name in the papers.

Perhaps the Greens, after a few policy wins, have begun to rather enjoy supping at the sweet cup of power.

Just like real politicians.

Peter Miller is the managing director of Adstream


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