News & events

The industry responds to a ban on paid-for HFSS advertising

The NMA calls out the government’s ban on paid-for HFSS advertising as harmful to news media publishers. 

Last Thursday, it was announced that the government will ban paid-for HFSS advertising on TV and increase restrictions online before 9pm from 2023. 

The industry is united in its response to the detrimental impact it will have, which is predicted to cost up to £600m.

Commenting on the announcement, NMA legal, policy and regulatory affairs director Sayra Tekin, said: “We are very disappointed that the government has chosen to implement a ban on paid-for HFSS advertising online despite widespread concern that the evidence does not demonstrate a compelling causal link between advertising exposure and childhood obesity.

“Instead of tackling the problem of childhood obesity, this draconian measure will harm news media publishers who rely on advertising revenue to fund the journalism which keeps us all informed. We urge the government to reconsider and work with the industry to come up with a workable solution instead of implementing these ill-considered measures.” 

Sue Eustace, Advertising Association public affairs director, added: “We are dismayed government is moving ahead with its HFSS ad ban on TV before the 9pm watershed and increased restrictions online. This means many food & drink companies won’t be able to advertise new product innovations and reformulations and larger food-on-the-go, pub and restaurant chains may not be able to tell their customers about their menus. Content providers – online publishers and broadcasters – will lose vital advertising revenue to fund jobs in editorial and programme-making.

"We all want to see a healthier, more active population, but the government’s own analysis shows these measures won’t work. Levelling up society will not be achieved by punishing some of the UK’s most successful industries for minimal effect on obesity levels.”

This week, the NMA called on Boris Johnson to reconsider his decision. In a letter to the PM, NMA chairman Henry Faure Walker called for a rethink on the plans which will impact disproportionately on news publishers while continuing to benefit the platforms.

He wrote: “Meanwhile, news media publishers, who demonstrably do not have child audiences, will directly suffer as a result of the policy.  We believe that advertisers should be able to advertise their legal products to adult audiences who frequent our sites,” he added.

“If the Government’s key concern is to limit children from encountering HFSS advertising, then it makes little sense to penalise news publishers.” 

The industry stands ready with proposals for alternative self-regulatory solutions via the Advertising Standards Authority and would welcome further dialogue with government about these, as well as designing a specific carveout for news media if necessary. 

02/07/21

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