PO Box 13112 Law Courts, Melbourne Vic 8010.
Published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority
Executive summary 4
1. Background to the ACMA’s monitoring 6
The regulatory framework 6
Addressing community concerns 8
Identifying community concerns 8
The CTS review (2007–09) 8
House of Representatives report—inquiry into obesity (2009) 10
2010 submissions on the industry initiatives 10
Industry response to community concerns 10
The core principles of the initiatives 12
Defining ‘healthy’ and ‘healthier’ dietary choices in food and beverage advertisements to children 12
Scope of the initiatives—the meaning of an ‘advertising or marketing communication to children’ 15
Complaints about food and beverage advertisements to children 16
Whether the products represent a healthy or healthier dietary choice 16
Whether the advertisement is directed primarily to children 16
ASB determinations on commercial television food and beverage advertisements—case studies 16
Statistical data on audience populations 23
Complaints alleging breaches of the initiatives—ASB determinations 23
4. Research on rates of food and beverage advertising on commercial television since the start of the RCMI and QSRI 25
AFGC research—amount of commercial television food and beverage advertisements (March to May 2010) 25
Research methodology and data sampling 25
Research findings—interpretation of data 25
The ACMA’s observations on the AFGC’s research findings 26
University of Sydney—research on rates of advertising by AFGC signatory and non-signatory companies 26
Research methodology and data sampling 27
Research findings—interpretation of data 27
University of Sydney—research on rates of advertising by QSRI signatory and non-signatory companies 28
Research methodology and sampling of data 28
Research findings —interpretation of data 28
The ACMA’s observations on the findings in the University of Sydney/NSWCC research studies 29
5. Observations on the
self-regulatory framework 30
Community awareness of industry initiatives 30
AFGC and QSRI signatory website audit 30
The complaints scheme—access and process 30
Industry comments on the complaints-process 31
ASB website audit 32
Sanctions for breaches of the AANA codes and industry initiatives 32
The ACMA’s observations on industry coverage 34
Industry achievements 34
Indications of a reduction in the rates of advertising for non-core foods 34
Modification of food and beverage products 34
6. Food and beverage advertising—looking forward 37
A national preventative health approach 37
Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy—Convergence Review 38
7. Conclusions 40
In September 2009, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) announced its decision to monitor industry self-regulation of food and beverage advertising to children on free-to-air commercial television.
The decision arose from the ACMA’s review of the Children’s Television Standards (CTS) during 2007–09. A key area of community concern flagged in that review was the regulation of food and beverage advertising to children. Some submitters to the review urged the ACMA to ‘ban’ all or some of this advertising with a view to curbing the rising levels of childhood obesity.
At the end of 2008, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) and the quick-service restaurant Industry (QSR) announced their initiatives on responsible advertising to children. The AFGC’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI) commenced on 1 January 2009, and the QSR’s Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSRI) on 1 August 2009. The RCMI is at Appendix 1 and the QSRI is at Appendix 2.
In response, the ACMA undertook to:
… monitor these initiatives ... [to assist it] ... in determining if industry can adequately address community concern without the need for additional government regulation.
This report firstly identifies the community concerns:
outlined in the community’s submissions provided during the CTS review
contained in submissions made to the ACMA by the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) and Cancer Council NSW (CCNSW) in 2010
flagged in submissions from industry and in industry reports.1
The report then considers various Advertising Standards Board (ASB) complaint case reports against the initiatives, for the period from 1 January 2009 to 31 May 2011. This provides a ‘snapshot’ of the first two years of the operation of the industry initiatives and highlights some areas where community concerns and industry initiatives are imperfectly aligned.
The report also considers three research studies on the impact of the initiatives. These are:
the University of Sydney’s peer-reviewed research (in conjunction with Cancer Council NSW) on rates of food and beverage advertising by AFGC companies in the Sydney market across four days in 2009
the AFGC’s own compliance monitoring reporting, which used three months of food and beverage advertising data from five major capital cities in 2010
the University of Sydney’s peer-reviewed research (in conjunction with Cancer Council NSW) on rates of fast food advertising by quick-service restaurants in the Sydney market across four days in 2010.
At this stage it appears to the ACMA that:
the community concerns flagged with the ACMA in 2007–09 remain
industry initiatives have not yet addressed all these community concerns
any real-life change in the level of children’s exposure to food and beverage advertising on free-to-air television is unclear.
The report also notes the recent establishment of the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (the ANPHA) by the Australian National Preventive Health Agency Act2010 (the ANPHA Act). The ANPHA is responsible for preventive health programs, and for effectively monitoring, evaluating and building evidence on preventive health strategies.2 The marketing of food with low nutritional value to children is a priority action area for ANPHA. The issue has been identified as a priority in the Strategic Plan 2011–2015 and in the Operational Plan 2011–2012. Specifically, the strategic plan states that ANPHA will ‘monitor and engage with industry and other partners on food products and marketing, including products for children and marketing to which they are exposed with attention to energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods and beverages’ (p. 18).3 The ACMA welcomes this development. As a broadcasting regulator, the ACMA is neither equipped nor resourced to make independent judgments on issues of public and preventive health. The ANPHA—with its preventive health focus, health expertise and remit to evaluate and build evidence—is ideally placed to inform and promote a whole-of-government response which is likely to be required in responding to the challenges of childhood overweight and obesity. However, the ACMA will work collaboratively with the ANPHA where appropriate.