Media Column

July 31, 1991 2 min read

The American Academy of Pediatrics last week called for a ban on television food advertising aimed at children.

The academy, which represents 41,000 pediatricians nationwide, released its policy statement on the commercialization of children’s television during a pediatrics conference in Chicago.

The statement says that since 1978, breakfast cereals have been the first or second most-advertised products during Saturday morning children’s programming.

“Because young children cannot understand the relationship between food choices and chronic nutritional diseases, advertising food products to children promotes profit rather than health,” the statement asserts.

Last month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest reported that 96 percent of Saturday morning food ads are for sugared breakfast cereals, candy, snacks, and fast-food meals.

The pediatrics group, which has been vocal in the past about legislation affecting children’s television, did not suggest whether it favors Congressional action or self-imposed limitations on children’s food advertising by broadcasters or food manufacturers.

The academy also called on parents to teach their children “media literacy” and for pediatricians to lead community efforts to monitor television stations’ compliance with advertising limits during children’s programming.

In remarks to the pediatrics conference, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis W. Sullivan said he agreed “100 percent” with the academy that the media should be held “responsible for harmful advertising during peak viewing hours by children. Ads are taken as gospel--ads that promote foods that are low in nutritional value and often high in cholesterol and other problematic ingredients.”

The Persian Gulf war spawned a number of special news programs earlier this year designed to explain the conflict to children. One of those specials aired on the Nickelodeon cable channel.

Now the producers of that program, “Nickelodeon Special Edition: Kids Talk About the Middle East,” are returning to the cable channel this fall with three more news specials for children.

The veteran television journalist Linda Ellerbee and her production company, Lucky Duck Productions, are producing three half-hour monthly news shows. The first airs on Nickelodeon on Sept. 22 at 6:30 P.M. Eastern and Pacific time.

The first special deals with children’s efforts to have an impact on government environmental policy. The later specials will deal with media literacy and stereotyping.--mw

A version of this article appeared in the July 31, 1991 edition of Education Week as Media Column