“Need to Focus on Unhealthy Eating Habits of Children and Young People” – Minister Mary Wallace speaking during the Second Stage of the Dáil Debate on the Broadcasting Bill
Speaking during the Dail Debate on the Second Stage of the Broadcasting Bill on 2nd October, Ms Mary Wallace, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Health Promotion and Food Safety, welcomed the fact that the Bill proposes some new approaches in relation to codes and rules for broadcasting in Ireland, in particular in relation to food advertising aimed at children.
Given the public health impact of overweight and obesity, the Minister stressed the need to tackle the problem as a matter of urgency, “in particular we need to focus on the unhealthy eating habits of our children and young people. The legislation, in allowing for revised codes on advertising, gives us the opportunity to do this, and is a first step in a multi-sectoral approach towards addressing the problem of obesity, and one which, she believes will have a significant impact. There is evidence to support the view that advertising has a significant impact on what we eat. Research worldwide has shown that a high proportion of advertising aimed at children is for unhealthy foods, high in fat, sugar and salt and low in nutritional value” said the Minister.
The Minister, who has targeted the linked problems of overweight and poor nutrition as one of her key priorities, said that her Department is currently finalising a National Nutrition Policy which will provide strategic direction on nutrition for the next ten years.
The Minister concluded by stating that, in her opinion,“the Broadcasting Bill provides a route to protecting the health interests of children” and gave an assurance that officials from her Department will work closely with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources to progress these important changes.
The Broadcasting Bill represents a consolidation and revision of almost 50 years of Irish broadcasting legislation. The entire body of broadcasting legislation is now presented in a single consolidated Bill, and has been significantly updated and modernised throughout.
Among the key aspects of the Bill is the establishment of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), which as well as assuming the functions of the existing Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, will take on a range of new roles and responsibilities.
The BAI will consist of the Authority itself, together with two statutory boards, the Contracts Award Committee and the Compliance Committee. The Authority, which will have overall responsibility for the strategic direction of the organisation, will be tasked with preparing codes and rules for broadcasters. The Compliance Committee will be responsible for ensuring that all broadcasters, whether public or private, comply with their license conditions, and with the standards set down in the broadcasting codes.
Section 42, Subsection (2)(g) of the Bill provides that broadcasting codes shall provide“that advertising, teleshopping material, sponsorship and other forms of commercial promotion employed in any broadcasting service, in particular advertising and other such activities which relate to matters likely to be of direct or indirect interest to children, protects the interests of children having particular regard to the general public health interests of children”.
Subsection (4) provides that a broadcasting code prepared by the Authority under subsection (2)(g)“may prohibit the advertising in a broadcasting service of a particular class or classes of foods and beverages considered by the Authority to be the subject of public concern in respect of the general public health interests of children, in particular those which contain fat, trans-fatty acids, salts or sugars”.