FTC Asked To Redefine Definition of Programming Targeted To Kids, Teens

Consortium of kids activists, academics provided comment to the FTC at the Food Marketing To Children Workshop
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A consortium of kids activists and academics has asked the Federal Trade Commission to redefine its definition of programming targeted to kids and teens to be able to collect more information on the marketing by popular TV shows, and to collect it from program distributors as well food marketers.

That came in comments to the FTC Monday from the Food Marketing To Children Workshop.

"The Commission should inquire into industry expenditure and exposure data for marketing that reaches large numbers of children and adolescents even when they are a small percentage of the overall audience," said the group, which was assembled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Berkeley Media Studies Group.

Currently, the FTC defines ads targeted to kids as any program for which kids made up at least 30% of the audience, and teen-targeted is any program with at least a 20% adolscent audience. But the group points out that the FTC conceded that excludes the top five TV shows watched by adolescents in 2006. It wants the FTC to modify the definition to capture such shows, which include The Simpsons and American Idol.

The group also wants the FTC to collect more data, including on targeted marketing, privacy, and to expand the collection to media companies who carry the ads as well as food marketers. The FTC's 2008 study recommended that media companies should confine their licensing of  characters to healthy foods, consider standards limiting kids ads to healthier choices, and to actively promote healthier diets and lifestyles.

Now they say the commission should follow up to see whether they are following through.

The new study will be a follow-up to a study of 2006 data published in 2008. The FTC is proposing to seek more information from 45 food, beverage and fast food restaurant companies, including their child-targetted marketing activities and expenditures and nutritional information for the products marketed.

The original study was prompted by growing concern over childhood obesity, which is fast becoming the nation's top health risk.

The FTC wants to gauge how well the industry has self-regulated since 2006. That data was collected before the Council of Better Business Bureaus implemented its Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which has resulted in changes to nutritional content and marketing practices.

The new study will include information on marketing to adolescents (12-17) as well as kids 2-11, and will seek information on marketing to youth of "a specific gender, race, ehtnicity, or income level."

The comments were due Monday (Nov. 23).

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