Meeting for the first time last week, the Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity plans to report back to Congress and the FCC in mid July with recommendations for attacking the growing health crisis.
The group is the idea of either Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) or FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. Each gave the other the credit for it. Martin praised the media industry but said more needs to be done.
Task Force Chairman Gary Knell, of Sesame Workshop, said the goal is not to have a food fight but to jointly issue a “declaration” on how to attack the problem, come up with an “inventory” of best practices, and announce collaborations.
The FCC commissioners in attendance, Deborah Taylor Tate and Michael Copps, agreed that the industry has taken steps to address the problem. Copps and Martin emphasized that the result of the task force should be action, not the conclusion that there is a problem or that people need to be educated.
Attendees included activists, educators and media companies Disney, Discovery, Food Network, MTV and Telemundo.
Brownback seemed to echo a consensus that this is a time for action, not finger-pointing. He said the obesity crisis among children calls for the aggressive schedule.
Although one of the themes of the meeting was collegiality, Dan Jaffe, executive VP of government relations for the Association of National Advertisers, took the opportunity to point a finger at government. He said that the industry has done a lot already to address the problem, such as revamping its self-regulations and spending billions on education and engineering marketing to emphasize healthier foods. Government, meanwhile, has not done enough, he said, adding that it has reduced or eliminated physical-education programs and has not provided sufficient funding for nutrition education.
Jaffe said he hopes one of the results of the task force will be restoration of those programs.