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Governmental crusades

Ms Shipley, a Labour MP, says allowing the adverts for burgers, biscuits, crisps and fizzy drinks to appear between programmes watched by the under-fives counters the government’s efforts to encourage healthy eating. And so she hopes that ministers will listen to her arguments and back her Children’s Television (Advertising) Bill, which will outlaw advertising during pre-school children’s TV programmes that feature food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar.

My bill will ensure that children’s health is placed before commercial interests.

Ms Shipley, responsible for the Protection of Children Act 1999, is supported by more than 100 MPs and 90 national organisation, including the National Heart Forum, Women’s Institute, National Union of Teachers and National Consumer Council.

I have been overwhelmed by the massive favourable response my proposals have received from parents, health professionals and the wider public. There is a growing consensus that a ban is the only way forward as self-regulation is demonstratively not working. Unfortunately, some sections of the food and advertising industries have not heeded the public and professional calls for responsible marketing.

Responsible marketing?! But of course! The left honorable Lady knows what’s right for our children and if the companies are just not going to listen, well, we will have to do something about that (defiant look, tight lips, chin out). Yes, we shall bloody make it a law so all those disgusting images will not pollute our children’s pure souls… and bodies. Bad, bad companies. BAN THEM!

It is a knee-jerk reaction, yet another page from the government’s book of we-know-what’s-good-for-you-and-we-will-force-you-do-it-even-if-it-kills-you.

I am no fan of junk food that I think is an Abomination unto Gastronomy and neither am I fond of large companies that in their enormity occasionally start behaving like states. But proposing a law that bans adverts of greasy food and sugary drinks is the most stark example of the dellusions governments suffer about their role in the society and individuals’ lives. The quote from Brian’s excellent post about the menace of government’s attempt to deliver outcomes contains the right message:

Government is not there to promote all the virtues. It is not there even to restrain or punish all vices. It is there to restrain and punish a very restricted set of vices, of the kind that cause direct and unjustified hurt to others, of the sort which if unpunished and unrestrained would mean people regularly coming to blows with each other. As individuals, government ministers may regret the fact that so many of us fail to display as much in the way of virtue as they might individually like, but so long as we do not do too much, too obviously, of the vice variety, they will not, in their official capacity, bother us.

Hear, hear, the honorable Lady and Gentlemen.

23 comments to Governmental crusades

  • Dave O'Neill

    I was pretty annoyed with this listening to it on the news. I have heard annecdotal evidence from Teachers that where schools have requested that parents avoid packaged food for packed lunches and surgery cereals for breakfast that behaviour standards have improved. It would be interesting, if perhaps unethical, to see if that was actually the case.

    Watching TV the other evening, I was getting pretty p*ssed off with advertising aimed at kids. I don’t have kids myself, but it must be hell at this time of year.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    I heard a report about this on the BBC World Service this morning, and it got my blood boiling.

    The BBC presenter asked the nanny-staterette if she wanted to ban toys too, since they’re advertised and some of them could be seen to have the wrong influence. The nanny-staterette pooh-poohed this idea, but I couldn’t help but think not only about the attempts to ban toy guns, but about the fact that 30 years ago when the nanny-staters were going after Small Tobacco, the reductio ad absurdam was made that it would be ludicrous to use the same arguments regarding what foods people chose to eat. Well, 30 years on, those are precisely the arguments we’re hearing.

  • I have a five year old. Not once has he got up after one of these adverts, gone out and bought himself a happy meal or some such. Either the adverts are not hitting there target or there’s another part of the picture I’m not seeing.

  • We’ve had legislation like this in Canada for some time now, and if you value your sanity you must prevent it from becoming law in the UK. There is something worse than kids being exposed to ads for junk food — filler between shows consisting of chirpy, peppy, ethnically-diverse 20-somethings!

    Because most shows are made assuming that there will be some advertising in the time slot, the shows are less than a half-hour long. The CBC has filled this time with the most annoying collection of future talk-show hosts that you can imagine. (Except Patty. I like Patty.)

    Alison and her dreadlocked buddy (whose name I can’t remember) are the worst. “Hey CBC-kids! How are you today? Let’s do some jumping-jacks! CBC-kids aren’t couch potatoes! Jump! Jump! C’mon, do what I say! Yay! And now we have some pictures sent in by CBC-kids around the country! Here’s one by CBC-kid Raymond in Saskatoon! It’s a picture of the cultural mosaic of our great country living in harmony! And here’s one by CBC-kid Abdul in…”

    I’d rather my kids were exposed to corporate brainwashing than getting it from well-meaning government-types.

  • Rob Read

    Red Communism and it’s europeon brother Communism-Lite (“social”ism) are implicated in the deaths of over 100 million people. Can we thus make the case to ban left wing party political broadcasts as they are deadly?

  • Guy Herbert

    Actually we are approaching the time of year at which pressure groups traditionally do campaign for the banning of toy advertising. For example.

  • Guy Herbert

    Perhaps consumers should be protected against pressure like this when they are vulnerable. Campaigns to ban toy advertising could only be allowed in the early summer at term-time, appeals to ban food advertising addressed only to those who are not obese but don’t have aesthetic objections to fat, usw….

  • S. Weasel

    It looks so cool in the commercial. You scream and whine and jump up and down and hold your breath ’til your face turns blue, and finally your mom buys it for you. And it’s total crap. It’s nothing at all like it looked like on TV.

    It’s not a lesson you learn in a single Christmas or birthday, but you get it eventually. Admen are liars. And it’s a damned important life lesson where we live.

    When you protect kids from things, you take away the experiences they need to protect themselves from things. You don’t want them learning from experience not to take candy from strangers or swim too far from shore, but the less lethal stuff it’s better they figure out for themselves.

  • S. Weasel: Amen to that.

  • Dave O'Neill

    I’m sure I don’t need to point out that if Ads didn’t work, the Admen wouldn’t keep doing it.

    As for:

    Red Communism and it’s europeon brother Communism-Lite (“social”ism) are implicated in the deaths of over 100 million people.

    Hardly a way to get people to take you seriously.

  • Gabriel Syme

    Dave O’Neill: Ads don’t work and advertising industry knows that.

    Red Communism and it’s europeon brother Communism-Lite (“social”ism) are implicated in the deaths of over 100 million people.

    I think this is a splendid idea, which has only one problem. It has not been implemented…

  • Dave O'Neill

    Ads don’t work?

    Really? You’ve never been persuaded to try *anything* because of advertising. Ask Vodafone.

  • S. Weasel

    They probably work better than not advertising. They aren’t irresistable, logic-defying, will-perverting brain extinguishers, though. Most are pretty ineffective, beyond reminding you that thus-and-such a company is still making stuff. Some have the opposite of the intended effect. If you think you’re likely to produce offspring unable to absorb the adman lesson, Dave, I cordially invite you to continue not breeding.

  • toolkien

    I must admit that I am much more of a relativist than I deem my right libertarian compatriots are. I do believe that advertising is a successful form of conditioning, but only to those who are mentally complacent to begin with. But State involvement, unfortunately, doesn’t solve the problem by advocating critical thought but maintaining docility in the mass over whom they have their maternal instincts satisfied. Both desire tractable masses to be adherents to their cause, one for profit of a forthright nature and one for profit of a more muddled and confused nature involving the dispensing of Good. It is incumbent on the individual, or the guardian of one considered incompetent, to use critical thought, processing data and theorizing probable outcomes of behavior, and not for the State to do it for them, or mitigate the outcomes with other people’s property. The individual should resist anyone who professes to have their best interest at heart because they likely do not, whether it’s the commercialized pitchman or the Bureaucrat. Any associations of individuals attempting to shift cultural and group behaviors should be private and the State should be disinterested in shaping cultural behaviors (insert favorite reference to fascistic or communistic practices here). The State should reserve its role to behaviors performed that threaten life and property and the removal of that threat once manifested. Endeavoring to be proactive by shaping culture and behaviors puts the State in a theocratic position. Religions form as a system of obligation and reward calcifying into rote systems of duty when merged with the Force of the State makes for a uncomfortable environment for the individual, and maternalist socialist systems are nothing more than a primordial religious quagmire.

  • Dave O'Neill

    Advertising works. It doesn’t have to work on everybody, merely enough of a percentage of the mass market to make it worthwhile.

    Its very good for that as Sharp found out when they built the GX-10. Who would have bought a Sharp phone without the Vodafone Live! advertising? Historically the answer would have been virtually nobody.

    As I don’t plan on children your ad hominem is misplaced.

  • Pedro

    Sure advertising works. We get to hear about products we might not otherwise know about. But does it make us buy crap? Of course not, we buy the crap because we want it.

    I’ve been laughing at a great Heinekin (sic?) ad where some guy takes the beer instead of giving it to Jennifer Anniston. It’s on TV here in Oz for the Rugby WC. Great ad. Heinekin in my fridge – 0.

    My son loves to eat crap, just like I did in the 60s. No need to call the government for help though, just a simple: no mate, you can have a banana seems to work.

  • Verity

    Pedro has a really startling idea: Just say no! Control your own child instead of inviting the state into your home to do it for you! Cool!

  • Dave O'Neill

    Verity, an excellent idea. Sadly based on what I see everyday, one that is not proving to have much mass market appeal.

  • A_t

    Personally, I’m not sure about the kids/advertising issue… but either way, i think you pple will chuckle at this:

    Americans Demand Increased Governmental Protection From Selves (the onion)

    (apologies if i’ve not been paying attention & someone’s posted a link to this already)

  • Pedro

    Siging up for the nanny state should involve disqualification from voting. If you’re too useless to [insert prefered example of state intrusion] then how can you be qualified to select the dills who are supposed to protect you from yourself.

  • Verity

    Yo, Pedro!

    I always get beaten around the head and shoulders when I suggest that people on welfare should have their voting privilege removed. This is because, if you are, in effect, a ward of the state, you have placed yourself in an infantile position, and only adults get the vote. Unemployed for three months or six months, OK, this can happen to anyone. But more than that, you have decided to abdicate your responsibility, as an adult, to support yourself.

  • Antoine Clarke

    I detect a conspiracy. Following well documented research that proves that larger men are better lovers, the government is trying to prevent children from growing up into well-rounded individuals. 🙂

    Proof that the present British government is part of a conspiracy to rid the country of its finest male specimens. 😉

    The question is: are they acting under orders from Brussels or is this part of a cunning world-wide lesbian plan to emmaciate the opposition. 😮

    We must be told! 😉