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RCN backs call to restrict junk food adverts on catch up TV

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The Royal College of Nursing has backed a call to tackle the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks to children via catch‐up TV after an analysis revealed that viewers of Britain’s Got Talent on demand were bombarded with adverts for unhealthy food and drinks

The analysis by the Obesity Health Alliance revealed that as many as one in four adverts screened before, during and after the popular family show when viewed via the ITV Hub were for food and drink high in salt, sugar and fat, such as burgers, pizzas, sugary soft drinks and sweets.

During one viewing session, McDonalds’ adverts were broadcast in half of all breaks viewed on demand. Meanwhile sponsorship of ITV Hub by Dominos means that everyone visiting the website to view TV shows on demand sees adverts for takeaway pizza, found the Junk Food On Demand analysis.

Only viewers aged 16 and over can sign up for an account on ITV Hub, meaning that associated adverts are assumed appropriate for an adult, even though many children are likely to be watching through the accounts of family members.

Family shows broadcast between 6‐9pm, such as Britain’s Got Talent and Saturday Night Takeaway, are among the most watched TV shows by children aged 4‐15, and more than half of 8‐11‐year‐olds and two thirds of 12‐15‐year‐olds regularly watch TV on other devices.

“It is hugely concerning that children could be exposed to so many junk food adverts”

Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance Lead

The Obesity Health Alliance – a coalition of more than 40 organisations working to tackle obesity, which includes the RCN ‐ is calling for existing restrictions on junk food advertising to be extended to all programmes broadcast before the 9pm watershed – whether they are watched on live TV or on demand catch‐up services.

“It is hugely concerning that children could be exposed to so many junk food adverts wherever they watch their favourite shows – be it on live TV or on‐demand services,” said OHA lead Caroline Cerny.

“We know that the Britain’s Got Talent final was the most watched programme by children in 2017, and with this year’s final broadcast live until 9:30pm on a Sunday night, it is highly likely that many kids will have caught up with it the following day or after on‐demand.”

“Prioritising and valuing school nurses’ expertise would go a long way towards helping the Government fulfil its obesity strategy”

Fiona Smith, professional lead for children and young people, RCN

The analysis comes after the government announced it would shortly update its childhood obesity plan with new measures promised.

Fiona Smith, professional lead for children and young people at the RCN, said campaigning for food and drinks manufacturers to act responsibly was “only one part of the puzzle” and stressed the need to also invest in key support from professionals like school nurses.

“Tackling childhood obesity requires investment in public health services which can make a huge difference to the health and lifestyles of families,” she said.

“School nurses have the skills and the experience to provide children with a wide range of health support and counselling. They are the front line defence against childhood obesity but their funding is being cut and their numbers are dwindling.

“Prioritising and valuing school nurses’ expertise would go a long way towards helping the Government fulfil its obesity strategy and alleviate pressure on an already overstretched health service.”

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