Since the Channel 4 programme “Jamie’s School Dinners” aired in 2005, most people know Jamie Oliver as the person who shut down Turkey Twizzlers. In the end, they weren’t just removed from children’s school dinners, but from supermarket shelves when they stopped being produced. Jamie Oliver has taken part in various campaigns over the years with the hope of improving the diets of British children. His recent “Ad Enough” campaign launched in April. This movement is encouraging the UK government to restrict junk food advertising.
Jamie Oliver vs Junk Food Adverts
According to Jamie Oliver, junk food advertising is a major contributor to childhood obesity in Britain. With the rise of digital media, marketing is more pervasive than ever before. Kids are impressionable and constant advertisements targeting them directly make it harder for them to make the right decisions about what to eat. Adverts for unhealthy foods and drinks high in salt, sugar, and fat, are everywhere. Jamie Oliver is proposing that the government should introduce a 9pm watershed for junk food adverts on TV, so children won’t see them.
Initiatives in schools have been trying to introduce healthier eating for years. But any work done in schools, or by parents at home, is constantly undermined. Kids are growing up in a culture focused on fast gratification. Everywhere they turn, someone is trying to sell them something, and they may not have developed the tools yet to avoid this relentless kind of influence. Jamie Oliver definitely has a point when it comes to the lack of control over the advertising targeted at children. However, many people disagree with his suggested action.
Why Wouldn’t a Pre-Watershed Ban Work?
Despite their partnerships in the past, Channel 4 is not supporting Oliver’s campaign. The chief executive of Channel 4, Alex Macmahon, is hoping that the government will host a consultation on any advertising rule changes. A 9pm watershed on advertising containing junk food would be a huge blow to broadcasters. The Channel 4 commercial chief, Jonathan Allan, estimates that such a ban would cause a loss of up to £200 million. With broadcasters already facing financial struggles, this would be even more bad news for the future of TV.
Of course, nobody at Channel 4 wants to promote child obesity, but a 9pm watershed does not seem logical to broadcasters. It would prevent such advertising on plenty of TV shows which children are not likely to watch. In fact, children rarely watch live television anymore anyway. They are used to consuming media on demand through streaming and platforms like YouTube. While exposure to TV advertising has decreased, obesity has still risen. Online advertising needs stricter regulations much more urgently than television before 9pm does.
Pushback Over Threat to Percy Pigs
For some people, this latest campaign from Jamie Oliver is a step too far. Part of his “Ad Enough” campaign suggests a ban on using cartoon characters to advertise junk food. Cartoon characters designed to appeal to children are likely to affect their food choices. However, if this ban went through, it could be the end for well-loved British sweets such as Percy Pigs. When this rumour quickly spread online, the British public was not happy. Fans of these classic sweets from Marks and Spencer expressed their outrage on social media.
The potential banning of Percy Pigs was the final straw for some, who already seemed to find Jamie Oliver’s crackdowns on junk food annoying. The good news is that Marks and Spencer responded to the rumours to state that they have no plans to remove the best-selling sweets from their stores. However, they did not comment on the proposal for an advertising ban. If the UK government listens to Jamie Oliver and implements a ban on cartoon characters in advertising for unhealthy foods, then brands won’t have a choice.