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Disney Limiting Food Ads in Kids Content

Disney is establishing new nutrition guidelines for ads in its kid-targeted media properties, Disney Chairman Robert Iger was announcing Tuesday at the Newseum in Washington, scheduled to be joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, who has made tackling childhood obesity through healthier diets and more exercise her chief cause.

Under the guidelines, "all food and beverage products advertised, sponsored, or promoted on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney and Disney-owned online destinations oriented to families with younger children will be required by 2015 to meet Disney's nutrition guidelines."

While the announcement made no mention of Saturday morning kids shows, ABC spokeswoman Michelle Bergman confirmed that the ad limits will also be in effect for the the Litton-supplied Saturday morning programming on ABC-owned TV stations. She could not speak for ABC affiliates that air the kids block.

The lmits do not mean that fast food and snacks can't be advertised, but those that do must meet Disney's nutrition guidelines. For example, a 3 oz. serving of "shaped, prepared nuggets" must be fewer than 250 calories and a cereal must have under 10 grams of sugar.

Disney was billing it as "first major media company to introduce new standards for food advertising on programming targeting kids and families." Major food marketers have instituted their own limits and food reformuations, but media companies have been enc ouraged to follow suit with their own standards.

"We're proud of the impact we've had over the last six years," said Iger in a statement. "We've taken steps across our company to support better choices for families, and now we're taking the next important step forward by setting new food advertising standards for kids. The emotional connection kids have to our characters and stories gives us a unique opportunity to continue to inspire and encourage them to lead healthier lives."

Disney has had nutrition guidelines related to the use of branded characters since 2006, when Iger called them the first steps in an initiative that would "evolve over time." It first partnered with Michelle Obama's Let's Move initiative in 2010 with its own "Magic of Healthy Living Campaign, which it kicked off with a Disney Channel promo.

The announcement Tuesday comes in the wake of renewed attention on the issue at the Federal Trade Commission, and elsewhere over the past year, given the rise of childhood obesity rates and the focus on health care costs.

"Disney's announcement is welcome news to parents and health experts concerned about childhood obesity and nutrition," said Center for Science in the Public Interest nutrition policy director Margo. Wootan on the CSPI's Web site Tuesday. "This puts Disney ahead of the pack of media outlets and should be a wake-up call to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network to do the same. As a nation, all companies should be working toward promoting only healthy food through all forms of child-directed media."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.