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FTC Urges Media to Do More on Food Marketing

Media companies made little progress in promoting healthier
food choices, a Federal Trade Commission report on food marketing released
Friday concluded.

"With a few exceptions, media companies have not
limited licensing of children's characters and placement of ads during
children's programming to more nutritious foods," the FTC said.

The FTC report found that food marketers had cut their
overall spending on marketing to youth by 19.5%, primarily cutting spending on
TV ads. But it also found a 50% increase in spending on online, mobile and
viral marketing.

"[F]ood company participation in self-regulation has
increased," the report found, "but some companies with significant marketing to
children still have not joined the effort. The entertainment industry lags
farther behind."

The study
was a follow-up to a 2008 report. That report made recommendations to media and
entertainment companies primarily on character licensing and cross-promotions
with food companies and on placement of food ads in kids' media.

While the FTC in this latest report praised some companies
for their initiatives in that regard, but said that some major media companies
don't apply any nutrition standards for foods promoted by popular characters.

On the FTC's nice list was Disney, which in 2012 committed
to apply nutrition standards on ads in child-directed shows. Ion also was
praised for its 2008 commitment to limit food ads to more nutritious offerings.

The commission also signaled it was not pleased that media
companies had not launched an industry-wide effort to combat childhood obesity.

Commenting on the report, the Center for Digital Democracy
focused on the rise in online marketing and what it said were integrated,
multiscreen campaigns that encourage kids to "pester" their parents
to buy their products.

"The nation's youth obesity epidemic illustrates that
more is needed than just a report," said the group. "The FTC should convene
stakeholders to develop a set of Fair Digital Marketing Practices for Children
and Teens."