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Markey Calls V-Chip Limited Success

House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) Friday renewed his call on big food companies, like McDonalds and General Mills, to rein in their TV advertising to kids or improve the nutritional content of their products, as Kellogg has agreed to do.

He also said he was prepared to ask the FCC to initiate a rulemaking on advertising in children's shows and said he was putting the industry on notice.

But while he opined that there was no V-chip to screen out junk food ads in kids shows, he did offer up support for the chip, which he helped establish, saying that where parents know about it and use it, it gets high marks and is a success, though he pressed the industry to do a better job of educating parents about its existence and how to use it.

At a hearing in his subommittee on the affect of big and small screen--movies and TV--images of violence, junk food and smoking affect children, Markey also called on media companies to similarly cut back on the ads for snacks and sodas in their children's shows.

The government and the food marketing industry are currently working on self-regulatory solutions to the childhood obestiy in a joint task force spearheaded by Republican Senator Sam Brownback (Kan.). Although it plans to offer up those suggestions to Congress in a few weeks, Markey is already pushing the FCC to step in if those solutions aren't sufficient, a move FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has agreed the FCC may need to make.

One of Markey's proposed solutions is to disallow shows that have snack food ads from qualifying as an FCC-friendly educational kids show. The FCC requires broadcasters to provide at least three hours a week of such programming.

At the hearing, Markey said he still thought "Big Father and Big Mother" were preferable gatekeepers to Big Brother, but that the media and food marketers need to give them both a hand.