Obama Announces Creation of Childhood Obesity Task Force

Look for food marketing to get renewed scrutiny in Washington.

President Obama Tuesday (Feb. 9) announced the creation of a
childhood obesity task force and gave it 90 days to come up with an action plan
and "a generation" to solve the problem through a "coordinated
federal response."

The task force will be chaired by Lawrence Summers,
assistant to the president for economic policy.

While there was no mention of involvement by the Federal
Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission, the task force will
include the heads of whatever agencies the chair chooses, along with the heads
of the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Health and Human Services,
Education, OMB and others.

The issue also has the attention of the First Lady, who has
made it a priority through a national "Let's Move" campaign.
"She will encourage involvement by actors from every sector -- the public,
nonprofit, and private sectors, as well as parents and youth -- to help support
and amplify the work of the Federal Government in improving the health of our
children," the president wrote.

Obama appeared on Good Morning America

Tuesday to talk about the issue

Childhood obesity puts a strain on the healthcare system,
the president pointed out in a memo to the heads of all departments and
agencies including the FCC and FTC.

"We must act now to improve the health of our nation's
children and avoid spending billions of dollars treating preventable disease,"
the president wrote.

Under pressure from the FTC, food marketers came up with
their own guidelines for producing and marketing healthier products, limiting
snack advertising and promoting healthier lifestyles. The FTC is currently
vetting the results of that self-regulation.

A government-industry task force launched when the FCC was
headed by Kevin Martin and included members of Congress and major food
marketers and media executives failed to come to an agreement on strategies for
addressing the issue.

The First Lady's message on fighting childhood obesity will be featured in NBCU's "The More You Know" public service campaign, according to the company.

NBCU is also kicking off its own "health week" in the spring, a multiplatform effort to promote better nutrition.

John Eggerton

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.