As a parent, one of the things that I absolutely loathe about children’s television is the advertising. We restrict the channels my sons are allowed to watch to just two, specifically in an attempt to avoid their being saturated with ads for sugary cereals, drinks made from about two percent juice (98 percent added sugar and chemicals), and of course, all of the toys that lead to serious cases of the gimmes. All of which is to say that I was pleasantly surprised to read in The New York Times that the Walt Disney Company announced today that it will ban junk food advertising on its websites, radio stations and TV channels aimed at kids starting in 2015.
Disney is the first major media company to place such restrictions on advertising, which won’t go into effect for a few years due to existing advertising agreements. The restrictions will extend to Saturday morning cartoons on ABC stations owned by Disney and will impact a number of current Disney advertisers like Capri Sun and Kraft Lunchables.
At a Washington news conference with the first lady Michelle Obama, Disney’s CEO Robert A. Iger said that the new advertising restrictions were largely based on recommendations made by federal regulators last year and developed with the assistance of two child health and wellness experts. In a statement released by the White House, the First Lady called the move a “game changer for the health of our children.”
In addition to the limitations on advertising for all programming aimed at kids under 12 (including live-action programs—not just cartoons), Disney is also introducing “Mickey Check” in grocery stores, which will highlight Disney-licensed products that meet specific nutritional criteria for calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar. The “Mickey Check” will also appear on certain recipes on Disney.com and Family.com as well as on particular products and menus at Disney theme parks and resorts, according to the White House statement. Disney had already developed a nutrition policy in 2006 that required that advertising aimed at kids 12 and under would meet specific guidelines.
The Times indicated that other children’s entertainment companies like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network will face pressure to follow Disney’s lead. “This is a major American company—a global brand—that is literally changing the way it does business so that our kids can lead healthier lives. With this new initiative, Disney is doing what no major media company has ever done before in the U.S.—and what I hope every company will do going forward,” Mrs. Obama said in the statement released by the White House.
For more information about Disney’s nutrition guidelines or its new initiative, visit thewaltdisneycompany.com/mohl.
What do you think of this announcement from Disney? Do you think it will help kids and families to eat more healthily?