Pre-9pm junk food ad ban could stop chutney and olive oil ads during Countdown

An advertising ban before the 9pm watershed may mean promotions for products like olive oil and chutney would not be able to air during daytime programmes with mainly adult audiences, C4’s chief executive has said.

Food products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS), such as chocolate or crisps, could be limited from airing on TV before the watershed as part of the Government’s bid to tackle childhood obesity.

Speaking about the move, C4’s Alex Mahon told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee: “We need to consider what kind of foods this legislation has an impact on.

“So, right now, for example, we wouldn’t be able to advertise olive oil during Countdown, where there aren’t probably many young people watching.

“We wouldn’t be able to advertise things such as chutney, so there are a number of things that are sort of covered by a blanket ban, which perhaps need to be thought through to make sure there are no unintended consequences.”

Channel 4

Alex said that C4’s revenue derived from advertising products that would be covered in the ban is “of the order of £40 million”, which she said is a “substantial” amount of their overall £900 million revenue and “could make an impact on us”.

She also warned that taking advertising money away from public service TV broadcasting could see it invested instead in digital platforms, which she said have “hyper-targeted advertising” towards children, and could therefore worsen the issue of childhood obesity.

Alex told MPs that it is “very hard to predict” what might happen if the legislation were to be put in place, but she added: “But we do have to remember, from an advertising perspective, they might just put that money into digital platforms, where they can really target young people.

“So we need to make sure that any changes don’t result in consequences that are worse than the current situation.”

She said C4 is devoted to seeing childhood obesity being “completely eradicated”, but that she supports an open consultation over the proposed ban in order to see that it does not have an overall more negative impact.

Alex added: “I do think we need to be careful there isn’t a simplistic measure put in place on this complex issue, which would end up with money coming out of public service TV, and therefore out of British programmes and content.”