Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ofcom flexes its muscles to protect kids' health

Commercial broadcasters will lose a big source of revenue when the ban on targeting tv junk food adverts at under 16's comes into effect next year. Ofcom has demonstrated its concern for the health of young people, and these concerns outweigh worries about the possibility of many independent tv companies being forced out of business.

Ofcom has so far only addressed the physical health of kids: fatty foods leading to obesity, salty foods - a cause of high blood pressure and strokes and sugary foods causing dental decay, obesity and diabetes.

But what are Ofcom doing about the emotional well-being of kids? Shouldn't broadcasters also have a duty to ensure that they aren't harming the mental health of children? The BBC has been deliberately discriminating against lgbt kids for years, and discrimination is known to be a cause of health problems (see blog on 18 August 2006.)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the mass media ensure that kids have access to information and material of social and cultural benefit from a diversity of national and international sources in order to help promote social, spiritual and moral well-being, and physical and mental health.

But by broadcasting thousands of kids' programmes portraying exclusively heterosexual relationships, the significant minority of young people who aren't heterosexual are being ignored completely and the BBC is flouting these kids' rights, adding to their social isolation, as well as being a contributory factor in the already severe problem of homophobic bullying in primary and secondary schools.

With Ofcom's advertising ban, children's physical health might improve. Independent tv companies will disappear and the BBC will gain an even bigger share of young audiences. Ofcom should also ensure that broadcasters are mindful of the emotional well-being of kids, and that means requiring broadcasters be fully inclusive.

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