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Children exposed to thousands of alcohol advertisements on television sporting games

Children exposed to thousands of alcohol advertisements on television sporting games


Sydney Morning Herald

By Harriet Alexander, Health Reporter

August 12, 2015

When is a child not a child? If you sell alcohol, the answer is when they’re a sports fan.


Monash University research shows children are watching thousands of alcohol advertisements while watching live sport, which is the only time they are allowed to be screened in daylight hours.


A quarter of all alcohol advertising was in sport advertising, and there were significantly more alcohol ads per hour during the day than in non-sport television during the evening.


Alcohol companies are forbidden under the industry code from advertising between 6am and 8.30pm, to minimise their exposure to children.


But the alcohol industry’s lucrative association with sport is protected under a clause that allows them to advertise their products during daytime sports programs on the weekends or public holidays.


Monash University Associate Professor Kerry O’Brien said that taking into account the amount of programming time for sport television versus non-sport, there were four alcohol advertisements during sport for every one in non-sport television.


“The regulations are there to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising,” Associate Professor O’Brien said.


“This clause says, ‘But it’s OK for sport’.”


Free TV, which represents free-to-air television networks, wants to bring forward unrestricted viewing hours from 8.30pm to 7.30pm, citing changes to the media landscape that make free-to-air television “the most heavily regulated platform for accessing content”.


Free TV chief executive Julie Flynn declined to answer questions on why sport was exempted from restrictions on alcohol advertising that applied to other programs during children’s viewing hours.


The Monash study, which has been published in the international journal PLOS ONE, said children’s exposure to alcohol advertisements would be halved if the ads were banned during sport and before 9.30pm.


The director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, Mike Daube, said the industry was estimated to spend hundreds of millions promoting itself through sports sponsorships and advertising each year.


His research indicated 74 per cent of Australians believed alcohol advertising should be phased out during sports broadcasts.


“Kids watching footy are seeing heavy promotion of alcohol, and the alcohol industry want to extend that rather than reduce it,” Professor Daube said.


“From our perspective, sports sponsorship is one of the most appalling means of ensuring that their products are promoted to kids.”


The chief executive of Brewers’ Association of Australia and New Zealand, Denita Wawn, said the beer industry supported some safeguards to protect minors, but there was a case to exempt sport as the viewing audience was predominantly adult.


“A very significant number of adults are watching sport, and people also enjoy an alcoholic beverage during their sport,” Ms Wawn said.


“The reason our members market is to increase brand awareness.”


There was no evidence to prove that alcohol advertising resulted in alcohol misuse, she said.


The alcohol industry spent $3.4 billion on all advertising between 1997 and 2011, according to a study published in Drug and Alcohol Review.