Cumberland Times-News

June 13, 2013

Senators ask Nickelodeon to ban kids’ junk food ads

Rockefeller one of four sending letter to childrens’ programming network

JOHN RABY
Associated Press

— CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Four U.S. senators are calling on children’s cable network Nickelodeon to ban ads targeted at children that promote and sell junk food and sugar.

A letter was sent this week to Nickelodeon and its parent company, Viacom, by Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tom Harkin of Iowa.

“As a leading multi-media entertainment destination for children and adolescents, Nickelodeon has a special opportunity — and responsibility — to help address our nation’s childhood obesity epidemic,” the senators wrote. “We ask that you implement a clear policy to guide the marketing of food to children on Nickelodeon’s various media platforms, including the advertisements on your channels, Internet sites and mobile platforms.”

It follows a letter sent to the companies in December by a coalition of more than 80 health groups, doctors and nutritionists urging them to implement strong nutrition standards for food marketing to children.

“As an entertainment company, Nickelodeon’s primary responsibility is to make the highest quality content in the world for kids, and we leave the science of nutrition to the experts,” Nickelodeon said in a statement Thursday. “No entertainment brand has worked as comprehensively and with more organizations dedicated to fighting childhood obesity over the past decade than Nickelodeon.”

Nationally, about 12.5 million people age 19 and under, or 17 percent, are considered obese — triple the rate from a generation earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.