Feds to Study Kids’ Obesity

NEW YORK Federal regulators said they would study the link between media and advertising and childhood obesity.

The research linking childhood obesity with media and advertising “troubles me as a parent and as chairman of the FCC,” according to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin.

“Small children can’t weed out marketing messages from their favorite show, especially when marketing campaigns feature favorite TV characters like SpongeBob and Scooby-Doo,” Martin said Wednesday.

Martin spoke at a Capitol Hill event as he, Sen. Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) and FCC commissioner Deborah Tate announced a task force to study media and children’s health.

The FCC will publish the group’s findings “to summarize what we’ve learned, encourage best practices for the industry and continue to educate America’s parents,” Martin said.

The task force will meet throughout 2007, Brownback said.

“Judging by the sheer volume of media and advertising that children consume on a daily basis, and given alarming trends in childhood obesity, we’re facing a public health problem that will only get worse unless we take action,” Brownback said.

Participants in the task force are to include Disney, Sesame Workshop, Children No, the Beverley LaHaye Institute, the Parents Television Council and the Benton Foundation.

Separately, Martin earlier this month said he is launching an internal probe of what happened to two studies of media consolidation the agency kept from the public [Adweek Online, Sept. 19]. The action was disclosed in a letter from Martin to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who recently has revealed two internal FCC studies. Boxer said a 2004 study that concluded local station ownership boosts the amount of local TV news had been “stifled,” and in a letter to Martin she said it appeared the FCC had “shelved” its own 2003 study that found increasing concentration in radio ownership.

Martin, who became chairman in early 2005, said that he had seen neither study. “I too am concerned about what happened to these two draft reports,” Martin wrote. “I have asked the inspector general of the FCC to conduct an investigation into what happened to these draft documents.”