Report slams TV alcohol ads

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Current rules on alcohol advertising are failing to protect children and must be tightened, according to the government agency charged with preventing disease.

In a draft report released on Monday, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency recommended the removal of an exemption that allows alcohol to be advertised on free-to-air TV during children’s viewing hours on weekends and public holidays as part of live sporting broadcasts.

A 2007 study showed more than half of alcohol advertisements were shown as part of such broadcasts.

Citing evidence that teenagers were exposed to almost the same level of alcohol advertising as adults aged between 18 and 24, the agency found the current co-regulatory and self-regulatory arrangements were ”failing to sufficiently protect children and adolescents, and in some cases are facilitating their exposure to alcohol advertising”.

”On television, this exposure is largely as a result of the exemption in the [Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice] for broadcast of live sporting events on weekends and public holidays,” it said.

It recommended governments legislate for a ”new regulatory regime” if the industry did not adequately respond to community concerns by 2016.

The agency also recommended alcohol advertising on pay TV and in cinemas be prohibited before 8.30pm.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said the existing regulator regime was ”badly flawed” because it was ”voluntary, limited in scope, poorly enforced and without meaningful penalties for breaches”.

”The sheer volume of alcohol marketing that is reaching our children is extraordinary, showing that industry self-regulation is failing. We need tough, legislated measures,” he said.

Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia spokesman Stephen Riden said the agency’s recommendations were based on a false contention that advertising was causing more children to drink.

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