Fat in the fire: self or gov’t rules on kid food ads?

I have been following the twin complaints that media programming encourages obesity and violence, especially in children. The series started with a blog entry on media control. It continued with a piece about video game addiction and went on with a note about Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass) pressuring advertisers to adopt a healthier tone in food ads to kids.


Last week Advertising Age reported that a task force formed by members of the U.S. Senate and the Federal Communications Commission had delayed a meeting because “it will be outdated due to upcoming initiatives from food marketers to be unveiled at a Federal Trade Commission/Department of Health and Human Services workshop July 18.”


A story in Broadcast & Cable magazine said Markey wasn’t happy with this delay, thinks self-regulation is insufficient and wants the FCC to make rules for television food ads now.


Obviously a lot of heat on this issue. Stay tuned.


In a related development, in a piece written for the Greentree Gazette (a controlled-circulation publication aimed at IT managers in higher education) Dr. Bernard Luskin that argues technology shortens attention spans and desensitizes us to violence. I can’t link to the piece; it appears to be print only.


These are not new complaints nor can Luskin prove causality but the argument appeals to me — though I wouldn’t know how to prove it or what to do if I could.


Other than a propensity to believe this notion, I pass on the thought because Luskin is interesting. He is an entrepreneur turned educator who played a central role in one of the big early 1990s tech stories about the Compton’s Multimedia Patent — which I covered back in the day. As Wikipedia notes: “In 1994, Compton’s shocked the computer world by asserting a software patent of dubious validity that was later cancelled by the Patent Office.”


Luskin was the guy who argued for that patent. I met him this spring for the first time at an event organized by the Society for New Communications Research and we talked about that now-ancient patent fracas. I wasn’t then aware of his interest in media effects on behavior but given my similar concerns our paths may cross more frequently than they had.