Ban on advertising aimed at children won’t end ‘compulsive consumerism’, says childhood expert

Leaked goverment document coincides with Unicef report that claims UK is 'obsessed with consumerism'

Leaked goverment document coincides with Unicef report that claims UK is 'obsessed with consumerism'

A government proposal which would see a total ban on all advertising aimed at under-16s would be "ineffective", according to a government adviser.

The ban would extend to television, radio, online advertising and billboards, and would probably result in commercial children's channel's losing their main source of revenue and being put out of business.

The proposal was part of a government document containing policies designed to win over women voters. The leaked document coincided with the publication of a Unicef report which said that the UK was a nation obsessed with commercialism and material goods.

Unicef also suggested that an underlying cause of Augusts London riots was an obsession with materialism and consumer goods. The report claimed that children in Sweden and Spain, where the obsession with consumerism was less embedded, where much happier.

The report suggests that the UK should copy Sweden's model, which banned television advertising aimed at children in 1991. The top three brands in the UK children's advertisement sector were Walkers Crisps, The Simpsons, and McDonalds.

Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mothers' Union, said that he agreed with the Unicef analysis. "Parents do lack confidence in their parenting skills and they give their children goods and toys as a substitute for giving them their time. Parents are loath to allow their child to be singled out for bullying because they haven't got the right brands or the latest iPad."

But Mr Bailey said that it was online, not conventional advertising, which had the biggest affect. "Parents told me they could cope with conventional advertising and didn't want a ban. It's the online behaviour, which bypasses parental influence, which they didn't understand. It's that pressure which comes from advertising around web search engines", said Mr Bailey.

Tim Lefroy, the chief executive of the Advertising Association, said: "This is a bad and cynical idea, but one which industry can't ignore. The AA's Children's Panel has grabbed leadership of the family friendly agenda but we are kidding ourselves if we think this is the end of the process."

Ofcom, the broadcast regulator, introduced a ban on junk food advertising on programmes aimed at children under 16 in 2007, reducing children's exposure by 37%. But Ofcom said it had no plans to extend the ban because research showed "television has a relatively modest impact on children's food preferences".