The Samovar

November 30, 2006, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Business, Economics, Food, Free Speech, Media, Politics

Just waiting for some calculations to finish running on my computer, so I thought I’d spend the time taking the piss out of a rubbish article on CiF by Brendan O’Neill called Abolish Ofcom. He argues against the recent decision to ban the advertising of junk food during children’s TV.

First a bit of background on Brendan O’Neill. He used to be a communist of sorts, he wrote for the infamous Living Marxism magazine. He now writes right-wing libertarian guff like this. Most of his articles are a joke – including this one.

Right from the beginning, he gets things so wrong:

I’m still in a state of shock that Ofcom’s announcement last week of a total ban on junk food advertising during kids’ TV programmes did not elicit more outrage. You, like me, might not lose any sleep over the fact that McDonald’s, Coca Cola and others have been royally screwed over.

Actually, as the Telegraph mentioned in their article on this, some time ago now, McDonald’s, Coke, etc. can still advertise as brands, but not individual fatty products.

Ofcom’s ban on junk food ads is based entirely on subjective criteria. Its starting point is a subjective view of certain foods as “junk”.

Er, no. As the BBC notes, it’s based on sugar, salt and fat content of the food, and Ofcom doesn’t even decide what does or doesn’t count as junk food themselves:

A Food Standards Agency ratings system will be used to assess which foods are too high in fat, sugar and salt to be advertised to children.

Back to Brendan:

And let’s not beat around the bush: they mean fries served by McDonald’s, which are less fatty than the duck a la orange dishes served in the best restaurants in the land.

If he were less generally ignorant about everything, I’d suspect that this line was included deliberately to provoke snobs like me to make comments like this. Firstly, duck a la orange? How many ways is that wrong? He’s mixing French and English and he’s got the French bit wrong. Secondly, served in the best restaurants in the land? No clue. Finally, he completely misses the major points that people don’t eat rich, fatty restaurant food like foie gras – to use an example that makes his point slightly better than he does – regularly, unlike McDonalds and Coke, and that these restaurants are not advertising on TV.

He then goes on to say that advertising doesn’t have any effect on children’s eating habits anyway:

Indeed, one academic study found that “just two per cent of all children’s food choices were influenced by TV advertising”.

Oh yeah? Then why do they spend all that money on it? 😉

Anyway, my program has finished running now so I won’t continue this tirade. I’ll just finish by pointing out that he doesn’t make the distinction between children and adults. Adults, we would presume, can make their own minds up when they see an advert. Children on the other hand are much more impressionable and even more subject to peer pressure. Despite ignoring it earlier in his article, he can’t help but recognise this distinction when he says right at the end:

… but Ofcom treats us as children who must be protected and mollycoddled by the powers-that-be…

No! Ofcom is treating children as children! Sheesh. Why do the Guardian keep publishing articles by this guy? I suppose they’re quite funny, maybe that’s it.

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