By JANE MARTIN
I recall watching the cricket a few summers ago with my then 13 year old son when he said, ‘that’s really cool’. He was referring to a Johnnie Walker ad called the invisible man. How is a parent to counter that kind of sophisticated marketing?
And why do we allow the alcohol industry to target children and young people, when we know that they are vulnerable to the persuasive nature of alcohol advertising?
Ordinarily, young television audiences are off limits to alcohol advertisers, except during live sport, when, because of a curious exemption in the Commercial Television Code of Practice, alcohol advertising is allowed to screen before 8:30pm as part of a live sporting event on weekends or public holidays.
This exemption might seem benign—certainly, the alcohol industry argues that it does not deliberately set out to target underage drinkers. However, children and adolescents watch a lot of sport on TV, with many of the broadcasts among the most popular programming for kids – a fact that I was not aware of. Given this, sporting broadcasts have the potential to reach a significant number of children and young people, something that advertisers would be well aware of. A case in point is the AFL and NRL grand finals; the AFL end of season clash , is consistently in the top 5 most watched television programs with under 12s and the NRL grand final broadcast was the second highest rated program that age group that week..
The impact of the exemption is significant. For example, measures taken from January to December 2007 found almost half (46%) of the alcohol advertisements screened in five capital cities (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney) were shown on weekends and public holidays. Of these ads, 44% were shown during the day (after 5am and before 8.30pm) in live sport broadcasts, reflecting the operation and impact of the exemption.
Another study which looked at the extent and nature of alcohol advertising in Australia found that around half of all alcohol advertisements appeared during children’s popular viewing times.