When two sides go to war: newspaper reporting of 'television food advertising restrictions' as a solution to childhood obesity
AbstractChildhood overweight and obesity is a major public health problem in Australia and overseas. Food advertising during children's television programmes has been identified as one contributing factor to childhood obesity. The media plays an important role in informing the public and presenting arguments supporting and opposing solutions to childhood obesity. The aim of this study was to analyse newspaper coverage of the debate over restricting television food advertising as a solution to preventing childhood obesity. A newspaper search was conducted over the period July 2002 to July 2005. One hundred and sixty-six articles were analysed for article characteristics, speakers quoted, causes and solutions of childhood obesity and arguments presented. The majority of the articles (82, 49%) took a positive slant towards restricting television food advertising to children while 35 (21%) had a negative slant. The main causes of childhood obesity presented were: television advertising of unhealthy foods, lack of physical activity, increased screen time and time stretched parents. The main areas presented as solutions of childhood obesity were: policy changes to food advertising, supportive environments for physical activity, supportive environments for healthy eating and healthy eating policies. Strong arguments and strong language dominated the debate which remained polarised between health professionals and Federal government and industry. In spite of opposition towards restrictions on television food advertising to children, the media's stories played an important part in keeping the issue on the public and political agenda.