HFSS ad ban is postponed, gambling ads are much bigger problem no-one’s prepared to tackle

A while back we recommended a policy of masterly inactivity to a UK government determined to privatise Channel 4, a terrestrial TV channel (with a growing number of digital bits) that costs the taxpayer nothing and, in its last year, made a surplus of over £100m.

That one seems to have been kicked into the long grass, as now (officially) has the proposed ban on HFSS foods (high in fat, sugar and salt) now scheduled to be looked at again after the next election in 2024.

The Department of Health still maintains: “The government takes tackling obesity seriously. Having a fit and healthy population is essential for a thriving economy and will continue to work closely with industry to make it easier for people to make healthier choices.” So it’s a stay of execution for fast food, confectionery brands and the like.

But will it ever happen? It might if Labour wins the next election but it’s yet another example of this particular government being seemingly unable to do anything – or anything useful.

The country is grinding to a halt with virtually no trains running throughout December (Christmas travel and all that) as the Government stymies a rail peace deal because of its daft insistence that trains run without guards. Guards surely can’t cost that much (rail fares in the UK are sky high) and most passengers feel considerably safer if there’s someone else on the train apart from the driver.

There’s little evidence that an ad watershed of 9pm would do much to slim down fat Britain but it’s not an unreasonable move. The TV companies would surely cope.

A better move would be to ban betting and gambling ads entirely. At the moment they’re limited to a post-9pm watershed (as is planned for HFSS) which only means that the innocent viewer of Sky Sports and other channels is bombarded with the damn things after 9pm despite overwhelming evidence that betting is bad for you – especially given the rise of betting on mobiles – and impressionable people don’t all go to bed at 8.59pm.

In general terms advertising is good for the economy – supports competition and partly funds free media – but there are some exceptions. HFSS foods may be one. Gambling is certainly another but will the Government and advocates of advertising like the UK Advertising Association ever grasp the nettle? Don’t hold your breath.

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