Disney draws the line at adverts for junk food


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The Independent Online

As a global media conglomerate which owes its entire existence to square-eyed children who spend their waking hours glued to a television set, the Walt Disney Company makes an unlikely advocate for the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

That is exactly where the organisation known in Hollywood as the "Mouse House" now finds itself, however, after announcing a pioneering ban on the promotion of junk food across its array of kids' television shows, internet sites, and radio programmes.

Executives from Disney held a news conference in Washington with the First Lady, Michelle Obama, yesterday morning to outline its plans to become the first major US broadcaster to eliminate from its airwaves advertisements for unhealthy meals, drinks, and snacks aimed at children under the age of 12.

The rules stipulate that food products which are advertised on channels such as Disney XD, or which sponsor shows on the Disney Channel, must comply with nutritional guidelines which place limits on salt, sugar and fat levels, together with overall calories.

The firm is also to reduce by a quarter the amount of salt in children's meals served at its theme parks and carry a series of "public-service" adverts which promote exercise and healthy food.

Mrs Obama yesterday praised Disney for "doing what no major media company has ever done before in the US". She called its policy a "game-changer" and hopes it will be swiftly mirrored by rival media organisations such as Nickelodeon and Discovery Kids.

Disney's chairman, Robert Iger, told The New York Times that he believes the potential long-term benefits of the move outweigh whatever short-term commercial loss his firm might suffer by turning away advertisers.

"This is not altruistic. This is about smart business," he said.