Toying with television

When Norway banned TV advertising to children under 12, the toy makers fought back. Roger Trapp reports

Many parents might disagree, but research cited by the Toy Manufacturers of Europe (TME) claims television advertising to children is an essentially "harmless activity".

For this reason it was solidly behind Lego and Mattel when they went to court against the Norwegian government's ban on TV advertising to children below the age of 12. In the event, the European Free Trade Association (Efta) Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion that the ban did not apply to advertisements on satellite television beamed into the country from Britain. As a result, the Norwegian Consumer Office has abandoned its case in the country's "market court" against the two toy makers.

At the centre of this issue is the European Union's Television Without Frontiers directive, which is up for revision. Although Norway is not part of the union, it is bound by EU legislation as a result of its signature to the EEA Treaty, under which it effectively accepts the "acquis communautaire". But the Efta court's finding is unlikely to bring about the end of the matter. Indeed, for observers of the European policy-making processes, it may yield a few lessons in how the rules that - to the distaste of the Euro-sceptics - increasingly rule our lives are arrived at.

For a start, the TME - heartened by the finding in favour of satellite programmes - is pressing for the overturning of Norway's ban on children's advertisements in programmes produced within the country. The organisation was founded in 1990 to lobby EU institutions on behalf of the union's toy manufacturers and now claims to represent 80 per cent of them. It is also lobbying institutions and the European Parliament to advance its case that, subject to general rules on taste and misleading claims, advertising of toys does no wrong.

Sweden operates a similar ban to Norway and the TME fears its representatives might win extra support, even from MEPs from countries such as Britain. "It is an emotive subject," says a spokesman, adding that it is relatively easy for politicians to win popularity at home by backing such restrictions. However, these people might - in the course of the usual political "horse trading" - sacrifice theirbacking for this kind of measure if convinced that a different interest would win greater support; for example, France's keenness on programme quotas.

The TME is attempting to portray this battle as a classic fight for freedom of trade in the face of - albeit well-intentioned - prejudice. It is, of course, much more basic than that: it is about sales of toys.

As the organisation's spokesman explains, the Television Without Frontiers directive is designed to promote European programming. This is a challenge because it is far easier and cheaper to import tried and tested shows from the United States.

Against such a background, tightening the rules on advertisements to children, or even banning them, would amount to "shooting ourselves in the foot, because you can't expect broadcasters to invest if revenue is restricted", says the spokesman.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Suggested Topics
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

    £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

    Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

    AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

    Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home