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Advertising to children fact sheet

May 2003

The issue:

Whilst there is currently no draft legislation specifically restricting advertising to children, the issue is raised frequently by Member States which have their own national bans. The European Commission's Consumer Committee at DG SANCO has recently come up with a paper which calls for widescale bans and restrictions of promotional marketing, advertising and communications within schools, the portrayal of children in advertising, the internet and market research.

It also talks of the need to introduce widespread horizontal legislation at a European level based on maximum harmonisation. The paper attacks the country of origin principle which lies at the heart of the TV Without Frontiers Directive. This committee is advisory only and does not represent the official line of DG SANCO but it is nevertheless influential. To read the report, go to http://europa.eu.int/comm/consumers/policy/committee/index_en.html.

In Commissioner Byrne's Green Paper on Consumer Protection (Duty to Trade Fairly), it asserts that certain forms of advertising are inherently unfair, like marketing to children. Inevitably, this area would end up more heavily regulated if this proposal went through to a directive unless the Commission can be convinced that alternative, self-regulatory measures can meet their policy objectives.  The Commissioner made it clear in a speech in 2002 that he is not opposed to advertising to children; neither is there mention of a ban in the proposed directive on Consumer Protection due out in June 2003.

Commissioner Reding, responsible for audiovisual policy, remains opposed to a ban.

Click here to read her speech on the issue, presented at an EPC event.

For information on the legal status in the member states, go to http://www.aeforum.org.


There is currently a study taking place in the UK by the Food Standards Agency looking at childhood obesity.  Along with a similar initiative by the World Health Organisation this could have an impact on the issue of advertising to children.

Member States' Positions:

The Danish government has reversed the previous administration's ban on advertising aimed at children which was introduced in January 2000. This move has been welcomed by domestic TV networks which have been struggling to compete with foreign channels available in Denmark - who, under country of origin rule, are permitted to carry children's advertising if it is legal in the broadcasting country.

EPC position:

The EPC is opposed to a ban on advertising to children and favours instead the use of self-regulatory codes at national level which allow for cultural differences whilst protecting minors from harmful or misleading advertising.

The EPC is keen to ensure that restrictions are not imposed on advertising directed at children as part of the framework directive on consumer protection.

Key players:

Commissioner Viviane Reding
Commissioner David Byrne (opposes outright ban)

Links to reports on children's advertising:

For detailed background, go to:


For further information

FOR JOURNALISTS on this or other topics, please contact Heidi Lambert Communications on Tel: +44 1245 476 265 or heidilambert@hlcltd.demon.co.uk.

FOR EPC MEMBERS AND GENERAL ENQUIRIES please contact Angela Mills Wade on Tel: +44 1865 310 732 or angela.mills@epceurope.org.