Children & Young People in the New Media Landscape
Workshop #3 : Television advertising directed at children ? How do we create a « fair play » situation ?
The Syndicat National de la Publicité TéléVisée (French Television Advertising National Trade Association) is the professional organisation, which brings together the six Sales Houses of the French television channels:
- General and thematic,
- Public and private,
- Free (except for the Television Licence) and accessible via subscription to cable or satellite.
The large national private channels, received by at least 91% of French households equipped with TV:
and the Public television channels:
offer « youth » programmes representing on average 8% (1) of their diverse daily programmes. Advertising wholly or partly finances all these channels.
Accessible via cable and satellite, with which Ÿ of French TV households are equipped today, seven channels are specifically directed at children:
With the exception of the Disney Channel, which is financed only by subscription, all of these private television channels are doubly financed by their subscribers and by television advertising.
- general or thematic public and private television.
- their Sales Houses,
- programme producers,
- their advertising agencies
have ? as everywhere in Europe ? always been conscious of their responsibility in the subject of advertising with regard to children.
It should be understood, even more so in the area of current events, that no enterprise will take the risk of bringing irremediable damage to its image on this subject, and is thus particularly vigilant in all cases. Therefore, in France, and certainly throughout Europe, no significant degeneration has been seen to have taken place in the subject of advertising addressed at children.
For this, a system of active self-regulation has been put in place. It is inscribed in duration, in a European context; it is constantly updated (i.e. for the Internet). It is capable of responding to social and cultural customs at a given moment. In addition, all development of these professional ethics is carried out in consultation with consumer associations.
Like the majority of its neighbours, France has opted for a professionally ethical control of the content of all forms of advertising, whatever the products or the media concerned and therefore whatever their public. France thus avoids segmentation according to children?s age or of the products concerned.
- the evolution of lifestyles,
- parent-children relations,
- product and media consumer habits,
translated in economical, psychological and sociological studies? numerous on the subject, to us, reinforce the idea that children cannot be separated from their economic environment.
Neither can their interest be quartered only in certain economic sectors, certain programmes or certain media? and only in those.
è If 8% of the « general » TV offered in France is youth programmes, children ? aged from 4 to 10 ? spend 20% of their viewing time (2).That is to say, that an hour and a half of their average daily two hours TV watching is also devoted to « other » programmes.
è Children participate increasingly in family life. Family purchases are the subject of discussion, of exchanges, of statements, of responsibility, of autonomy? Parents on the other hand consider this growing trend as positive: they use it for « effective buying » and in a concern for teaching economy (3).
è 78% of the mothers we have interviewed identify the origin of the request of their children. They consider that their « peers » are the factors that influence their children the most, against 26% for TV advertising 3.
è Children?s centres of interest evolve more quickly: just after:
Mothers recognise the influence of their children in the purchase of a personal computer and Internet access. Studies on the « digital gap » show: children clearly play an educational role for their parents in this sector.
Finally, I will not return to digital convergence (TV / Interactive TV / Internet), which radically brings back into question the pertinence of restrictions on a given media. This is the subject of this Seminar.
1. Protection of minors : self regulation
Precisely, how do the TV Sales Houses offer a high degree of protection for children against television advertising?
The extensive enquiry by the E.G.T.A. (4) ? European Group of Television Advertising ? is remarkable on the list of measures respected by its members present in a dozen countries in the European Union (including 4 TV Sales Houses operating on the French market).
Yet, as the EGTA investigation shows, the protection of minors from television that is effective is nevertheless « often unappreciated« .
In parallel, around sixty broadcasters meeting at the Association des Télévisions Commerciales (Association of Commercial Television) centre on 5th January last, recalled that « the range of statutory and self-regulatory measures put in place assure an efficient level of protection » ? Ross Biggam, Director.
A good illustration would be to return to the French example.
In TV, following an interprofessional agreement, the advertisers, the advertising agencies and the media, transmitted in 1991, to the CSA, (French Broadcasting Authority (5)) at the BVP (Advertising Verification Office), the systematic verification before transmission of all televised messages. The Authority verifying very attentively a posteriori all TV programmes, including advertising.
è In 2000, the BVP checked 11,800 TV spots for judgement before transmission.
The mission of the BVP is to furnish preliminary advice, to request modification, to issue warnings, warnings of suspensions or non-transmission, via legal notices. The BVP is a founder member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) which co-ordinates self-regulation at European level and the treatment of cross border complaints.
In common accord, consumers associations and professionals underline its advantages in the terms of adjustment to evolution, facility of tribunal referral, at lower cost or with rapidity.
The BVP lays down the professional ethics (Appendix C) in which it is charged to monitor compliance. It incorporates two recommendations more specific to children. These recommendations are detailed by the ad hoc Technical Commissions stemming from the ranks of representative Professional Organisations. They are the values of reference for the judiciary authorities and every advertising professional.
è The « Recommendations for Children » recapitulate in extenso article 14 of the International Chamber of Commerce regulations contained in the » international code of fair advertising practise » (6) relative to:
- Inexperience and credulity
- The prevention of damage
- Social values
In completing them with the two articles:
- Advertising using children as actors/participants
- Advertising addressed at children
è A « Recommendation for Toys« , has been laid down by the professionals. It governs everything that arises from the description, size, motion, result obtainable, precautions and the price of all advertising for toys, all media combined, naturally.
In addition to these two professionally ethical rules, professionals are committed to respecting transversal arrangements on the message content (such as human dignity, safety, etc.)
In a general manner, each country?s legal body offers everybody, including children, transversal judiciary protection. Laws and regulations can be specific to children, as in France those relative to:
- The employment of children as models in advertising (Article of 12 July 1990 (7))
- Advertisements of a violent or pornographic character likely to be viewed by a minor (article 227-24 of the Penal Code (8))
This last text moreover conforms to Chapter V ? article 22 entitled Protection of minors and public order of the Directive « Television without Frontiers ».
Rightly, article 16 of this Directive 89/552/CEE, modified in 1997, is of particular interest to us. It is, for that matter, set down in article 7 of the Decree of 1992 that regulates televised advertising in France addressed at children. (Appendix B)
In conclusion of this section, because of its economic role, but also of its social, indeed cultural impact, advertising is involved in the sectors of Law and Ethics.
Beside the legislative texts in force, the self regulatory procedures set up in the BVP (Advertising Verification Office) are truly efficient: no advertisement has been the object of serious contestation, even less the object of a tribunal referral, whether by a consumer, family or professional organisation.
The BVP and the CSA (French Broadcasting Authority) publish recommendations or warnings where required, before the transmission in the quasi totality of cases. Their publication plays an educative and preventive role and is totally constructive.
2. Protection of minors ? liberty to communicate and to create
In the context of responsibility and vigilance, it is clear that the protection of children is perfectly compatible with the free circulation of marketing communication and this must be preserved.
Those companies, directly or indirectly concerned have a legitimate need to advertise to make the public aware of their products. In applying the rules examined already, France and countries with similar regulations, conciliate the protection of children and the effectiveness of advertising, whilst avoiding competitive imbalance between activity sectors and between media. This remains a common objective shared by our fellow citizens in our developed economies.
In addition, the responsibility of the companies that we represent in the protection of children provides the freedom to produce and create programmes destined for the young, in their country and in Europe.
The « children?s » channels like the general channels have need of advertising to finance quality youth programmes.
The renewed survey of its members by the EGTA on the economic aspects of advertising destined for children is therefore exemplary:
- 94% of net revenue generated by « children?s » advertising is reinvested in children?s programmes. These programmes represent on average 5% of the general channels? programme budgets.
- 2/3 of the total amount devoted by the channels to children?s programmes is spent on the purchase of programmes made by the European audio-visual industry: whether this be on in house productions or on European acquisitions.
Thus, the continual idea that children are massively submitted to non-community programmes is unfounded. In reality, French and European works are increasingly present on our channels: in France, between 1990 and 1998, their progression was 75% (9).
Therefore, the investments by broadcasters ? all or in part financed by advertising ? have permitted the construction of a dynamic and competitive programme industry. From 1996 to 1999, French broadcasters have invested 153 M? in animation, which has become their biggest supplier with a market share of nearly 40% (9).
In view of this data, we cannot but agree with the conclusions of the EGTA that: » limiting children?s advertising constitutes a threat to the European audio-visual industry. Deprived of advertising income, the TV channels would be forced, either to remove children?s programmes, or to import cheaper programmes. In both cases the European audio-visual industry would suffer.«
Which was not the spirit that led to the adoption of the Media Plus programme of aid to the European audio-visual industry in November 2000
Finally, the development of new free channels, especially in the transition to terrestrial digital television, leads us to the necessity of taking into account this essential data.
Conclusion : Protection of minors ? opinion of consumers and professionals
In conclusion, and to return to the question asked in this workshop: « how to create a « fair play » situation in the sector of television advertising addressed at children? I would like to illustrate.
In the case of self-regulation, consumer associations and professional organisations have unanimously and with the support of the Minister, adopted an opinion on « Children and Advertising » before the French National Counsel for Consumers Affairs (CNC) (10).
This opinion, published on 25th October 2000, is the fruit of a constructive Working Group with 11 consumer associations who have reiterated:
- Priority for self-regulation, which preserves the social and cultural sensibilities of our country.
- The education of the young consumer (11).
I quote (and translate) one of the conclusions: « France seems to be endowed, as regards classical media, with rules that respond in a satisfactory manner in most cases [?] to the preoccupations of the protection of children and adolescents. After examination, the working group concludes that rules founded on imposed regulations would not be a realistic solution. In a world, where advertising in all its forms is part of life, it would be illusory and inefficient to keep children away from this economic dimension of society« .
è This document is attached to the notice that the panel member for France is available in this conference room.
On the other hand, the opinion of consumers and professionals is reaffirmed on the subject of the role of self-regulation and its principles of professional ethics to extend them to the new media.
On of the immediate measures has been to underline the role of the Consultancy Commission created in 1979. Every quarter it brings together, at the BVP, Consumer Associations, and Advertising Professional in an unbiased fashion to discuss in a very concrete way the current problems of advertising.
This is a resume of the situation of France on the subject?.
(1) Médiamétrie 1998
(5) Equivalent to the Swedish Näringsdepartementet.
(6) Recalling that the 1st appearance of the code dates from 1937, additional witness that enterprise has been conscious of its social responsibilities in the matter of marketing communication for a long time. (Appendix B)
(7) Article 90-603 of 12 July 1990 – Law modifying the employment code (L 211-6 to 11, L 213-7) and relative to modelling agencies and the protection of children and adults exercising the profession of model.
(8) Article 98-468 of 17 June 1998 ? Law relative to the prevention and the repression of sexual infractions as well as to the protection of minors.
PENAL CODE – CHAPTER VII – Injury to minors and the family — Section 5 ? To put minors at risk — Article 227-24: « The fact of manufacturing, conveying, transmitting by whatever means a message of a violent or pornographic nature, or of a nature that gravely attacks human dignity or the fact of doing business from such a message is punishable by three years imprisonment and a fine of 500,000 F when this message is like to be seen or perceived by a minor.
In the case where the infractions foreseen by this present article are put forward via the means of the press, written, oral or visual, the laws that govern theses matters are applicable as far as the determination of the persons responsible. »
(9) Syndicat des Producteurs de Films d’Animation (SPFA).
(10) This institution is under the control of the Secretary of State for small and medium enterprises, retailers, craftsmen and consumption (M. François Patriat) the Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry (M. Laurent Fabius)
(11) An opinion on the education of the young consumer has been adopted since this date in associating the Minister of National Education (M. Jack Lang) with its conclusions.