Public health and censorship: ads in kids’ magazines

Part of an ongoing series: see here, and here.

This study from last year in the public health journal Pediatric Obesity on junk food advertising in childrens’ magazines takes a familiar form.

First, a few conspiratorial assertions: “Children’s magazines provide a unique opportunity for marketers to ‘talk’ to children”.

Second, some pseudo-scientific content analysis: “on average, there were 12.1 references to food in each of the 139 magazines analysed.” Furthermore, “it is interesting to note” that in the children’s magazine Disney Adventures, advertisements made made up 30.9% of all food references in the magazine.

Only those who have read the study carefully would discover that the evidence suggests there has been a massive decline decrease in branded food references in childrens’ magazines between 2005 and 2010.

That inconvenient fact would perhaps get in the way of the inevitable conclusion: this study “supports public health calls for the strengthening of advertising regulation.”

Let’s be clear. Regulation in this context would be regulation about what magazines could legally print. That is, government censorship of a phenomenon that the fine print of the study says is in decline.

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