Changes to online media bill welcomed

By June Shannon Policy News   |   28th Jul 2022

Government amendments in new Bill will protect children’s health

The Irish Heart Foundation has welcomed amendments to the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill which was published recently.

Published on July 11, the Bill includes new Government amendments that the Irish Heart Foundation successfully argued for, and this represents a huge victory for protecting children’s health.

Commenting Kathryn Reilly, the Irish Heart Foundation’s Policy and Legislative Affairs Manager said, “It is a massive win in terms of protecting children online and limiting their exposure to unhealthy foods. The evidence is unequivocal that junk food marketing affects children’s consumption preferences, purchase requests and, ultimately, their health. Unfortunately, the reality is that many children know brands sooner than their ABCs.”

“The fast-paced nature of technological change means children’s health is actively being harmed and we need regulation in place to keep up. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital world cemented itself as a foundational element of children’s lives.”

“Children have had to rely on digital technology for education, social connection and entertainment. And while children can improve digital literacy, they simply cannot compete with the insidious and ever-evolving tactics used by industry to promote junk food,” she added.

The Irish Heart Foundation  has carried out a prolonged campaign against the pervasive online marketing of junk food to kids. The proposed amendments on the issue will be included in the new Bill which is due to become law this autumn.

" The reality is that many children know brands sooner than their ABCs."

Kathryn Reilly, Policy and Legislative Affairs Manager, The Irish Heart Foundation

The Irish Heart Foundation has warned that 85,000 children across the island will die prematurely due to childhood obesity.

“It has only been through our sustained advocacy efforts, supported by evidence and research, that we have been able to reach this important milestone,” Ms Reilly said.

The Irish Heart Foundation has been to the forefront of advocacy to ensure that the advertising of harmful products was put on the policy agenda and included in the Bill – as far back as the original 2019 consultation and it presented to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on this issue in 2021.

According to Ms Reilly, “The passing of these amendments is a monumental step in the fight against childhood obesity and will protect children’s health.”

“The Government relied on the junk-food industry to police itself, with little transparency or accountability applying to digital marketing.

To date, the government has relied on limited self-regulatory regimes -allowing industry to effectively be police, judge and jury when it comes to digital marketing.”

Ms Reilly said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) European Regional Obesity Report 2022 recommended that Governments develop and implement mandatory government-led measures to restrict children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing.

“That is why these amendments are critical – they call out the harms that junk food marketing can have on the public health interests of children. We welcome the amendments put forward by Minister Martin on this after a successful advocacy campaign and engagement with Department officials,” she concluded.


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childhood obesity Government junk food marketing legislation online marketing

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