Proposed ban on cheese ads 'nanny state gone mad'

Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 00:00

A PROPOSED ban on the advertising of cheese on television and radio before 9pm was described as an example of “the nanny state gone mad” by Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan.

He said the proposal being considered by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland would, if implemented, allow for the ban under section 42 of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

“There is very little in terms of a link between moderate consumption of cheese products and obesity,” Mr Flanagan said.

“I am very surprised at the level of bureaucracy involved in that cheese, as a product, should be treated in the same way as sugary confectionery or Coca-Cola.”

He said there was a certain nutritional value attached to cheese, specifically relating to its calcium content.

“If cheese is banned as unsuitable viewing before 9pm, we are sending out the wrong message, with particular reference to our thriving dairy industry, jobs, targets and investment under Food Harvest 2020.”

Mr Flanagan said there were 34,000 jobs in the dairy industry, as well as exports worth €2.6 billion to the economy, with a target to double that in the next eight years.

Teagasc had recently invested €1.5 million in the development of new cheese products, mainly for export.

He urged members of the House to join him in issuing “a clarion call to the authority to stop this madness”.

Minister of State for Communications Fergus O’Dowd said he agreed with the thrust of what Mr Flanagan had said and that people had strong views on the issue.

The authority was an independent statutory body, which had as one of its functions the preparation of broadcasting codes or rules, so the Minister had no function in the matter.

Mr O’Dowd said an audiovisual media services directive obliged states to encourage broadcasters to develop codes of conduct regarding commercial communications for products containing fat, trans-fatty acids, salts or sugars which accompanied, or were included in, children’s programmes.

On a national level, the Broadcasting Act obliged the authority to prepare and monitor compliance with broadcasting codes, including the children’s commercial communications codes, as well as reviewing them from time to time, the Minister added.