Calls to ban online ads for junk food, alcohol, and gambling targeting children

Calls to ban online ads for junk food, alcohol, and gambling targeting children

An Oireachtas committee has recommended that the online safety bill should include a ban on advertising junk food and high fat/salt/sugar foods. Picture: PA

A new online safety bill should include a ban on advertising junk food, alcohol, high fat/salt/sugar foods, and gambling to children, an Oireachtas committee has recommended.

A draft report by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht on the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, seen by The Irish Examiner, contains 26 recommendations including a ban on the ads to children.

"The committee recommends a moratorium on advertising to children online, including, at the very minimum, advertisements of junk food, alcohol, high fat/salt/sugar (HFSS) foods, and gambling," said the report.

"The committee recommends the prohibition of any form of profiling or tracking children’s data."

The bill will set up the media commission, which has the potential to be one of the most powerful regulators in the State as it will oversee all media, including the tech companies. The report recommends that the media commission and the online safety commissioner should be "satisfactorily resourced" and that any provision for their removal by a minister should be removed from the bill.

"The committee recommends that, within the legislative package, no possible source of infringement of independence should be placed upon the media commission or upon the online safety commissioner.

"The committee recommends that there is a pluralistic and diverse-oriented approach taken during the legislative process for the present bill and during the regular work of the media commission and the online safety commissioner, with full participation sought from all sections of Irish society.

"The committee recommends that highly precise detail is given as to the roles and responsibilities of the media commission and of the online safety commissioner."

The report also recommends that the bill see the removal of restrictions on applications for funding on the part of programming produced primarily for news or current affairs.

Streaming services

The bill will also see the media regulator for the first time overseeing streaming services, with a levy set to be imposed on streaming services. The committee report recommends that the bill have provision for "the means of collecting the levy, the party responsible for the collection of the levy, the percentage value of the levy, and the providers liable to pay the levy".

Fianna Fáil senator Malcolm Byrne said the bill will be a key piece of legislation.

“I think this will be one of the most important pieces of legislation that the Government will enact," said Mr Byrne. "We need to have a strong and well-resourced regulator. This is essential to ensure that citizens, especially young people, are safe online, and our democracy is protected.

“There will also be a key role for the media commission in dealing with algorithmic decision making.”

Minister Catherine Martin is expected to publish the bill in November.

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