Guidelines for TV drink adverts are a nonsense

IN her letter headlined ‘Irish drink advert codes among strictest in the world’ (September 8), Rosemary Garth of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland suggests my concerns about Irish children being bombarded withadverts presenting alcohol in a positive light are not based on fact (Letters, August 31). Here are some facts.

The drinks industry “self-regulation” guidelines permit it to advertise alcohol during programmes where up to 25% of the audience are children.

For audience profiling purposes, people aged four years and above are surveyed.

According to the 2006 census, there are 790,000 children in Ireland aged between four and 17 and they account for 19.8% of the potential TV viewing audience.

They will only ever account for between 21% and 23% of the audience of any given programme if it is preferentially watched by children, relative to adults.

Nevertheless, the drinks industry sees fit to advertise during such programmes. Ms Garth is affronted at my interpretation of this fact as evidence that the drinks industry is actively seeking to target advertising at children, yet she provides no alternative interpretation. There are some very popular programmes on Irish television which attract as many as 1.6 million viewers.

It is possible to advertise alcohol during such a programme even if every second child in the country (ie, 395,000 children) was watching it as these guidelines would still fall short of the 25% threshold used by the industry. Guidelines which permit a scenario whereby alcohol can be promoted during programmes watched by half the children in the country are a nonsense. They are an exercise in smoke-and-mirrors designed to create the impression that children are being protected while only actually protecting the vested interests who gain from alcohol advertising.

Dr Bobby Smyth

Clinical Lecturer

Department of Public Health and Primary Care

Trinity College

Dublin 2

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