Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Junk polling

Last week I argued that people who are in favour of a ban on 'junk food' advertising before 9pm don't know what they're supporting. When useful idiots like Jamie Oliver talk about 'junk food', they really mean HFSS food (high in fat, sugar or salt) and this is an extremely broad category that includes things like raisins, butter, mustard, yoghurt, jam, breakfast cereals and cheese.

Add this ignorance to the fact that most people don't care for advertising in general and it's no surprise that a majority supports such a prohibition. I mentioned a YouGov survey which found that 65 per cent of people surveyed support a watershed ban but I couldn't find the raw data on the YouGov website.

Yesterday, the Mirror reported that 76 per cent of Britons support a ban...

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has led calls for a ban through his #AdEnough campaign, said: “It’s great to see the support of the British public when it comes to the very logical idea of simply extending the current 6pm junk food advertising ban to 9pm."

This time I was able to find the survey results on the ComRes website. I suspected that the question would use the pejorative term 'junk food' rather than 'food that is high in fat, sugar or salt' and I wasn't wrong, but the survey question was even more misleading that I expected...

Do you agree or disagree with this statement? There should be a ban on junk food adverts targeted at children before 9pm.

How did 'targeted at children' get squeezed in there? The proposed ban has nothing to do with whether the ads are deemed to be 'targeted at children' nor will it only apply to programmes that are targeted at children (hardly any programmes shown between 6pm and 9pm are targeted at children in any meaningful way). The ban will apply to all programmes shown before 9pm and will apply to the vast range of products that are defined as HFSS by the puritanical Nutrient Profile Model (which is currently being revised so that it includes pure fruit juice, amongst other things, as a 'junk food').

This is dishonest polling. The proposal being considered by the government would ban an advert for Anchor spreadable butter during the Channel 4 News. No reasonable person would consider that to be a 'junk food advert targeted at children'.

There is no way the government could ban 'junk food adverts targeted at children' because there is no legal definition of 'junk food'. It would also be very difficult to decide if an advert was targeted at a child but this obstacle is not an insurmountable as the meaninglessness of the term 'junk food'. In any case, that is not what is being proposed.

By making emotive but irrelevant references to 'children' and 'junk', the survey is pushing respondents towards supporting a ban without giving them any idea of what it will entail. Indeed, they are being actively encouraged to believe that the ban will be far more limited in scope than is being proposed. As I said last week, they are being sold a pig in a poke.

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