Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Toothless goals for media-obesity task force

As someone involved in the media literacy movement, I hold little hope for a newly appointed Federal Communication Commission task force on “Media and Childhood Obesity: Today and Tomorrow.”

It’s great that the FCC is acknowledging the connection between media and childhood obesity, but you have to wonder what will come of the deliberations of a task force with the following mix of members:

American Diabetes Association, American Society for Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, The Grocery Manufacturers Association, Kellogg Company, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Ion Media Networks, Viacom, Discovery Channel, Walt Disney Company, Sesame Workshop, Black Family Channel, Telemundo, The Beverly LaHaye Institute, The Benton Foundation, Children Now, Common Sense Media, The Center for Screen Time Awareness, PTA, Parents Television Council, The Ad Council, Association of National Advertisers, American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Also on the task force are FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin and Commissioners Deborah Taylor Tate and Michael Copps, as well as Senators Sam Brownback and Tom Harkin.

If this is a balancing act, the scales are decidedly tipped. Count the noses.

And what will guide the deliberations and recommendations, profit or public health?

The group's stated goals make it pretty clear: “To provide a forum for the public and private sectors to jointly examine the impact of the media on childhood obesity rates and collaborate on voluntary recommendations to address the alarming rise in the rates of obese children.”

Note the tension between "alarming rates" and the key, action-defining term “voluntary recommendations."

I read the latter as “toothless recommendations.”

When will the FCC return to its founding charge of regulating the broadcast media so that it serves the public interest? Certainly not during the Bush administration.

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