In 2002 Google Answers responded to a question about the number of ads that Americans are exposed to each day, from radio and tv commercials to newspaper ads and billboards. The sources sited ranged from 247 to 3000. No estimate was made of internet popup or other ads, which would boost the number stratospherically.

Except for banning or limiting tobacco advertising, the United States has essentially given media corporations carte blanche in the amount of advertising they carry. This is less true in other countries.  European regulations adopted in 2008 allow for commercial breaks only every 30 minutes in TV films and news programs. Commercial breaks will not be allowed at all in children’s programs that do not run more than 30 minutes long. The maximum of amount of advertising permitted cannot exceed 12 minutes an hour.

In the United States there have been efforts to limit the amount and kinds and places of advertising to children.

According to Consumer Reports magazine, “young children have difficulty distinguishing between advertising and reality in ads, and ads can distort their view of the world.”  Research has shown that children between the ages of two and five cannot differentiate between regular TV programming and commercials. Young children are especially vulnerable to misleading advertising and don’t begin to understand that advertisements are not always true until they’re eight. The vast majority of food advertising on children tv programs is for fast foods, soft drinks, candy and pre-sweetened cereals. Schools have begun to allow ads in the school building itself and even in the classroom, via textbook ads.

Some states have enacted legislation to control where ads can be placed, especially when children are the targets.



Commercial Free Schools Act – San Francisco, CA

In June 1999, San Francisco became the largest school district yet to approve policies on commercialism in schools.

TheAct requires all long-term corporate sponsorships to be approved by the Board of Education. It also prohibits teachers from using corporate sponsored educational materials, including Channel One and ZapMe.

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Ban on Textbook Advertising – California

In September 1999, the state of California passed AB 116, banning commercial images in public school textbooks. AB 116 is a strong law, according to the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education. It backs up a California State Dept. of Education policy already on the books, prohibiting advertising in textbooks.… Read More

Ban on Advertising to Children – Sweden

Advertisements may not come immediately before or after a program or a portion of a program which is oriented primarily to children under 12 years of age, insofar as there isn't any question of messages addressed in § 8 [JB: § 8 deals with "unsponsored" transmissions, e.g., public service announcements].… Read More

Ban on Advertising to Children – Norway

Children and adolescents are increasingly becoming target groups for aggressive forms of marketing practices and for commercial pressure with a view to stimulate and increase their consumption. One reason for this is that they play an important role as consumers. In addition, children and adolescents have a vital role in choices concerning consumption in the family economy. At the same time, consumer goods are becoming more important factors in shaping the identities of children and youngsters. This means that minors are concerned with the symbolic value of objects and that their perception of these factors are more important than the actual functions of objects. We see too many examples of commercial interests that cynically exploit the uncertainty children and adolescents feel about their identity and self-esteem.… Read More


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David Morris

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.