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.

Theauthorities as well as parents and socially engaged citizens, should see it as an important task to identify the driving forces and consequences of children and young people’s role as consumers. This is some of the reason why the Norwegian government in 1999 appointed a public committee to survey measures to reduce commercial pressure on children and young people, and to strengthen knowledge and develop critical attitudes among minors towards marketing gimmicks. The committee’s report was presented in February 2001.

In short the Committee’s main considerations and proposals are:

  • To counteract commercial influence on children and young people, legislation should be the main tool. In spite of the limitations this tool represents in the digital age, legislation can be important in order to influence children’s attitudes and values

The Committee proposes to strengthen the existing ban on advertising in radio and television targeting children under 12 in particular.

Thecommittee has considered a general ban on advertising directed at children under 12 years of age. However, does not draw any conclusion in this respect, and states that such a ban needs further deliberation.

  • Children, youngsters and parents should be educated to develop skills to face the increasing flow of commercial information and pressure

The Committee states that information about the increasing commercial pressure on children and adolescents should be systemised in schools. Children and youngsters can be taught to identify commercial practices and to see through marketing gimmicks and tricks. Through this, they should also develop a broader perspective on values and environmental consequences of consumption. Consumer education should therefore be strengthened as a subject in schools.

  • The schools should be secured as zones free of commercial pressure

Stuckbetween a global youth culture and expectations of parents and society, children and young people need zones where they are protected from commercial pressure. The Committee suggests a ban on advertisement in schoolbooks. It also recommends that guidelines are elaborated and control mechanisms set up in regard to sponsorship activities.

  • Parents and consumers should use their power in the market to influence market practices and business policy directed at children and youngsters.

The Committee suggests that parents should be encouraged to form consumer groups. These kinds of groups can have an important influence on what products that are available for children and youngsters. Such groups can also be important in developing knowledge among parents in order to be more conscious and politically aware consumers.

  • In a modern society public authorities have limited possibilities to regulate commercial influence and reduce commercial pressure on children and youngsters. Parents, business, advertisers and organisations should therefore take responsibility for the children and adolescents as fragile groups in society.

All influential actors in a market economy must consider their role, and admit their responsibility to children and the young people. The Committee particular stresses the need for business, companies and society to focus more on ethical aspects of marketing practices.

The Committee emphasises the need for international co-operation in the field of children and commercialisation. Commercial pressure on children and youngsters can only be reduced efficiently by common international regulation and guidelines. One suggestion is that the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) should develop criteria of certification to secure higher standards of marketing directed at children.

The Committee describes a wide range of areas where there is a need for more research. This includes in particular areas such as the scope and effects of marketing and advertising directed at children and young people, and consequences of such commercialisation for children and youngsters in the modern society.

In addition, the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs gives financial support to the Consumer Ombudsman in his work mapping out business activities on the Internet. So far the Ombudsman has found 700 Norwegian web-sites in operation of which a majority do not follow Norwegian legislation. This should both illustrate the problems involved and give an example of the need for action.

More Information:

Norwegian Broadcasting Law

Drafted: December 4, 1992 (law # 127)
Department: Culture
Published as: Division I 1992, # 24
Became law: January 1, 1994, January 11, 1993
Most recent modification: January 20, 2000
Short title: Broadcasting law

Relevant sections in the law [from Astrid Meland]:

§ 3-1. Duration, content

Advertisingshall not exceed 15 percent of broadcasters’ daily transmission time. The King may make an exception to this rule for text handbills on local television.

Advertising may not be broadcast in association with children’s programming or directed specifically to children.

Broadcasters may not transmit advertisements containing political messages on television.

The King may propose additional regulations regarding the broadcast, content, scope, and supervision of advertising.

Messagesfrom the broadcaster in association with the broadcaster’s own programs and products directly related to these programs shall not be included in the limits on duration of advertising established in Sentence 1. This is also true of public service announcements and non-commercial messages from charitable organizations.

The King may provide additional regulations in written form on the duration of announcements and other transmissions outlined in Sentence 5, as well as a prohibition on the interruption of a program in order to broadcast another program or portion thereof.

§ 3-2. Special rules on advertisements on television

Advertisementson television shall be broadcast primarily in blocks between programs and shall be clearly distinguished from ordinary programming by a distinct auditory and visual signal.

The King may provide additional regulations in written form on the placement of advertisments.

Source: Astrid Liset Meland, Norwegian State Information Service