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Martin Praises Food-Ad Giants

White space proponents are champing at the bit and the DTV transition is looming like a February blizzard. But Tuesday (Sept. 23), while he was on Capitol Hill to testify about the DTV transition, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin also held forth on advertising junk food at kids.

The FCC's jurisdiction over TV commercials for junk food is limited, but Martin testified about it before a joint panel of two Senate appropriations subcommittees.

He had praise for Disney, the Ion station group and others, along with other programmers, as well as for Kraft Foods and Kellogg.

Disney's Healthy Kids Initiative set new standards for the food served in Disney's parks, Martin said. It disallows the licensing of Disney characters to foods that do not meet nutritional standards and disallows the promotion of foods on the Disney Channel that do not meet those same standards.

Martin said Ion's Qubo was referred to as the "gold standard" by children's advocates. Ion has committed to only licensing their characters for use with healthy foods and they agreed to no longer accept advertising for unhealthy food targeted at children, Martin said.

The chairman's celebration of the cracker and cereal companies for a voluntary commitment the pair made—along with 13 other very large food and beverage companies—was designed to "curtail advertising of 'unhealthy food'" to children under 12.

Martin conceded to the panel that there is no uniform agreement among the companies as to the definition of "healthy foods."

The Children's Television Act caps advertising time on children's programming, but does not get into nutritional issues. Martin echoed advocacy groups in asking Congress to mandate that at least 50 percent of all food advertising to children on broadcast and cable television programming be devoted to healthy food products.

But absent Congressional authority, Martin has only an Obesity Task Force to help the corporations come up with voluntary commitments.

Martin said some companies have disappointed him with major loopholes in character usage limitations, such as for "special occasions" that could include various holidays.