Curb merchandising on children's TV, says shadow media minister

Guardian8 May 2012

Labour's shadow media minister Helen Goodman has called for curbs on merchandising by children's television programmes, insisting that the proliferation of products is placing an intolerable burden on hard-up parents.

Speaking at Tuesday's Westminster media forum, Financing Children's Media, Goodman called for "limits" to the "growth" of merchandising.

"Speaking as a parliamentarian I am not enamoured of ideas to liberalise rules and allow more product placement and merchandising. Governments are also responsible for preventing the economic exploitation of children," she said.

Goodman cited more lending from banks and tax breaks as ways to improve the funding of the children's TV sector.

Speaking after her speech, she added: "Parents do become quite tired of being pestered to provide things they might not be able to afford."

Goodman cited the examples of duvets for children as being one of the excessive examples of merchandising and urged policymakers to think of other ways of "solving the crisis in the funding of children's content".

Goodman said that there "was something about childhood that is important" adding that she was reluctant to "put children right at the front of an aggressive marketplace in the digital age".

Her ideas would be a hard sell to a sector where merchandising is a key element of funding for the more than 30 TV channels and more than 50 independent producers dedicated to children's programming in the UK.

Also speaking at Tuesday's event was former BBC controller of children's Nigel Pickard, who called on the government to divert lottery funding to establish a commissioner for children's TV content.

Pickard, who is also a former ITV controller of programmes and is now chief executive of Zodiak Middle East Asia and Australia and UK Family and Kids, said the plans had been costed.

"It's something we have discussed at length. I accept that there are other bodies that have a claim on lottery funding but our proposal is well thought out and with a business plan," he added.

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