Should Congress ban advertising for children

German television history in East and West

Children have to learn "advertising skills". (& copy Harald Jeske / fotolia.com)

For years, politicians have been pleading for a total ban on advertising in the context of children's programs. The consequences are deliberately ignored, but they are obvious. Since it was banned in Great Britain to advertise sweets, lemonades or hamburgers in the vicinity of children's programs, the production market for children's television programs has collapsed by around 25%. The advertising-financed British ITV has completely stopped its children's program (CITV). Even if there are repeated protests in Germany, many educators are ultimately satisfied with the status quo [1].

Commercial breaks on children's TV are prohibited



The German interstate broadcasting agreement is even stricter than the corresponding EU law. According to the EU TV Directive, children's films and programs that last longer than thirty minutes can be interrupted for advertising. In this country, however, commercial breaks in children's programs are generally prohibited. That is why a broadcaster like Super RTL does not show any feature films, at least in the daily program. Otherwise, the usual rule also applies to children's programs: more than twelve minutes of advertising per hour are not permitted. German broadcasters have also imposed their own guidelines. At Super RTL, for example, the beginning and end of an advertising block are optically and acoustically emphasized because the transition from the program to the advertising may otherwise be too smooth for smaller children (only the notice at the beginning is required). The advertising guidelines also include the prohibition of direct appeals. Advertising must not harm the children or take advantage of their inexperience [2].

High advertising revenue



The gross advertising revenues of the children's channels are very different. While the public KiKA is ad-free and financed by the broadcasting fees (2015: almost 87 million euros, KEF 2015), Super RTL achieved almost 290 million euros and Nickleodeon around 131 million euros in 2015 as well as the new free TV started Disney Channel in 2014 for around 137 million euros (statista.de). Thanks to the income from merchandising activities, the commercial broadcasters are not entirely dependent on advertising income, but a total advertising ban would still be the end for everyone.

Children have to learn "advertising skills"



Well-known German media educators such as Stefan Aufenanger (2007) consider the demand for the abolition of TV advertising to be counterproductive anyway. The media educator from the University of Mainz certifies that today's children have a high "advertising competence": "Even if the advertising offer for children and with children is growing, children should not be portrayed as victims of advertising". They therefore do not have to be kept away from television in principle. A ban on advertising for children, according to Aufenanger, would also "deprive children of the opportunity to gain experience in dealing with advertising", because "children can only acquire media and advertising skills if they actively deal with media offers". It is more constructive than a ban to help children recognize advertising as such; Children would have to learn to question why there is advertising [3].

Now, therefore, nobody would argue that children should watch television more. But it is just as nonsensical to expect that all problems would be solved at once if TV advertising for children were to be banned [4]. On the contrary: the target group would increasingly turn to programs that were not produced for them. Apart from that, the children have long been living in a media world that is largely financed by advertising; consequently, if one wanted to call for a ban on advertising on children's television, almost all children's media would have to be abolished because they also have to do with advertising.