Big booze puts ad profits before kids

The Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB) recently presented its 2014-15 Annual Report, which makes fascinating reading for people concerned about the effects of alcohol advertising.

The Alcohol Advertising Review Board was established by health bodies, because the official regulatory body — the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) — failed to hold the alcohol industry to account for its methods.

The AARB received 162 complaints from the public in 2014-15, and the great majority were found to contravene the AARB Code.

The need for independent regulation of alcohol advertising was underlined this year when Free TV, which represents free-to-air TV stations, proposed an increase of alcohol advertising during children’s viewing hours. Free TV wants to allow alcohol ads as early as 7.30pm. At the moment, alcohol ads can’t be screened before 8.30pm.

It’s hard to Big Alcohol’s assertion that they don’t target young people seriously when so many complaints to the AARB concerned alcohol promotions that were blatantly aimed at children. Several complaints referred to alcohol advertisements at bus stops outside schools, so kids using public transport couldn’t avoid them at least twice per day.

Then there’s what the AARB panel considered the worst advertisement of the year. A website advertisement for the Dan Murphy liquor chain featured an apparent product review by a 12 year old child. The child commended a Vodka Cruiser pineapple flavoured alcopop as having a ‘great flavour’ and ‘good value for money’ and awarded it ‘5 out of 5’.


We recall the tsunami of spirits industry complaints in 2008, when Rudd’s government applied the alcopops tax to reduce underage drinking. The industry alleged that alcopops were produced for adults, not kids. It wasn’t credible then, it isn’t credible now, and the producers and retailers keep proving it.

Even more disturbing is the exposure of young people to alcohol advertising during televised sport. Nearly 1 in 5 sports viewers is aged under 18. The AARB reports that complaints were made against the quality of alcohol advertising during the broadcast of six separate sports including football, cricket and motor racing.

That’s bad enough, but there’s no case for alcohol to be advertised during sport. It’s inexplicable that alcohol is allowed to be advertised in the daytime when live sport is telecast; the commercial TV Code explicitly prohibits alcohol advertising in daylight hours when children are likely to be watching.

The provision to allow advertising during sport telecasts is not a loophole in the Commercial TV Code but a deliberate exemption of alcohol advertising.

Everyone agrees that alcohol mustn’t be advertised to young people (even the industry says it agrees with that proposition) so the exemption for sport can’t be justified. We haven’t heard a logical defence yet, and it’s time the federal government acted to end the exemption.

Overall the AARB Report shows that the alcohol industry can’t be trusted to follow their own guidelines on advertising.

It is time for an independent regulator of alcohol marketing with teeth to impose financial penalties for breaches. We should remind our politicians that alcohol companies in France are prohibited from sponsoring sport, yet the French keep playing and keep winning. Sport does not alcohol but somehow Big Alcohol needs sport

We recommend all Grogwatch readers check out the AARB Report.