NBC's Phillips Cites Psychologist Who Blames Advertising for Obesity
Asking ‚ÄúWho is to blame for America‚Äôs obesity epidemic‚ÄĚ among children, Ann Curry of NBC‚Äôs ‚ÄúToday‚ÄĚ show introduced a condensed edition of a story to air later that evening on ‚ÄúDateline NBC.‚ÄĚ Reporter Stone Phillips went on to suggest corporate advertising was to blame for America‚Äôs chubby kids.
But Phillips left out of his report that his featured psychologist is the co-founder of a group that calls for regulation of advertising to children.
‚ÄúFood marketing to children is a $10-billion-a-year industry, and some parents‚Äô advocates and lawyers are saying it‚Äôs out of control,‚ÄĚ noted NBC reporter Stone Phillips as he opened his August 18 story.
To lend scientific authority to these claims, Phillips turned to Harvard psychologist Susan Linn, whom he merely described as ‚Äúthe author of ‚ÄėConsuming Kids.‚Äô She says brand names are among toddlers‚Äô first words and logos among the first images they recognize.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúKids are requesting brands as soon as they can talk,‚ÄĚ Linn told Phillips.
As odd as it sounds that children would say ‚ÄúCocoa Puffs‚ÄĚ before ‚Äúmommy,‚ÄĚ Phillips didn‚Äôt question Linn‚Äôs assertion. Instead, Phillips went on to show clips of NBC‚Äôs Hoda Kotb conducting an experiment with a group of preschoolers and toddlers as she asked them to identify corporate logos.
Even then, Phillips conceded, ‚Äúthey didn‚Äôt get‚ÄĚ every logo right, even though they ‚Äúcame pretty close.‚ÄĚ
But Linn is a dispassionate researcher and neutral scientist, right?
Linn‚Äôs consumingkids.com Web site reveals that the Harvard doctor is co-founder of the liberal Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). ‚ÄúChildren are now the focus of a marketing maelstrom, targets for everything from minivans to M&M counting books,‚ÄĚ Linn asserts in her biography.
Yet in the segment shown, Phillips didn‚Äôt question Linn‚Äôs credibility or biases, nor the political aims of her organization.
In a petition that CCFC urges Web site visitors to sign, Linn‚Äôs group argues ‚Äúthat schools, communities, and nations, if they deem it necessary, have the right to restrict commercial access to children. Marketers do not have the right to exploit children for profit.‚ÄĚ
Taken to its logical conclusion, that statement means that CCFC believes the government should be empowered to play censor to advertising on radio, TV, the Internet, billboards, newspapers, and anywhere else children might happen to see advertising.
And it‚Äôs not just commercials that destroy America‚Äôs youth. It‚Äôs the action-figures and other toys based off of cartoons and movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Spider-Man, Linn‚Äôs group insists.
‚ÄúToys based on media programs come with established characters and storylines, making it unlikely that children will use the toy to create their own world,‚ÄĚ complained CCFC in a pamphlet entitled ‚ÄúThe Commercialization of Toys and Play.‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs likely that millions of American parents (former children themselves) watching the ‚ÄúToday‚ÄĚ show would beg to differ. Next time NBC might want to list its own advertisers and their products, or at least produce some children in the market for minivans.