Asking “Who is to blame for America’s obesity epidemic” among children, Ann Curry of NBC’s “Today” show introduced a condensed edition of a story to air later that evening on “Dateline NBC.” Reporter Stone Phillips went on to suggest corporate advertising was to blame for America’s 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.
“Food marketing to children is a $10-billion-a-year industry, and some parents’ advocates and lawyers are saying it’s out of control,” 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 “the author of ‘Consuming Kids.’ She says brand names are among toddlers’ first words and logos among the first images they recognize.”
“Kids are requesting brands as soon as they can talk,” Linn told Phillips.
As odd as it sounds that children would say “Cocoa Puffs” before “mommy,” Phillips didn’t question Linn’s assertion. Instead, Phillips went on to show clips of NBC’s Hoda Kotb conducting an experiment with a group of preschoolers and toddlers as she asked them to identify corporate logos.
Even then, Phillips conceded, “they didn’t get” every logo right, even though they “came pretty close.”
But Linn is a dispassionate researcher and neutral scientist, right?
Linn’s consumingkids.com  Web site reveals that the Harvard doctor is co-founder of the liberal Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). “Children are now the focus of a marketing maelstrom, targets for everything from minivans to M&M counting books,” Linn asserts in her biography.
Yet in the segment shown, Phillips didn’t question Linn’s credibility or biases, nor the political aims of her organization.
In a petition that CCFC urges Web site visitors to sign, Linn’s group argues “that 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.”
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’s not just commercials that destroy America’s youth. It’s the action-figures and other toys based off of cartoons and movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Spider-Man, Linn’s group insists.
“Toys based on media programs come with established characters and storylines, making it unlikely that children will use the toy to create their own world,” complained CCFC in a pamphlet entitled “The Commercialization of Toys and Play.”
It’s likely that millions of American parents (former children themselves) watching the “Today” 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.