I would never have considered Peppa Pig to be a pusher. Granted, her father is not a role model of paternal parenting (his buffoonery never ceases to amaze me), but in general I would have said that Peppa presents herself well enough to be granted permission to periodically appear on the screen in the corner of the room. Yet, low and behold, the happy piglet was singled out in a press release from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland announcing a ban on advertising of unhealthy produce to our nation of children with burgeoning waistlines.
Under the new rules, Peppa Pig herself will not be able to appear in ads that would encourage children to eat or buy foods that would have high fat, salt and sugar content. I wasn't aware that she was endorsing any such unhealthy produce, but in case she was ever tempted, the list includes potato crisps, most breakfast cereals, cola and other carbonated sweetened drinks and (if she really wanted to go over the top) sausages. Perhaps more significantly, all advertising of these foodstuffs during Peppa's programme will be banned completely from 1 July next year. All except cheese, which somewhat controversially was excluded. Cheese ads will be allowed, but with a rather unnecessary warning that eating too much of it is bad for you.
All of this came about as the result of what we were told was a widespread public consultation. This initiative, seemingly, is what parents wanted. Remove all the ads for chocolate covered cereals and e-laden lollipops, and you will remove all temptation. Now, as a parent, I have two issues with this. If you have a problem with children watching television programmes that have too many ads for unhealthy foods, then there is a simple solution - turn off the television. And even at that, would the public not be better served by a television campaign (perhaps fronted by a frazzled Daddy Pig) where parents are reminded that they are under no obligation to buy their children what appears on their television. Children do not earn money directly, so their spending power is somewhat limited. They might have pester power, but a simple 'no' on the cereal aisle should suffice.
Removing the ads is an option, but it smacks a little of the nanny state. The real issue here is that parents need to be educated on what constitutes a healthy diet for their children. A survey during the week found that almost seven in ten teachers in Ireland believe their pupils were coming to school hungry. The fact that a lack money is a problem in a growing number of homes is a serious problem. However, the ever-rational teachers said only a third could be blamed on that. A further third blamed 'apathy' at home, while a quarter said it was because of a lack of time. That last excuse is a brilliant one. If that was ever offered in my day in school, the common sense answer would have been to get up earlier. Does that not dawn on people in 2012?
Parents are not as foolish as they are portrayed in Peppa Pig. However, they need to assert themselves more in the face of modern media. Advertising funds the type of television programmes we want our children to watch. There are many that provide a type of education and that teach important life lessons. Perhaps these are lessons that many parents couldn't be bothered to teach themselves. Advertising unhealthy foods might not appeal to all tastes, but I would prefer advertisers' money to be wasted than allowing parents to wriggle out of their responsibilities. Why allow someone else to decide what's in their child's best interests? As someone who grew up watching Wanderly Wagon (and longing for a Soda Stream), I think it's fair to say that Godmother would be horrified.