Sponsorship of RTÉ’s Big Big Movie by McDonald’s does not breach the rules on children’s programming, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
Fianna Fáil’s spokeswoman on children and youth affairs, Anne Rabbitte, wants RTÉ to find a more suitable sponsor.
Ms Rabbitte said thousands of children watch the Big Big Movie every Saturday and it is not right they are encouraged to associate this fun leisure time with fast food.
It is family time that is sponsored by a fast-food outlet that is targeting and influencing children’s eating behaviours,” she said.
The chief executive of the Broadcasting Association of Ireland (BAI), Michael O’Keeffe, told the meeting of the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs that the sponsorship does not breach the rules.
Mr O’Keeffe said the Big Big Movie is designated as “family viewing” and so does not fall under the children’s commercial communications code.
The number of children watching the programme would have to be 50% or greater, which it was not.
He said the authority only received one complaint about the programme.
Ms Rabbitte, who has described childhood obesity as a “national crisis”, said she found that hard to believe.
The BAI is due to review the rules in the code next year and Mr O’Keeffe said they would consider changing the rules for programmes watched by a large number of children.
McDonald’s has said it ensures that all its marketing is done responsibly and only advertises food and drink products to children that are not classified as high fat, salt, or sugar.
RTÉ said it prided itself on being fully compliant with the BAI’s codes and regulations.
The chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland, Orla Twomey, said the authority received very few food-related complaints.
“In the past five years 9% of total complaints received related to food advertising, with complaints primarily made on grounds of misleading or offensive content,” she said.