NBC's Phillips Cites Psychologist Who Blames Advertising for Obesity
Asking âWho is to blame for Americaâs obesity epidemicâ among children, Ann Curry of NBCâs âTodayâ show introduced a condensed edition of a story to air later that evening on âDateline NBC.â Reporter Stone Phillips went on to suggest corporate advertising was to blame for Americaâs 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.
âFood marketing to children is a $10-billion-a-year industry, and some parentsâ advocates and lawyers are saying itâs out of control,â 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 âthe author of âConsuming Kids.â She says brand names are among toddlersâ first words and logos among the first images they recognize.â
âKids are requesting brands as soon as they can talk,â Linn told Phillips.
As odd as it sounds that children would say âCocoa Puffsâ before âmommy,â Phillips didnât question Linnâs assertion. Instead, Phillips went on to show clips of NBCâs Hoda Kotb conducting an experiment with a group of preschoolers and toddlers as she asked them to identify corporate logos.
Even then, Phillips conceded, âthey didnât getâ every logo right, even though they âcame pretty close.â
But Linn is a dispassionate researcher and neutral scientist, right?
Linnâs consumingkids.com Web site reveals that the Harvard doctor is co-founder of the liberal Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). âChildren are now the focus of a marketing maelstrom, targets for everything from minivans to M&M counting books,â Linn asserts in her biography.
Yet in the segment shown, Phillips didnât question Linnâs credibility or biases, nor the political aims of her organization.
In a petition that CCFC urges Web site visitors to sign, Linnâs group argues âthat 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.â
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 itâs not just commercials that destroy Americaâs youth. Itâs the action-figures and other toys based off of cartoons and movies like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Spider-Man, Linnâs group insists.
âToys based on media programs come with established characters and storylines, making it unlikely that children will use the toy to create their own world,â complained CCFC in a pamphlet entitled âThe Commercialization of Toys and Play.â
Itâs likely that millions of American parents (former children themselves) watching the âTodayâ 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.