ABC's Lisa Stark Pours Cold Milk on Advertising Trend

     What’s next, a “Dateline NBC” sting operation to snag Toucan Sam?


     Basing her story on a July 19 study by the liberal Kaiser Family Foundation, ABC’s Lisa Stark offered the audience of the July 26 “World News Tonight” a look at the “Wild West” world of food marketing on the Internet geared to kids, complete with flashy games on company Web sites.


     The Kaiser report found that “more than eight out of ten (85%) of the top food brands that target children through TV advertising also use branded websites to market to children online.”


     But rather than presenting the development as a safer Internet pastime for children then chatting with complete strangers or looking up pornographic Web sites, Stark suggested the advertising development is a danger to children that needs to be regulated.


     “On television, there are regulations on marketing to kids, a limit on the amount of ad time on a children’s show for example, but online, it’s wide open,” complained Stark, who went on to conclude her story lamenting the trend was “only likely to get worse.”


     To bolster her complaint, Stark trotted out Yale School of Health’s Dr. David Katz to gripe that cereal Web sites are “the Wild West of food advertising for children” with “no rules out there” to control content.


     Yet Stark’s expert is no dispassionate medical professional. The Yale doctor signed a petition circulated by the left-wing Center for a Commercial Free Childhood that attacked “purveyors of junk food” for using “public schools as a platform for their marketing campaigns” to “corral a captive audience of impressionable children.”


    Simply put, Katz attacked food companies for the “epidemic” of fat kids, a decidedly liberal point of view that Stark failed to mention.


     Stark gave a few seconds to Nancy Daigler of Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT) to defend her company’s practices, only to quickly dismiss her out of hand.


     “We think it is possible to be a responsible marketer and to provide some fun online for kids,” Daigler told ABC, before Stark rebutted.


     “Parents don’t buy it,” Stark insisted, presenting mother Susan Wertheim as a spokeswoman for parents everywhere. “Who needs one more place, one more front that you have to tell your kid no, I didn’t really want you to have Lucky Charms for breakfast today,” Wertheim complained.


     ABC News is hardly alone in hyping marketing to kids as a health danger. On December 7, 2005, the Business & Media Institute recorded how CBS’s Julie Chen called cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants’s appearance on food packages as “very powerful stuff” that was “not unlike, for example, Joe Camel.”