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An analysis of Canadian legislation on television advertising directed at children Yeung, Rosanna Che-Yuen

Abstract

The topic of this thesis is an analysis of Canadian legislation on television advertising directed at children. The purpose is to present an in-depth analysis of the present legislation and to discuss the relevance and effects it has on the advertising industry, the broadcasting industry and society as a whole. This thesis is divided into three parts. The first is concerned with a literature research of the major empirical studies done in the fields of education, psychology and sociology on the effects of television on children. The apparent lack of research data on the effects of television advertising on children is a loss but it is believed that due to the similarities of variables studied and the close interdependence of television and advertising, it is possible to infer from the evidence on effects of television on children to the effects of television advertising on children. The inference forms the major background material upon which the analysis is made. The second part is a discussion of legislation controlling advertising in general and whether it is adequate in providing protection to children. The third part is devoted to a discussion of the two provisions that deal specifically with the control of advertising directed at children, the Consumer Protection Act of Quebec and the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children, to ascertain whether these are successful in granting the desired protection to children from objectionable advertising and whether this has been done adequately and relevantly. It is found that children devote more time to watching television than to any other activity; that they are highly imitative, especially of people they can identify with; that they are curious about almost everything and are most willing and ready to try out what they learn; that they are gullible and credulous and they do not interact the same way with television as with their parents, indicating that parental guidance and opinions are important deciding factors in their behavior patterns. While adults are usually defensive about advertising and legislation controlling advertising also takes into account our tendency to expect and condone a certain degree of puffery from advertisers, children in general lack the commercial knowledge and sophistication of cognitive development to acquire this defensive instinct and their simple mindedness and credulity make them 'preys' to advertisers. The standards of regulation of advertising directed at children are therefore necessarily higher than those used in general. There is no doubt that objective and verifiable standards of regulation are necessary. However, the tendency of present legislation to police opinions and values presented in advertising is dangerous. What we need in this society is a balanced presentation of everything and advertisement, being a reflector of society's values, should reflect all in a truthful manner.

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