Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Seanad Eireann Debate
Some Members will argue this matter should not be provided for explicitly in legislation but in codes for advertising. I contend, however, that the issue of alcohol abuse in our society is so serious that we as legislators need to make prescriptive statements in our broadcasting legislation.
I note the Minister’s proposal to examine the banning of junk food advertisements aimed at young people. On the immoderate consumption of junk food or the immoderate consumption of alcohol, there is no doubt about which poses the greater danger to young people in our society.
The Government is concerned about the problem of drink. Legislation is proposed to restrict to some degree the sale of alcohol. Alcohol is an issue on which we as legislators must be determined. We must attack the way alcohol is supplied to young people, even if it means the Garda using underage people to purchase alcohol to identify such shops. The harder task, however, is to tackle the demand for alcohol. It goes deep in our culture with the immoderate consumption of alcohol associated with many different occasions in Irish life. Some Members have expressed concern about the link between alcohol advertising and sporting events, for example.
The watershed is increasingly becoming more of a symbolic gesture considering the lifestyles people now have. People of all ages watch television at all hours of the day. This is linked to changes in family lifestyle, some of which are not for the better. An increasing number of young people have unsupervised access to television at late hours of the day. On Second Stage, I pointed out how television was a great gift to society but we never learned to use it and be discriminating consumers. The watershed, it can be argued, is an artificial distinction to provide that there would be no broadcasting of advertisements for alcoholic beverages before 9 p.m. It would, however, be a start and a statement from us that legislation is not just about pandering to commercial interests but the common good.
Senator Norris also has an amendment on this issue which goes further than mine. Mine is a limited strike and I ask the Minister to look favourably on it. The control of alcohol advertisements would signal a serious intent on the part of the Government and the Legislature to bring about lasting change. We need to act more radically than we have done to date in tackling alcohol consumption patterns.
The other parts of the amendment provide that advertisements for alcoholic products conform with appropriate broadcasting codes. Codes already provide that advertisements for alcoholic products should not be associated with sexual or social success. It would be timely for us to examine the current practice of alcohol advertising because it still manages to convey ideas of social credibility and kudos. Some advertisements show people doing stunts on their way to enjoy a pint.
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