Cricket – junk food and alcohol. John Menadue

Over the holidays I have very much enjoyed watching on television Australia winning at last. The visual TV coverage is outstanding. The camera crews do a great job. I enhance my enjoyment by minimising the audio content. Except for the opening and closing of each session, and at the fall of each wicket, I keep my TV console on mute.

But that is the good news. Unfortunately I can’t get away from the almost saturation picture coverage of junk food (KFC) and alcohol (Victorian Bitter and Bear-Wine-and-Spirits or BWS).

Last year, the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) identified curbing alcohol use, tobacco use and obesity as the top three priority areas in preventive health. ANPHA considered that these three health risks accounted for 40% of potentially preventable hospitalisations.

In addition to saturated fats, KFC gives saturated television advertising – KFC classic catches; Australian burgers vs English burgers; KFC trivia; Bucket-heads and a lot more. Yet only this week the National Health Reporting Authority for the Council of Australian Governments reported that our obesity rate had ballooned to 28% – with almost 11 million Australians classified as overweight or obese. Obesity is growing at an alarming rate and fast-food is one of the contributing factors.

It is also hard to miss the seeming unending coverage of alcohol advertisements or promotion – on the sight-screens and on the scoreboards. We had BWS lunch and tea breaks. Yet only about a kilometre away from the Sydney Cricket Ground innocent people, police and hospital workers are battling alcohol-fuelled violence. The alcohol and hotel industry has enormous political clout and not just among politicians. Australian Cricket willingly plays their game.

The Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice does not allow alcohol advertising before 8.30pm in order to protect children. But by some sleight of hand the alcohol industry is able to advertise any time of the day provided it is part of a live sporting event.

In the 1980s the tobacco industry through Rothmans, Winfield and others fought a rear-guard action to continue advertising in association with sporting events. They used the hoary argument that if a product was legal it should also be possible to advertise it. In the end they had to withdraw from all advertising associated with sporting events. The same should happen to the junk food and alcohol industries. But who will challenge their enormous political and business power.

In the meantime, Channel 9, Cricket Australia and players fill their pockets with the revenue derived from the advertising and promotion of dangerous products. That sounds to me like living off immoral earnings.

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