Nickelodeon and its parent company Viacom have purportedly declined to change their advertising policies after four senators penned a June 10, 2013, letter asking the network to further limit the food and beverage commercials shown during children’s TV programming. “As an entertainment company, Nickelodeon’s primary mission is to make the highest quality entertainment content in the world for kids,” the company reportedly said in its response to recent criticism. “That is our expertise. We believe strongly that we must leave the science of nutrition to the experts.”

According to a recent article in The New York Times, which reported that food advertising accounts for approximately 18 percent of Nickelodeon’s annual sales, the network has also highlighted its voluntary efforts to reduce advertisements for foods and beverages with high sugar or fat content, its promotion of health and wellness messaging, and its licensing restrictions designed to prevent the use of popular characters on unhealthy products. “Against that backdrop, analysts say, some critics are having a harder time painting Nickelodeon as an uncaring corporation peddling junk food to children,” notes the Times, which adds that the rhetoric deployed by groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) could seem “excessive at times.”

“Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at [CSPI], conceded that the volume of food ads on Nickelodeon had gone down,” concluded the article. “‘Things are moving in the right direction,’ she said. ‘They’re just moving way too slowly.’” Additional details about the senators’ letter to Nickelodeon appear in Issue 487 of this Update.