Fostering Healthy Nutrition for Children
2016 – Viacom, Inc.
WHEREAS: There is increasing consensus among public health experts that food and beverage marketing is a major factor influencing the diets and health of children and youth (see the Institute of Medicine’s 2006 report Food Marketing to Children and Youth);
Viacom’s Nickelodeon division reaches millions of young viewers through its television channels, websites, games, and licensed characters and remains the No. 1 children’s network over all;
“Federal legislators and regulators have proposed voluntary guidelines on advertising to children in an effort to combat unhealthy eating and childhood obesity,” as Viacom notes in its annual 10-K statement, and – as a result – numerous food, beverage, restaurant, companies and one of Nickelodeon’s chief competitors, the Disney media company, have taken significant steps to alter their core business practices in marketing food and beverage products to children;
Many of the nation's largest food and beverage companies designed the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) as a voluntary self-regulation program intended to shift the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles. Viacom has not accepted invitations to join this initiative;
Public and media attention to this issue continues to intensify despite these initial efforts at self-regulation. Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. If we don't solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma;
Viacom has taken some steps to address the issue of childhood obesity by carrying “pro-social” content and participating in philanthropy; and has acknowledged in its annual 10-K statement that food companies’ self-regulation in advertising to children poses a risk Viacom’s revenue (food ads account for a significant portion of Nickelodeon’s annual sales); but has not acknowledged or adequately mitigated the risk posed to the company by its own core business practices of airing advertising for food of poor nutritional quality on its children’s networks and licensing Nickelodeon characters for use in promoting junk food products;
CSPI states, based on its analysis of advertising on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2015 that “the percentage of ads marketing foods of poor nutritional quality on Nickelodeon has decreased since 2005, but the absolute number of such ads has not declined.”
Therefore it be RESOLVED that: Shareholders ask the Board of Directors to issue a report, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, within six months of the 2016 annual meeting, assessing the company’s policy responses to public concerns regarding linkages of food/beverage advertising to childhood obesity, diet-related diseases, and other impacts on children’s health. Such a report should include an assessment of the potential impacts of public concerns and evolving public policy on the company’s finances and operations.