On April 4, 2014, Brazil published a new resolution by the National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents (CONANDA), in which all types of publicity directed towards children are considered abusive. The resolution mentions that directing publicity and any type of market communication to children with the intention of persuading them to the consumption of any product or service is abusive, therefore illegal according to the National Code for Consumer Protection.
The resolution entered into force on the date of its publication, and covers all types of media, such as printed materials, television and radio commercials, banners and websites, labels, merchandising, promotions of any kind and activities in sale points and events. It also mentions explicitly the following as abusive:
- Use of children songs or songs using children voices;
- Representations of children;
- Characters or presenters of children programmes;
- Celebrities that appeal to children;
- Promotions and distribution of collectibles or toys;
- Events and competitions with activities and games for children.
CONANDA is a council created based on the Brazilian Federal Constitution (from 1988), as many other councils from different sectors (including food and nutrition security, and health), to serve as a formal and direct space to promote the participation of civil society on discussions and decisions made by the State. The council is composed of 50% executive government representatives and 50% civil society organisations dedicated to the protection of children’s and adolescents’ rights.
The nature of the council itself can be an important factor in the effectiveness of the resolution: as it is based on rights, it is less likely that the resolution will receive criticism based in technical aspects, as previously happened with the regulation of marketing of foods towards children in
the country (which was suspended due to the lobby of private forces). This is an important lesson to be learned from this story, and which can strengthen all initiatives aimed at regulating marketing/advertising in general or specifically on food products in other countries. Especially in countries that operates under an institutional system of state of rights, the rights to infancy, health, adequate and healthy food is fundamental.
As CONANDA does not have the means to apply sanctions, the resolution is limited in terms of practicality and enforcement. However, it adds an essential aspect to the legal framework already available in Brazil by setting clear definitions of what abusive advertising means. The Brazilian Federal Constitution and Consumers Protection Law have already been serving as the basis for petitions to impede advertisements and sue food and/or media industry. In 2009, McDonalds was fined in USD 1.5 million for advertising to children and promoting matched sales of toys and food. The CONANDA resolution will add to the legal basis to denounce and act upon abusive actions directed towards children.
Advocacy work against advertising to children in Brazil will continue, according to local civil society and government representatives, with the goal of implementing a specific law and proper structures for monitoring and applying sanctions, moving beyond the current reactive, denounce-based approach.