PBS tightens rules for food and drink sponsors of kids’ programs

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The PBS Board unanimously voted today to amend national program underwriting standards to require a higher level of review for food and beverage companies seeking to sponsor kids’ shows.

To be eligible to underwrite PBS Kids shows, food and beverage sponsors' products must contribute to a healthy diet. (Image: PBS)

To be eligible to underwrite PBS Kids shows, food and beverage sponsors’ products must contribute to a healthy diet. (Image: PBS)

Under the revision, President Paula Kerger told the board, “a potential sponsor for a PBS Kids series will be acceptable only if its product could be considered to make a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet.”

The amendment will have “only a minimal impact on our funding mix,” Kerger said. Less than 1 percent of children’s content sponsors in fiscal 2013 will be affected, she noted.

The recommendation came after months of review of current underwriting guidelines for children’s shows by PBS staff and the board’s corporate services advisory committee. Major producing station WGBH, Sesame Workshop and nutrition experts also participated.

Kerger told board directors that PBS realizes underwriters of local stations may include food and beverage companies that don’t meet the new national standards. The new guidelines, she said, “are not intended to conflict with local underwriting and may provide an opportunity to emphasize positive and healthy messaging locally for children and families.”

Kerger added that PBS, as a major educational brand, is uniquely positioned along with member stations “to serve as a resource for families as they create strong foundations for health and well-being that will last a lifetime.”

“Now is the right time to make a definitive commitment to align our brand with companies that provide families easy ways to make healthy choices,” she said.

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