of 10–20 hours each, which may account in part for the range of outcomes; nonetheless the pattern is clear that food commercials predominate in television advertising directed to children.
On the other hand, there continues to be some uncertainty about the trends for the actual numbers of television commercials seen by children. An analysis of Nielsen Media Research data conducted for the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and GMA reports that the number of food, beverage, and restaurant commercial impressions viewed annually by children ages 2–11 years has declined from 5,909 in 1994 (or roughly 16 commercials a day) to 5,152 in 2004 (or roughly 14 commercials a day) (Collier Shannon Scott and Georgetown Economic Services, 2005b). This is the first study to indicate any reduction in the number of television commercials seen by children. Preliminary findings of an unpublished study similar to the ANA/GMA study were presented publicly at a joint workshop sponsored by the DHHS and the FTC. That comparison covers a longer period, from 1977 to 2004, and reports a larger decline with 34 percent fewer food and beverage advertisements in programs watched mainly by children (Ippolito, 2005). Others have found either stability or increases in the number of food and beverage commercials appearing in children’s programming during this same period (Byrd-Bredbenner, 2002; Gamble and Cotugna, 1999; Story and French, 2004; Taras and Gage, 1995).
With respect to commercial content, the content analysis research indicates that the nutritional characteristics of the food advertised in children’s programming are generally for high-calorie (e.g., high sugar or high fat) and low-nutrient foods and beverages. Applying nutritional categories, Kotz and Story (1994) found that 44 percent of all food advertising in a sample of children’s television programming were in the “fats, oils, and sweets” food group, the category of foods recommended to be the smallest proportion of one’s overall food consumption in the USDA food guidance system. Taras and Gage (1995) indicate that 85 percent of advertised RTE breakfast cereals were high in sugar, as were 100 percent of advertised candy and sweets. In a more recent analysis of food advertisements viewed by children, Harrison and Marske (2005) found that 83 percent were for convenience or fast foods and sweets. Another analysis showed that sugar and corn syrup are the most common ingredients in food products marketed to children (Gamble and Cotugna, 1999). Virtually all studies find limited commercial advertising of healthful food and beverage products to children and youth such as for fruits or vegetables.
Young viewers are also often exposed to general audience oriented shows and the advertising that accompanies them. For example, far greater numbers of children watch such programs as The Simpsons on Sunday evenings than view any Saturday morning children’s show, despite the fact