Viasat plays down threat of UK junk food rules

Television operator Viasat, which broadcasts Swedish channels including TV3, has denied that new British regulations on junk food advertising threaten its operations there.

“We are studying the regulations,” said spokesman Bengt Willborg.

Viasat is owned by Sweden-based Modern Times Group and broadcasts to 21 countries. The company, which broadcast only to Scandinavia when it was founded in 1987, based itself in London to get around a Swedish ban on commercial television channels. Sweden’s Kanal 5, owned by SBS Broadcasting, is also based in London.

Broadcasting from Britain has since allowed the channels to circumvent strict Swedish advertising rules which ban commercials including those aimed at children and regulate the amount of time that can be given over to commercial breaks.

Now British rules on advertising could be about to get tougher. Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has responded to public concern about rising obesity rates by proposing a ban on the advertising of unhealthy food during children’s programmes or programmes which attract a high proportion of viewers under 16.

Bert Willborg, spokesman for Viasat Broadcasting, said the company was studying the new regulations.

“We are awaiting the guidelines, and then we will see in more detail how this will affect us. It would be premature for us to say what our reaction will be until we’ve seen the guidelines.”

But, he said, the ruling was not expected to threaten the company’s operations in London, and played down the significance of advertising regulations on the company’s presence there.

“We broadcast from London because we broadcast to 21 countries. To have one place to broadcast to 21 countries suits us very well.”

“You have to remember the reason we were based there is that there was no commercial TV in Sweden. We broke down the state monopoly on television.”