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Commercial Alert, Obesity Experts Ask Sesame Street Not to Advertise for McDonald’s


For Immediate Release: Monday, October 13, 2003
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (503) 235-8012

Obesity Experts, Child Advocates Ask Sesame Street Not to Advertise for McDonald’s

Today, a coalition of obesity experts, health professionals and child advocates sent a letter to Gary Knell, president and chief executive officer of Sesame Workshop, asking him not to show “sponsorship messages” for McDonald’s before or after Sesame Street, a popular children’s TV program.

The letter was written and organized by Commercial Alert, a nonprofit organization that protects children and communities from commercialism. The letter follows.

Dear Mr. Knell:

As you know, the Sesame Workshop has begun showing “sponsorship messages” for McDonald’s with its popular children’s program, Sesame Street.

It is understandable why McDonald’s would seek access to Sesame Street’s audience of impressionable young children. But why you would deliver these children to the corporation is another question. Parents entrust their children to you because they believe you are trustworthy. We doubt that enticing kids with junk food is part of that trust.

McDonald’s is the world’s largest fast food chain. It pushes exactly the kinds of high calorie offerings that have helped to cause an epidemic of childhood obesity and soaring incidence of type 2 diabetes.

Regrettably, Sesame Street has now become yet another advertising vehicle for McDonald’s to hook a new generation of children on its high calorie junk food.

Is it really the proper role of Sesame Street to seduce young children to nag their parents to take them to McDonalds? Should you not promote healthful eating habits rather than junk food eating habits? Which do you think the parents who entrust their children to you would prefer?

We ask you to remove these McDonald's "sponsorship messages" from Sesame Street immediately.


Enola G. Aird, Director, The Motherhood Project, Institute for American Values
Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Professor and Chair of Psychology, Yale University; Director, Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders; author, Food Fight
Brian A. Burt, Professor, Department of Epidemiology, University of Michigan; Director, Program in Dental Public Health
Brita Butler-Wall, PhD, Executive Director, Citizens' Campaign for Commercial-Free Schools
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, EdD, Professor of Child Development, Lesley University
Greg Critser, author, Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World
Ronnie Cummins, National Director, Organic Consumers Association
Donald R. Davis, PhD, Research Associate in Nutrition, Biochemical Institute, University of Texas
Leon Eisenberg, MD, Professor of Social Medicine and Psychiatry Emeritus, Harvard Medical School
Erica Frank, MD, MPH, Vice Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine; Emory University School of Medicine
Marnie Glickman, Co-chair, U.S. Green Party
Joan Gussow, EdD, M. S. Rose Professor Emeritus, Nutrition and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Jane M. Healy, author, Failure to Connect and Endangered Minds
Michael Jacobson, Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
Sut Jhally, Founder and Executive Director, The Media Education Foundation
David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, Associate Clinical Professor of Public Health & Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine; Director, Yale Prevention Research Center
Francine Kaufman, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
Jean Kilbourne, author, Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel
Velma LaPoint, PhD, Associate Professor of Child Development, School of Education, Howard University
Frances Moore Lappe, author, Diet for a Small Planet, co-author, Hope's Edge
Diane Levin, Professor of Education, Wheelock College, author, Remote Control Childhood
Robert McChesney, Research Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; author, Rich Media, Poor Democracy
Jim Metrock, President, Obligation, Inc.
Mark Crispin Miller, Professor of Media Ecology, New York University
Alex Molnar, Professor of Education Policy, Arizona State University; Director, Education Policy Studies Laboratory; author, Giving Kids the Business
Diane M. Morrison, Professor and Associate Dean for Research, School of Social Work, University of Washington
Robert K. Musil, PhD, MPH, Executive Director and CEO, Physicians for Social Responsibility
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, Professor and Chair, Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University; author, Food Politics and Safe Food
Harold Pollack, PhD, Associate Professor of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
Eric Rimm, ScD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health
Vicki Robin, coauthor, Your Money or Your Life
Gary Ruskin, Executive Director, Commercial Alert
Donald Shifrin, MD, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine
Victor Strasburger, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine; co-author, Children, Adolescents, & the Media
V. Susan Villani, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins Medical School

Tell your members of Congress to support the Parents' Bill of Rights

Now is the time for Congress to pass the Parents' Bill of Rights. Our nation's largest corporations resort to extreme measures to influence our children. They invade places that were previously off-limits, like schools, to target children with ads. The ads cause children to nag and whine for products, sowing strife and stress in our homes. The ads help create an epidemic of marketing-related diseases in our children, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and eating disorders.

Tell Congress to stop corporations from pitting children against their own parents and jeopardizing childrens' health, safety and education.

Dear Senator/Representative:

The time has come to restore to parents some measure of control over the commercial influences that now pervade their children's lives. I urge you to support the Parents’ Bill of Rights.

Raising children with strong values and good character is the most important task of a society. It is the primary responsibility of families. But parents today are overwhelmed. An aggressive commercial culture is arrayed against them, promoting products they don't approve of and values they find abhorrent.

This commercial culture has insinuated itself into children's lives. It bypasses parents entirely and speaks directly to children through the media and even in the schools. It musters the most sophisticated psychological techniques to induce children to whine, nag and throw tantrums in order to get the products they see advertised. Corporations are pitting parents against children and sowing dissension in the home. They are undermining the authority of parents, just to increase their own bottom lines.

There are consequences to the commercial assault on American children. Kids today are suffering from an epidemic of marketing-related diseases. Rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes are soaring. Eating disorders are the third leading chronic illness among teenage girls, who have become obsessed with body image. Alcohol is a factor in four of the main causes of death among young people aged 10 to 24. Millions will eventually die from the smoking habit promoted to them as youth.

Other effects are less easily quantified, such as the tension and strife within families and the nagging sense of lack that afflicts kids who don't have money to buy the things advertised. But these may be even more harmful in the long run.

I urge you to join with other concerned legislators in this effort by supporting the Parents’ Bill of Rights.


Commercial Alert.org
Commercial Alert, Obesity Experts Ask Sesame Street Not to Advertise for McDonald’s





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