Protecting breastfeeding – Protecting babies fed on formula
New online safeguarding laws in Ireland to cover baby formulas and foods.
“…Provision made for the purpose referred to in subsection (2)(d)(ii) may prohibit or restrict, in accordance with law, the inclusion in programmes of commercial communications relating to foods or beverages considered by the Commission to be the subject of public concern in respect of the general public health interests of children,in particular infant formula, follow-on formulaor those foods or beverages which contain fat, trans-fatty acids, salts or sugars.”
President Higgins has today signed the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill into law.
The OSMR Act 2022 amends the Broadcasting Act 2009 to establish Coimisiún na Meán (a multi-person Media Commission), dissolve the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, establish a regulatory framework for online safety, update the regulation of television broadcasting and video on-demand services, and transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into Irish law.
The regulatory framework for online safety will be overseen by an Online Safety Commissioner, who will be empowered to make binding Online Safety Codes to hold designated online services to account for how they tackle the availability of some of the most serious forms of harmful online content. The Commissioner is also empowered under the Act to introduce an individual complaints mechanism on a phased basis, focusing initially on children and to order the removal or limitation of availability of specific items of harmful online content, either on foot of a complaint or on its own initiative.
Updates to the regulation of television broadcasting and video on-demand services will bring video on-demand services under statutory regulation for the first time. Providers of such services will, as broadcasters currently are, be subject to binding codes and rules, including in relation to advertising, accessibility and impartiality in news and current affairs.
Coimisiún na Meán will have a modern suite of robust compliance and enforcement powers, including the powers to appoint authorised officers to conduct investigations of suspected non-compliance, to require the provision of information and to seek administrative financial sanctions of up to €20 million or 10% of turnover. Ultimately, providers of regulated services under the Act who remain in breach of the rules may be subject to criminal prosecution.
Coimisiún na Meán will also have a strong role in promoting media sustainability and development through a dedicated Media Development Commissioner. The Commissioner will be responsible for creating and maintaining funding schemes for media production and training, including schemes to support professional journalistic practices and future schemes envisaged under the Report of the Future of Media Commission. The Commissioner will also be charged with reporting on the feasibility of introducing a content production levy to fund content production schemes, which Coimisiún na Meán will be empowered to make in consultation with Fís Éireann (Screen Ireland).
Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, said:
“The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 is a crucial piece of legislation. It modernises the regulation of the media ecosystem in Ireland and lays the foundations for the new regulatory frontier of online safety which will be of great importance to protecting children online.
“Key to this is the establishment of a new, robust and agile regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, whose remit will continue to grow in the coming years. The recruitment processes for the various commissioner posts is coming to a close and I expect to be in a position to announce appointments in the near future.
“An Coimisiún will ultimately be responsible for enforcing key pieces of EU regulatory legislation, including the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, the Digital Services Act and aspects of the Terrorist Content Regulation. It will also have an important role in ensuring media sustainability and development.
“This Act is the first step in what will be a rolling legislative programme in this space over the coming years.”
You may recall that Ireland had introduced a digital media bill, aimed at limiting digital marketing of human milk substitutes. It has since been signed into law. The language related to infant formula made it through the process without amendment:
The first few months with a new baby are some of the most intense and challenging of a parent’s life. For first-time mums and dads, it can be especially nerve-racking, full of anxiety and seemingly never-ending doubts.
How and what to feed your precious new infant are among the most fraught questions. Parents intuitively know the answer is to do what’s right for them and their baby, yet so many feel torn by mixed messages about infant feeding and claims about commercial milk formula products.
In recent months Unicef, and the World Health Organisation (WHO), have reported the true extent of the manipulative and invasive online tactics used by formula milk companies that are contributing to parents’ feeding anxieties and choices.
For decades, formula milk has been one of only two products (alongside tobacco) covered by an international agreement restricting marketing practices. The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes,also known as “the Code”, is a landmark public health agreement passed by the World Health Assembly in 1981 to protect parents from aggressive marketing practices by the baby food industry.