Beyond the competent consumer: the role of media literacy in the making of regulatory policy on children and food advertising in the UK

In 2007, the British media regulator Office of Communications (Ofcom) began to implement new restrictions on the television advertising of food and drink products to children, as part of the government's broader attempts to combat child obesity. This is the second of two linked articles that explore the issues at stake in these developments, and their broader implications for the study of media and cultural policy. This article focuses primarily on the ways in which the figure of the child consumer was conceptualised both in the research that informed these developments and in the policy debates that ensued. It explores the assumptions that were made by the contending parties in the debate about children's competence as consumers, and specifically as users of television advertising. This analysis is set within a broader account of the role and function of the notion of 'media literacy' in contemporary debates about regulatory policy.