Friday November 17, 03:02 PM [SIZE=-2]Click to enlarge photo[/SIZE] LONDON (Reuters) - The government moved to ban ads for junk food during children's television programming, taking one of the toughest stances in Europe in the fight against increasing childhood obesity. Ofcom put forward rules on Friday that would ban the airing of adverts for food and drinks high in salt, sugar or fat in connection with programmes that appeal to children under the age of 16 at [FONT=Verdana,arial,sans-serif]([/FONT]any time of day or night on any channel. Advertising around children's TV programmes is completely banned in Sweden, and there are a range of restrictions within other European countries, but Britain's new proposals are among the toughest. The decision left both advertising and health groups angry. Ofcom said it had a responsibility to reduce the exposure of children to the advertising of such foods, balanced against the need to secure television programmes of high quality. Consumer and health groups had been lobbying for a full ban on junk food TV ads before 9 p.m. "Based on the evidence and analysis, we believe the case for intervention is clear," Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said in a statement. "We will introduce significant but proportionate measures to protect children under 16." According to the Health Survey for England, 16 percent of boys and 10 percent of girls aged between 2 and 10 are obese. Ofcom launched a consultation in March this year after being approached by Tessa Jowell, the minister for culture, media and sport. "This is but one element of a renewed drive and responsibility ... to halt the rise in obesity among children," Jowell said in a statement. TOUGHER RULING But Sustain, an alliance for better food and farming which had campaigned for tougher ruling, said Ofcom had caved in to the food and advertising lobby. Children will still be exposed to junk food ads when they watch adult programming in the early evening, campaign coordinator Richard Watts said in a statement. "We know that over two thirds (71 percent) of the TV the average child watches is outside these hours (dedicated to children's programming), so these restrictions will have almost no effect." The British Medical Association also said Ofcom should have gone further. In contrast, ISBA, which represents over 400 UK advertisers, said Ofcom's decision went too far. "These proposals are harmful to UK television, damaging to the competitiveness of UK plc and will not reduce obesity," ISBA's Ian Twinn said in a statement. "We fear that the Ofcom board members have been influenced by political opinion ... not the evidence." A spokesman for Channel 4, which is funded by advertising, said Ofcom's proposal was a proportionate one but that any measure that put further pressure on TV ad revenues would trouble the company. Ofcom estimates that the impact on total broadcast revenues will be up to 39 million pounds per year, falling to around 23 million pounds as broadcasters mitigate revenue loss over time. The restrictions will apply to all broadcasters licensed by Ofcom and based in the UK, including international broadcasters transmitting from the UK to audiences overseas. The changes will take effect before the end of January 2007, but ad campaigns already underway will be allowed to be broadcast until the end of June of that year. Ofcom said the decision to extend the rules to under 16-year-olds would still require a further short consultation.