Put warning labels on skinny models: minister

Giant images of airbrushed and digitally altered fashion models could soon come with warning labels if Norway's equality minister succeeds in pushing through a new action plan.

Put warning labels on skinny models: minister
Photo: Ungdom mot Retusjert Reklame

“We have to reduce the pressure the beauty ideal generates,” said Equality Minister Audun Lysbakken, as he presented a government plan recommending “dialogue” with advertising agencies.

Lysbakken said he wants to curb the vast reach of ads promoting “unobtainable ideal bodies”. He admits he does not know how ad agencies and the urban planning departments they strike deals with will react to warning labels indicating, “This advertisement has been altered and presents an inaccurate image of how this model really looks.”

The Labour initiative is supported by the far-left Red Party's youth wing, a group whose members have long posted their own counter-slogans on billboards they deem offensive.

At least one newer member of the Red Youth party was gunned down on Utøya Island in July during the murder rampage of the politically motivated killer Anders Behring Breivik. Most of those killed, however, were part of the Young Labour movement.

The young Labour and Red groups have long been involved in a joint action plan called Youth Against the Retouching of Advertisements. Some of the Young Labour pioneers behind the project are now in power with the group's governing parent party.

 “(Red Youth) deserve a lot of honour,” Red Party leader Turid Thomassen told The Local.

“Many of those now in our ranks worked on (the beauty and advertising) issue when they were younger and still a part of (Red Youth),” Thommassen said.

“Finally, the authorities are listening.”

In his presentation, Lysbakken said hundreds of thousands of young girls endured eating disorders while living with a distorted self-image obtained partly by hopeless comparisons with “cleaned-up” beauty ads. Women’s rights groups in North America and in Europe have long allied with psychologists and sociologists against the phenomenon.

But Norwegian Business School lecturer Monica Viken said she doubts sticking warnings on billboards will have an effect on consumers.

“We have also introduced rules against hidden advertisements by putting text into ads that say this is an ad,” Viken told newspaper Bergens Tidende. adding, “I don’t know if this has had an effect on the impression the ad gives."

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Beer makers barred from showing beer in Norway

Norwegian beer makers have reacted with fury to "surreal" rulings by two state agencies forbidding brewers from reviewing beer or showing pictures of beer on their own websites.

Beer makers barred from showing beer in Norway Screenshot

The Norwegian Marketing Council on Monday gave its full backing to a Directorate of Health decision that found Aass Brewery and the Norwegian Brewery Association guilty of violating the provisions of the Alcohol Act.

The health directorate previously ordered Aass Brewery to remove from its websites all images of foaming beer, all information about microbrewery beer, as well as any specific beer recommendations.

Brewery association website meanwhile has been barred from publishing a beer selection tool that helps users choose suitable beers for different occasions.

The association has also been commanded to remove any links to articles reviewing beer in the Norwegian media.

Furthermore, the Marketing Council agreed with the directorate that a censored beer picture on the association’s website was in breach of laws against alcohol advertising.

Furious at the ruling, the Brewery Association has now asked health minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen (Labour Party) to work towards a change in the laws surrounding alcohol advertising.

“We find these measures quite surreal,” said chairman Petter Nome.

Nome pointed out that it was fully legal for star skier Emil Hegle Svendsen to appear on public television in skiwear advertising a German beer while Norwegian beer remains subject to “total secrecy”.

He noted too that the state-run alcohol retail monopoly, Vinmonopolet, was free to describe its products in great detail, while the Brewery Association was barred from providing “sober consumer information” about low-alcohol beers.

The association characterized as a breach of freedom of speech the Marketing Council’s decision to ban it from linking to four news articles about the economic growth of microbreweries.

Lending his backing to the brewers, Arne Jensen, assistant secretary general of the Association of Norwegian Editors, said in a recent interview that the Norwegian authorities risked contravening the European human rights convention by telling brewers what they could and could not publish.

“In this case the directorate should stop and listen. If so I think they’ll hear the ice cracking beneath them,” he told trade union magazine Journalisten.

The health directorate argued that the existing advertising laws barred the brewers from linking to editorial material on beer, regardless of its content. Linking to reviews of beer could be equated with the association publishing the same material on its own website, the directorate said.

“The link is there for marketing purposes since the content is of such a nature that it would have been considered advertising if the Brewery Association or Aass Brewery had produced the material themselves,” the health directorate wrote.

A unanimous Marketing Council supported the directorate’s view that editorial articles on the website of public broadcaster NRK counted as illegal advertising when linked to by the Brewery Association.

The council noted too that commercial speech enjoys “a somewhat lower level of protection that other forms of speech in the societal discourse”.