Hearing her eight-year-old daughter's declaration: "I will never eat cakes because boys don't like fat girls," Shang Xiuyun turned around and saw her daughter watching a TV ad for underwear featuring a half-naked, slim girl flirting with a man.
"I think our country should set up rating system for sexually suggestive TV ads," said Shang, who is also a deputy of the Beijing Municipal People's Congress, the local legislature.
After they have monitored commercials for three months, Shang and fellow legislator Tang Xilan are going to advise the government regarding both morality ratings and watershed times for ads deemed improper for minors.
Shang called on the government to create strict regulations to eradicate sexually suggestive commercials, at least during the summer and winter holiday periods.
The present law on advertising was implemented 12 years ago. It vaguely prohibits "content that is obscene, superstitious, terrifying, violent and evil; content that is discriminative against nationalities, races, religions and sex". But the law contains no details on how such advertising should be judged.
"Specific items should be added to the law to prohibit sexually suggestive TV ads," declared Shang.
More than one million Beijing middle and primary school children started their summer holidays last week. Many spent a lot of time watching television, a pastime many parents are beginning to question.
Scantily clad young women, with protruding breasts and flirtatious behavior signal commercials for lingerie, breast enhancement and cosmetic products. Many of these ads are packed into primetime programming.
"Most of them misinform children about sex," Shang stated.
More than half of China's primary and middle school students spend over a 100 minutes watching television every day.
Shang recalled her own daughter's comment after a cosmetic ad that depicted a young couple behaving frostily to each other before the woman used a brand-name skin care product that cleared up her facial freckles: "Mom, daddy will dislike you because you have freckles on your face."
Shang said, "You can't escape vulgar ads by changing channels because almost every channel has such ads at primetime."
Zong Chunshan, Director of the Beijing Adolescent Psychology Consulting Center, said sexually suggestive ads give priority to sexual attraction and could influence children.
"Youngsters are sensitive to sex-related information and they may believe behavior on the screen is considered normal. They will have trouble controlling their own behavior," noted Zong.
An official with the State Industry and Commerce Administration remarked anonymously that the administration was considering amending advertising laws in order to provide protection for minors.
(Xinhua News Agency July 20, 2007)