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Thursday, September 2, 1999 Published at 10:08 GMT 11:08 UK


California bans text book adverts

Parents were concerned over 'product endorsement'

School text books will not be allowed to carry 'product placement' advertising, under regulations introduced in California.

In response to concerns that text books were being used to carry advertising messages to schoolchildren, the regulations, claimed as the first of their kind in the United States, will prevent the inappropriate use of brand name products and logos.

For example, text books will now no longer be allowed to present maths problems in terms of the prices of brand-name trainers or show counting exercises using branded chocolate bars.

Pressure for the change came from parents who had complained at what they believed to be thinly-disguised advertising in their children's text books.

Joe Stein, a parent and attorney in San Francisco, had complained that pictures and items in his child's books looked like adverts and were effectively "product endorsements".

'Real-world examples'

The legislation, introduced by the head of the assembly education committee, Kerry Mazzoni, will stop schools spending state funds on books which carry references to specific branded products - with the ban coming into force in the new year.

The regulations, signed this week by Governor Gray Davis, will mean that brand names and company logos may not be used unless the state's Board of Education says there is a reasonable educational purpose for their inclusion.

But a spokesman for publishers, McGraw-Hill, said that there were advantages to using "real-world" examples in teaching subjects such as maths.

The publishers, which produce maths text books which refer to specific products, say they are not paid to include product references, but the use of familiar products can make problems more relevant to children.

A campaigner against advertising in schools, Andrew Hagelshaw, senior program director for the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education in Oakland, said: "You can make a textbook more relevant by saying bike without saying it's a Schwinn. You can say cookie without mentioning Oreos."

The use of 'product placement' was developed in the cinema, with highly-visible products being used by characters in films - such as drinking a particular beer or using a type of computer.

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