Access to Nutrition

2016 – Time Warner Inc.



WHEREAS: Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, with nearly one in three children overweight or obese. The Centers for Disease Control predicted that one-third of all children born in 2000 or later will develop diabetes during their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and asthma.


There is increasing consensus among public health experts that food and beverage marketing is a major factor negatively influencing the diets and health of children and youth.  Children in the US grow up surrounded by food and beverage marketing, which primarily promotes products with excessive levels of added sugar, salt and fat. Healthy Eating Research’s Recommendations for Food Marketing to Children stated: “evidence shows that the marketing of high-calorie and nutrition-poor foods to children and adolescents increases their risk of unhealthy weight gain and contributes to poor diet-related health outcomes.”


A study in Pediatrics found that “Branding food packages with licensed characters substantially influences young children’s taste preferences and snack selection and does so most strongly for energy-dense, nutrient poor foods. These findings suggest that the use of licensed characters to advertise junk food to children should be restricted.” The Institute of Medicine and the White House Task Force to Prevent Childhood Obesity recommended that licensed cartoon characters should be used only to promote healthy food to children.


According to Forbes, Warner Bros. leverages its characters to license their names, images, logos and other representations, both domestically and internationally. These licenses are sold to publishers, retailers, theme parks and manufacturers of consumer goods. Time Warner’s 2014 annual report (10-k, p.8) states that Warner Brothers “is focused on maximizing across all of its businesses the value of its portfolio of leading brands and characters. These brands include DC Entertainment’s brands… as well as the Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera brands.” Licensed characters include Warner Brothers’ Flintstones (Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles cereals) and Scooby Doo (lollipops and other candies).


In its 2014 Corporate Responsibility Report, Time Warner recognizes “that our entertainment has an impact on culture”, but has not assessed the risk posed by licensing characters for use in promoting unhealthy food products.


The Walt Disney Company has set limits on the use of Disney characters in food promotions and by marketing only products that meet the company’s nutrition guidelines. Time Warner has an opportunity to assume a similar leadership position. While Turner’s Cartoon Network has nutritional guidelines regarding its licensed characters, this does not extend to all of Time Warner.


RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board of Directors issue a report, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, within six months of the 2016 annual meeting, assessing the company’s policy responses throughout its divisions to public health concerns regarding the use of licensed characters and their possible link to childhood obesity, diet-related diseases, and other impacts on children’s health. Such a report could include recommendations to address these concerns.