Experts are calling for an independent review of Australia's broadcast and digital alcohol advertising guidelines, after the advertising industry's own data revealed underage viewers are still receiving millions of exposures to alcohol advertisement thanks to a loophole in the code.
A report into child and adolescent exposure to alcohol advertising in Australia's major televised sports found nearly half of the alcohol advertisements children and teenagers are exposed to during major sports broadcasts occur during children's daytime viewing hours.
Regulations prohibit the showing of alcohol advertisements before 8.30pm or outside the hours of 12pm and 3pm on school days on free-to-air channels.
But Associate Professor Kerry O'Brien, lead author of the report, said advertisers are exploiting a clause in the code which enables alcohol advertising to be shown during live sporting matches.
"I think [alcohol advertisers] are certainly making the most of the clause and how it exists," Associate Professor O'Brien said.
The report revealed more than 3500 alcohol adverts were shown during live AFL, NRL, and cricket broadcasts, representing 60 per cent of all alcohol advertising in sport TV.
More than half of those advertisements were shown during the AFL, with Adelaide leading the charge for daytime saturation.
International research shows children's exposure to alcohol advertising leads to earlier drinking and more problems with alcohol in later life.
"It appears to be a dose for dose relationship. The more alcohol advertising they see, the greater alcohol consumption," Associate Professor O'Brien said.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education has criticised the "inconsistent" standards between free-to-air, pay television and digital advertising.
"It's the wild west out there. Free-to-air is trying to shift the broadcast time forward to 7.30pm and include rebroadcast sport and one of their arguments is that pay TV doesn't have these controls. To me suggesting lowering the bar is illogical," chief executive Michael Thorn said.
"There's no question at all that the code is being exploited. There's this unholy alliance between big sport, broadcasters and advertisers.
"If we want to reduce the impact of alcohol on young people we need to do something about the way alcohol is advertised because that's what's normalising these behaviours."
The study was co-funded by the Australian Research Council, Australian National Preventative Health Agency and VicHealth.