Who: Advertisers, sponsors and those involved in commercial communications on Irish television and radio
When: July 2016
Law stated as at: 9 August 2016
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (“BAI“) has proposed a number of updates to its general commercial communications code which governs sponsorship, advertising, product placement and other forms of commercial communication on Irish television and radio (the “Code“). The BAI’s updated version of the Code is in draft form and is currently open to public consultation.
Key changes to the Code are summarised below:
- The draft Code attempts to define “product placement” and “sponsorship” more clearly. Sponsorship should include sponsored competitions, explicit references and announcements within programmes (such as ‘brought to you by’, ‘sponsored by’, etc). Sponsorship should not include references to products and services which are built into the action of a programme (which should be deemed to be product placement).
- The existing Code is based on four general principles from which the rules relating to commercial communications are derived. The draft Code retains three of these four principles (the principles which will be retained are: principle 1: legal, honest, decent and truthful; principle 2: human dignity, offence and harm; and principle 3: transparency). However it removes the fourth principle relating to compliance and assessment and introduces a new principle 4 relating to the protection of children.
- The draft Code introduces a new rule which states that split-screen and virtual advertising (i.e. advertising which appears alongside or at the same time as programme content) will count towards advertising minutage in the same way as a traditional ad.
- The existing Code prohibits sponsorship announcements from referencing more than one product or service. This is permitted under the draft Code.
- The existing Code prohibits “calls to action” (e.g. ‘check out our website’, ‘find more information at’ etc). The draft Code relaxes this approach and instead replaces this with a prohibition on “calls to purchase” (e.g. ‘buy now’, ‘purchase online at’ etc).
- The rules relating to sponsored competitions have been strengthened in the draft Code.
- The existing Code includes a restriction on mentioning betting odds. This has been removed in the draft Code (however the restriction on promotional offers of odds has been retained).
- The existing Code includes a prohibition on “encouragement” to bet. The draft Code changes this to “direct encouragement” to bet.
- The draft Code includes a new prohibition in relation to commercial communications for electronic cigarettes.
Why this matters:
Those involved in commercial communications on Irish television and radio may need to alter their current practices to take into account the updated version of the Code when it comes into force. At the moment, the draft Code is still in the consultation phase and the final version may vary significantly from the current draft. Reponses to the BAI’s public consultation must be received by 20 September 2016. After this date the BAI will consider the responses and assess whether any further changes to the Code are needed.
Interested parties should:
- Expect an updated version of the Code (although not immediately as the draft code is still in the consultation phase).
- Be aware that in general the draft Code strengthens the rules relating to commercial communications. However in some cases it relaxes them.
- Consider whether they wish to submit a response to the BAI’s consultation by the 20 September 2016 deadline.
- Await the BAI’s assessment of the responses to the consultation on the draft Code and look out for further updates from the BAI in the coming months.