After many months of deliberation, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) has finally announced that the code concerning the sound level of TV advertisements is to change. James Baker looks at this and other quick decisions of BCAP.
Who: The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP)
When: May 2008
Law stated as at: 30 May 2008
In the last three months of 2005, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 245 complaints about the perceived high sound levels of television adverts. Research showed that these increased sound levels were often not due to the fact that the TV ads were played louder, but because the audio files used by the ads had been compressed, making quieter sounds more pronounced or 'punchy', with the results that the ads can sound subjectively louder than the programs around which they appear.
This prompted a BCAP consultation on sound levels of television advertisements, which was issued sixteen months later on 25th May 2007, with the closing date for responses on the 3rd August 2007. The consultation asked if the present rule 6.9 of the BCAP Television advertising standards code covering permissible sound levels of TV ads was sufficient in light of the rising number of complaints received by the ASA. Rule 6.9 states:
"Advertisements must not be excessively noisy or strident. Studio transmission power must not be increased from normal levels during advertising breaks."
After this consultation, BCAP announced nine months later, on 6th May 2008, that BCAP was publishing new rules on sound levels which they hoped would address the problem. The new 6.9 rule states:
"Advertisements must not be excessively noisy or strident. The maximum subjective loudness of advertisements must be consistent and in line with the maximum loudness of programmes and junction material."
This change will come into force on 7 July 2008. So after considering the issue for two and a half years, BCAP has added a new sentence to the code. Hurrah!
Why this matters:
Time will tell whether this change to the rules results in less jolting transitions from programmes to ads. It will also be interesting to see how the ASA grapples with the concept of "subjective loudness".
In the meantime, the picture of less than dynamic action that this story presents is consistent with the same body's approach in another area. In 2005 the government published a consultation document on the implementation of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive. This has led to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPUT). They came into force on 26th May 2008, having been available in close to final form for many months, yet BCAP is still unable to tell us how these Regulations will affect the BCAP code. Apparently we will have to wait until July before the BCAP code (and the non broadcast CAP Code) is in line with CPUT and advertisers know what they need to do to in order to be compliant.
One of the major advantages of having a self regulatory or co-regulatory system was meant to be that the regulator could react quickly to any issues that arise, but clearly this has not necessarily worked with the BCAP in these two cases. So if you are concerned that any planned campaigns might be upset by sudden changes in the BCAP or CAP Codes, we at marketinglaw.co.uk believe you will be safe, subject, that is, to whatever comes our way in the vaunted July 2008 Code revisions.