Ireland’s equivalent to our “Clearcast,” which pre-vets all broadcast ads before airing, said a radio ad for Veritas Christmas products such as “A new Companion to Advent and Christmastide” was “towards a religious end” and could not be aired. Duncan Grehan of Duncan Grehan & Partners, Dublin reports what seems a rather harsh decision.
Who: Broadcasting Commission of Ireland
When: December 2008
Law stated as at: December 2008
Veritas is a Catholic religious organisation with stores throughout Ireland and is also involved in the publication of religious texts.
In mid November 2008 it submitted scripts for a number of proposed radio advertisements to the clearance section of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI). The BCI can block broadcast advertisements for Irish terrestrial tv channels or radio stations where it feels they breach its code or broadcasting legislation.
In this case the advertisements in question were for various Veritas Christmas products and the final rejected script said “Christmas: aren't we forgetting something? This Christmas, why not give a gift that means more?”. However the BCI felt that the advertisements did not comply with the Broadcasting Act, 2001(which restricts religious advertising) and the BCI General Advertising Code which also restricts advertising “towards a religious end”. They indicated that they had already blocked an ad in September 2008 for “spiritual gifts” and felt that this was again advertising towards a religious end.
Why this matters:
The decision received widespread criticism from Catholic representative bodies and the Archbishop of Dublin. The BCI stated that it could only act within the limits of existing legislation and that it had made representations to the relevant Government body to consider an amendment to the legislation dealing with religious advertising.
Much of the criticism related to other advertisements which are allowed run for various alcohol products or computer games etc. It is clear that the BCI’s reading of the proposed script may have adhered to the legislation too strictly but it does show advertisers how strict the legislation can be. It is noteworthy that the national broadcaster RTE had already cleared the proposed script and was happy to run it.
Local legal advice should always be obtained.
Dunchan Grehan and Partners Solicitors, Dublin – Ireland