Who: The Office of Communications (“Ofcom”) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (“BCAP”)
When: 17 December 2013
Law as stated at: 6 January 2014
Area of law: Advertising regulation
Ofcom, BCAP and the ASA have recently engaged in open correspondence about children’s exposure to alcohol advertising on TV and the need for improved regulation. BCAP has since published a new guidance note on the scheduling of TV advertisements that focuses on the timing and placement of advertising for age restricted products. Ofcom has welcomed BCAP’s new guidance, together with the ASA’s commitment to conduct enhanced monitoring in this area.
The rules on the scheduling of TV ads are set out in the BCAP Code (section 32) and the Ofcom Code on the Scheduling of Television Advertising. The BCAP rules encompass restrictions on the type of adverts that may be shown immediately before or after a programme or during a programme’s advertising breaks. This depends on whether a programme has (or is likely to have) particular appeal to children or young people (including taking into account the timing, e.g. daytime / evening, school holidays) and whether the advert in question is for age restricted products or is otherwise unsuitable for children (e.g. adverts containing distressing /sexual content). For example, the advertising rules prohibit alcohol from being advertised during or adjacent to programmes designed for, or which are likely to appeal to, under 18s.
The new BCAP guidance explains (amongst others):
- the ASA’s approach to enforcing the rules – for example, that when considering whether a programme appeals to a young audience, the ASA is likely to focus on identifying patterns or trends in audience indexing data such as the situation where a programme is not commissioned for young people but on an isolated occasion exceeds the permitted index measurement;
- the actions expected of broadcasters when applying the rules – for example, broadcasters must be able to provide evidence of “robust and diligent efforts to predict the likely index score of programming”;
- the actions expected of broadcasters when applying the rules; and
- how audience indexing works, which is a measure used to determine whether a programme is one which particularly appeals to children.
BCAP considers that the new guidance will enable broadcasters to have “much greater confidence in their scheduling decisions”. The publication demonstrates BCAP’s aim to ensure that advertising is responsible and that young people are protected by regulation.
In addition to the guidance, it has been reported on the CAP website that going forward in 2014, BCAP, the ASA and Ofcom will take further action in this area including the following:
- BCAP will write to all broadcast licensees with the new guidance;
- BCAP will provide further industry advice/ training in 2014;
- the ASA will carry out a further monitoring and enforcement exercise “to test the response of broadcasters to BCAP’s guidance”;
- BCAP will review the outcome of that exercise and consider whether further changes to the guidance are necessary; and
- Ofcom will conduct further research on the amount of alcohol advertising seen by children (once the impact of the new guidance becomes apparent).
Why this matters:
The publication of the new guidelines follows research by Ofcom on children’s exposure to alcohol advertising on TV, commissioned as a result of the Governments Alcohol Strategy. It is reported that the research showed an increased number of TV ads seen by 4 – 15 year olds (from 2.7 per week in 2007 to 3.2 in 2011). Additionally, it appears that such guidance was well due since the ASA reported that it published ten adjudications last year of which nine resulted in breaches of the BCAP Code.
Given the particular focus of BCAP, the ASA and Ofcom in this area, marketers should ensure they have carefully followed the relevant rules and guidance. Marketers should note that the guidance is effective immediately.
Find the new BCAP guidance here.