In December 2002 we reported controversy over the ITV Networks’ refusal to carry an “offensive” ad featuring a caricature of President Bush. Now, the ad can be broadcast after all.
Who: Independent Television Commission ("ITC"), Broadcasting Advertising Clearance Centre ("BACC") and ITV
When: December 2002
In the marketinglaw updates for December 2002 we reported on uproar over the BACC's refusal to allow the screening of an advertisement for a video of the ITV cartoon satire series 2DTV. The BACC is the body that works on behalf of the UK's independent television networks to minimise the risk that advertising broadcast on TV breaks the law or the ITC Advertising Standards Code.
The BACC's concern with the ad in question was its portrayal of US President George W Bush in a way suggesting he was not, how shall we put it, mensa membership material. The BACC took the view that although on the face of it Bush featured (albeit in caricature) in the product being advertised and the reference was therefore legitimate from that point of view, the gibing context was in this case "potentially offensive".
In a subsequent development, however, the BACC decision was appealed to the ITC, who overturned the BACC ban and said that broadcast of the ad should be allowed.
Why this matters:
In matters relating to UK broadcast ad compliance, the ITC is the ultimate arbiter as to what is permissible, and it is not unknown for it to take a different view from that previously adopted by the BACC. On average, however, the cases in which the BACC is overruled by the ITC are not numerous in any particular year. On the other hand, with the entire system for regulating the UK's TV advertising currently under review as part of the introduction of the new super communications watchdog OFCOM, it is not particularly good timing on the part of the BACC to have been involved in this high profile overruling. Particularly when this follows relatively quickly on the heels of the issuing by the ITC in 2002 of a rare public rebuke to the BACC for clearing the Microsoft X-Box "cradle to grave" commercial featuring a final scene in which a body crashes into a grave.
The BACC would of course only be too happy if at the end of the current review process, OFCOM determined that the ITC's current "heavy touch" involvement in the process were to end, with much greater self regulation, (as The Guardian misleadingly reported had already happened on 13 January 2003). If that were to be the case, then the BACC would be standing first in line to take over that role. Set-backs such as this, however, can hardly help its cause or the cause of self-regulation.