Lobbyists push for US-style adverts

Britain’s advertising industry could be on track for an unprecedented shake-up that would see US-style adverts beamed into millions of homes, which are currently banned because they seek purely to stir up controversy.

The potential move has been sparked by Animal Defenders International(ADI), an animal rights group, which has won the right to challenge the UK-wide ban on political advertising on television and radio, after their proposed commercial was deemed unacceptable.

The group will test the Government’s advertising veto in court sometime in the new year - according to The Business, which adds a successful outcome for campaigners would revamp the advertising industry by setting it on track for US-style commercials.

UK-based lobbyists and pressure groups ranging from Amnesty International to the Make Poverty History campaigners have had their adverts shelved because the ban restricts organisations, with no official political policy, whose only aim is ”to influence public opinion on a matter of controversy.”

As a result, oil companies are free to advertise themselves as the guardians of our environment, while so-called ‘green’ campaigners are muted from responding on the same platforms of the broadcast media.

Such a contradiction is expected to form the central plank of the activists’ argument, consolidated by claims that the ban is too widely drafted and is not a justified interference with the right to freedom of expression.

Challenges to the British government will rest on the premise unearthed by the European Court of Human Rights, which has ruled a similar ban in Switzerland contravenes Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Tasmin Allen, for Bindman and Partners, which is handling ADI's forthcoming case, said she was “confident” that the challenge against a ban stopping pressure groups raising cash to vent their views on radio or TV would be successful.

“The current ban on political advertising means that campaigning organisations with no connection to any political party may not use broadcast media to raise money or to campaign on issues," she added.

"This is unfair, particularly when the other side of the argument may be broadcast by commercial organisations.”

If the challenge is successful, analysts indicate a massive boost in advertising expenditure would sweep the UK, as thousands of companies, lobbyists and organisations broadcast pent-up views via increasingly interactive broadcast services.

The RSPCA is supporting the challenge, after its 2001 advert about the rearing of broiler chickens was rejected under the ban.

In a statement at the time, the Society said:”We thought it was quite extraordinary that we could not put this on television. We should be able to raise issues about how animals are kept, otherwise TV would only be promoting products.”

Reflecting on her company’s incoming court battle, Jan Creamer of the ADI, said:” We have exposed the brutality and confinement behind the use of chimps in advertising, as part of our ‘My Mate’s a Primate’ campaign to save primates from extinction and abuse.

“It seems extraordinary that someone can use a chimpanzee on television to sell a soft drink, yet we are forbidden from questioning this behaviour through our own advertising.”

The legal challenge is due to be watched from the sidelines by an increasingly restless advertising industry, mindful that revenues for have soared to a record high, while private campaigners remain gagged by the ban.

Figures from the Central Office of Information confirm that spending on advertising has more than trebled since Labour came to power in 1997, and has peaked before the two general elections.

The government advertising spend for 2004/05 is £165.4 million - £2million less than the previous financial year 2003/04.

Yet including production fees and related advertising work the total figure comes to a cool £203million, within the same 12 month-period.


1st November 2005

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