BCI News

BCI logo via BCI websiteMy, but the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) is being busy. Two important developments deserve comment: this week’s new codes and today’s announcement of a new christian radio channel. And they are linked.

First, the Codes. Following on from its revision of the Children’s Advertising Code (blogged here), its newly revised General Advertising Code and the Code of Programme Standards were launched last month (on 27 March 2007; press release) and became fully operational last Tuesday (10 April 2007). These codes are the result of the BCI’s excellent and exemplary multi-phase open consultation process (all stages of which are available on their website), and are made pursuant to their powers under section 19 of the Broadcasting Act, 2001 (also here (html) and (pdf)):

19.—(1) The Commission shall, upon being directed by the Minister to do so and in accordance with the provisions of this section, prepare—
(a) a code specifying standards to be complied with, and rules and practices to be observed, in respect of the taste and decency of programme material, the subject of a broadcasting service or sound broadcasting service, and, in particular, in respect of the portrayal of violence and sexual conduct in such material, and
(b) a code specifying standards to be complied with, and rules and practices to be observed, in respect of , teleshopping material, sponsorship and other forms of commercial promotion employed in any broadcasting service or sound broadcasting service (other than and other activities as aforesaid falling within paragraph (c)), and
(c) a code specifying standards to be complied with, and rules and practices to be observed, in respect of advertising, teleshopping material, sponsorship and other forms of commercial promotion employed in any broadcasting service or sound broadcasting service, being advertising and other activities as aforesaid which relate to matters likely to be of direct or indirect interest to children.

These codes replace those made under earlier similar powers (which can be found here, here, and here), and Head 41 of the Broadcasting Bill, 2006 provides for similar codes when the BCI is replaced by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). The most interesting element of the General Advertising Code is section 9, relating to Prohibited Communications:

In addition to other classes of commercial communications, those coming within the recognised character of, or specifially concerned with, the following are not acceptable:

  • Products, treatments or services which are only available on medical prescription.
  • Cigarettes and tobacco.
  • Infant formula.
  • Advertisements directed towards a political end or which have any relation to an industrial dispute.
  • Advertisements directed towards a religious end. This shall not be construed as preventing the broadcasting of a notice of the fact-
      i) that a particular religious newspaper, magazine or periodical is available for sale or supply, or
      ii) that any event or ceremony associated with any particular religion will take place

    if the contents of the notice do not address the issue of the merits or otherwise of adhering to any religious faith or belief or of becoming a member of any religion or religious organisation.

These restrictions are particularly interesting, not only becuase of the Trócaire controversy (blogged here and here, BCI press release here), but also because of today’s news that the BCI has awarded a licence for a national christian radio station (for background, see funferal, here and here). Much will no doubt be made of various elements of the winning bid, especially its 70% subscription proposal. I just want to ask here: if religious advertising is still largely prohibited – as the code set out above reinforces – will this preclude a significant slice of potential advertising revenue for the new station? (Indeed, is this the reason for its subscription model?) Or will the prohibition be revisited in the light of today’s developments?

Update (17 April 2007): For more coverage of the BCI award of the licence to Spirit Radio, see Grainne Cunningham in the Irish Independent and Patsy McGarry in the Irish Times.

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