The Irish Section of Amnesty International is broadcasting the following advertisement on Irish television:
A slightly longer, generic version is available here. It is a powerful advertisement, well worth the half-minute it will take to watch it; but it raises an interesting question. Is it a political advertisment within the meaning of section 20(4) of the Broadcasting (Authority) Act, 1960 and section 10(3) of the Radio and Television Act, 1988, which provide that no advertisement shall be broadcast which is “directed towards any religious or political end …”?
As we have seen several times on this blog (here, here, here, here and here), many advertisements have fallen foul of this prohibition, from TrÃ³caire‘s most recent lenten advertisment, through the Interim National Consumer Agency‘s campaign against price controls on groceries, to EU Commission advertisments extolling the virtues of the European Union. It is a silly and unjustifiable restriction on political speech, but it has survived scrutiny in the Irish and English courts, and the European Court of Human Rights has upheld restrictions on religious advertising. On the other hand, that Court has struck down prohibitions on political advertising, as has the US Supreme Court, just at the end of last month. Moreover, the English case is under appeal to the UK’s highest court, the House of Lords. It may therefore be that the prohibition on political advertising in Ireland will eventually be struck down by the Courts (I have set out my reasons why this ought to be so on several occasions on this blog – the links are at the start of this paragraph, but a good example is here). But it would be better if it were repealed long before then (at least for advertisments other than those by or for political parties). The mere fact that innocuous advertisements like those of the NCA and the EU, to say nothing of important advertisements like TrÃ³caire’s or Amnesty’s above, could fall foul of it, simply adds to the case against the breadth of the current prohibition.