The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has published a General Commercial Communications Code and a Children’s Commercial Communications Code. The Codes apply to advertising and equivalent promotion. The purpose is to ensure that the public can be confident that commercial communications are legal, honest, truthful, decent and protect the interests of the audience.
The Codes apply to all sound and radio announcements and other commercial communications. They encompass advertising, sponsorship, comparative and surreptitious commercial communications, subliminal communications, teleshopping and product placement.
There are specific rules in the Code relating to alcohol, medicines and medical treatments, medicines, cosmetic treatments, smoking aids, food, financial services, betting services, premium rate telecommunications service, fortune tellers, psychic services
General Principles of Codes
ll commercial communications shall be prepared with a sense of responsibility both to the individual and to society. It shall not prejudice the interests of either.
All commercial communications shall be legal, honest, decent, truthful and protect the interest of the audience. They shall comply with the applicable legislation, including the EU Directives on Audio-visual Media Services. Surreptitious, subliminal and misleading commercial communications are prohibited.
All commercial communications shall conform to all of the principles. A case shall be considered as a whole and in context against the principles in the Code and the rules. Account shall be taken of the type of programme, type of channel, time of broadcast, nature of the product and likely composition of the audience. Broadcasters must comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the Code.
Effect on Sections of Public
A Broadcaster should be mindful of the potential for sound effects in communications to distract or alarm viewers and listeners. Commercial communication shall not prejudice human dignity, cause harm or cause serious or widespread offence. They shall not include or condone discrimination against persons on any of the protected discriminatory grounds such as gender, age, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion, membership of the traveling community.
Commercial communication shall not be offensive to religious or political beliefs, encourage behaviour prejudicial to the protection of the environment or to health and safety. They shall be appropriately scheduled with regard to the time of broadcast, type of programme, channel/service type, nature of the product or service being promoted and the likely composition of the audience.
They shall not cause moral, mental or physical detriment to children and shall comply following criteria:
- they shall not directly exhort children to buy or hire a product or service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity;
- they shall not encourage children to persuade their parents and others to purchase products or services being promoted;
- they shall not exploit the special trust children place in guardians, parents, teachers and others;
- they shall not unreasonably show children in dangerous situations.
Individual living persons shall not normally be portrayed or referred to in commercial communications without permission. References to living persons may be made in commercial communications for books, films, radio, TV, newspapers, which feature the persons referred to in the communication, provided they are not offensive or inaccurate.
Commercial communications shall operate on the principle of transparency. They shall be readily recognisable as commercial communications.
Presenters and other on-air personnel shall not advertise or endorse products or services during editorial content. Advertisers, sponsors or providers of placed products and services shall not exercise any editorial influence over content and schedule.
Products or services must not be described as ‘free’ unless they are supplied at no cost whatsoever, including post and carriage. Commercial communications shall not feature persons regularly presenting news programmes, except for commercial communications promoting appeals by registered charities or public safety campaigns.
All details of an offer must be stated in clear and understandable terms. Disclaimers and asterisks’ shall not contradict more prominent messages and shall be clearly visible or audible.
Timing and Segmentation
Advertising breaks and teleshopping segments shall be signalled by visual or audio means. They shall not contain any commercial communication. Advertisements must not sound louder than adjacent programming.
The insertion of advertising and teleshopping shall not affect the editorial integrity and value of programming. Advertising and teleshopping segments shall be inserted into programmes in such a way that takes account of natural breaks in the programme and ensuring that the rights of rights holders are not prejudiced.
Transmission of films made for television (excluding series, serial or documentaries), cinematographic works and television news and current affairs programmes may be interrupted by advertising and teleshopping segments once for each scheduled period of at least 30 minutes.
Advertising and teleshopping segments shall not be inserted in any television broadcast of news and current affairs programmes, documentaries or religious programmes when their scheduled duration is less than 30 minutes. Advertising or teleshopping segments shall not be inserted in any broadcast of religious service.
In television broadcasts, isolated advertising and television spots, other than the transmission of sports, shall remain the exception.
Specific Advertising Techniques
Comparative commercial communications are permissible provided they objectively compare products or services meeting the same needs or intended for the same purpose. Points of comparison shall be based on facts that can be substantiated. A comparison should not be chosen in such a way as to confer an artificial or unfair advantage to a promoter of a product or service.
The general principles apply to all commercial communications, including advertising and teleshopping. Without prejudice to the use of split-screen, virtual or interactive advertising techniques, advertising and teleshopping segments shall operate on the principle of separation, whereby commercial content in breaks and teleshopping segments shall be separate from programme content.
Commercial communications shall not include the words ‘guarantee’ or ‘guaranteed’, ‘warranty’ or ‘warranted’ unless a substantial legal warranty or guarantee is available. They shall not directly or impliedly make a reference that purports to diminish the protected legal rights of the purchaser. Testimonials may be used, but they must be genuine, relevant and contemporary.
Split-screen advertising is permitted during natural breaks and during end credits. It may be inserted before long-form sports programmes which do not have a natural break.
Split-screen advertising shall not exceed 50% of screen space and only one shall appear at a time. It is not permitted in news or current affairs programmes, feature films or religious service broadcasts.
Interactive advertising shall not bring the listener or viewer immediately or directly to products or services that are advertised. They shall be warned by appropriate means that they are about to enter a commercial interactive environment not governed by the Code. There must be a two-step process to access the content.
Sponsorship shall not constitute advertising under the Code. A sponsorship announcement or reference shall not directly encourage the purchase or rental of a product or service, in particular by making special promotional references to a product, by the inclusion of advertising copy, prices, endorsements or calls to action, or by affording undue prominence to a product or service of the sponsor.
Viewers and listeners shall be clearly informed of the existence of a sponsorship agreement. They must be clearly identified by the name, logo or other symbols of the sponsor in an appropriate way for the programmes at the beginning and end. Sponsor logos may not be shown during editorial segments of television documentaries.
Programme material shall not be sponsored by a sponsor involved in the manufacture or supply of a product that is not permitted to be promoted under the Code. Programmes shall not be sponsored by a sponsor whose programmes or services are not permitted to appeal to a typical audience for that programme or during which it would not be permitted to promote.
Manufacturers or sales of medicinal products or treatments may promote the name or image of the undertaking but shall not promote specific medicinal products or treatments available only on prescription.
News, current affairs, religious services and religious programmes shall not be sponsored on television. News programmes shall not be sponsored on the radio. The value of sponsored competition prizes may be generally stated. However, prizes shall not be quoted.
Television Product Placement
Television product placement is permitted unless specified in the Code. It may be permissible in return for payment or similar consideration. Where there is no payment but the provision only of certain products and services free of charge, such as production props and prizes, with a view to their inclusion in the programme, it may be permissible. Provision of products and services free of charge will only constitute product placement where the provision is of significant value, as defined by the Authority.
The general principles and rules pertaining to all commercial communications, restrictions and prohibitions pertaining to specific classes of communications set out in the Code apply to product placement.
Programmes that contain permitted product placement shall meet the following requirements:
- their content shall not be influenced in such a way as to affect the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster and the placement shall be editorially justified;
- scheduling shall in no circumstances be influenced in such a way as to affect the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster;
- they shall not encourage the purchase or rental of products or services in particular by making special promotional references to those products or services and the placement therein must not constitute advertising as defined;
- they shall not give undue prominence to the products or services in question;
- viewers shall be clearly informed of the existence of product placement.
Programmes containing product placement shall be appropriately identified, in a manner specified by the Authority. This requirement does not apply when the programmes have neither been produced nor commissioned by the broadcaster or a company affiliated to it.
Paid product placement is permitted only in cinematographic works, television films, sport, dramas, including one-off dramas, drama series and serials (excluding documentaries), light entertainment programmes (excluding talk shows that regularly use such proportion of news and current affairs content specified by the BAI).