Following a statutory review of the General Commercial Communications Code which governs commercial communications such as advertising, sponsorship and product placement on Irish licensed TV and radio stations (the "Code") by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland ("BAI") in 2015 and a public consultation in relation to the Code in 2016, the BAI published a revised version of the Code (the "Revised Code") on 28 March 2017. The Revised Code will take effect from 1 June 2017.
While the tenor and underlying principles of the Revised Code remain unchanged, the substantive provisions have been subject to a complete overhaul. Both the overarching provisions and the sectorspecific sections are now more detailed, providing additional clarity for advertisers and broadcasters alike. Notable changes to the Code include:
Categories of Prohibited Commercial Communications - these have been expanded to cover advertising of controlled drugs, electronic cigarettes and refill containers;
Split-screen, Interactive and Virtual Advertising Techniques - a new section has been included setting out the parameters for these types of advertising;
Product Placement - the provisions in relation to product placement have been further developed, including limiting paid product placement to cinematographic works, television films, sport, dramas and light entertainment programmes;
Alcohol - the provisions in relation to advertising of alcohol have been enhanced, including new prohibitions on: (i) alcohol sponsorship of sports programmes and sports bulletins; (ii) health or nutrition claims for beverages with more than 1.2%ABV (unless referring to reduced alcohol or energy content); and (iii) advertising of alco-pops and premixed spirit drinks etc;
Food, Nutrition and Health - the provisions in relation to food have been expanded, including specific requirements in relation to nutrition and health claims (ie that they are based on and substantiated by generally accepted scientific data and that the average consumer can be expected to understand the beneficial effects as expressed in the claim) and reduction of disease risk claims; and
Gambling - enhanced provisions are included in relation to gambling (formerly betting services) including prohibitions on: (i) advertising of remote bookmaking operations without a bookmaker's licence; and (ii) certain portrayals of gambling, eg children gambling or that gambling can be a solution to personal or professional problems or financial concerns.
Failure to comply with the Revised Code may result in complaints being made to the relevant broadcaster in the first instance and, in circumstances where the viewer or listener is not satisfied with the broadcaster's response, to the BAI itself. Decisions by the BAI in relation to complaints are published on the BAI's website and where a complaint is upheld (in whole or in part), the relevant broadcaster will also be required to broadcast the BAI's decision.
In light of the substantial changes incorporated in the Revised Code, Irish broadcasters and companies and brands who advertise via Irish licensed TV and radio stations will need to take steps to familiarise themselves with the Revised Code, in order to avoid any negative publicity as a result of complaints and/or a negative decision by the BAI.