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Children's Advertising Code: review of adult submissions received

On 9 October 2003, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) launched its Children's Advertising Code - Phase 2 Consultation Document.

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This marked the second stage of a process designed to culminate in the creation of a code on children's advertising in Ireland. This Phase 2 consultation document from the BCI is by Dr. Ruth-Blandina M. Quinn, Research Officer.


On 9 October 2003, the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) launched its Children’s Advertising Code – Phase 2 Consultation Document. This marked the second stage of a process designed to culminate in the creation of a code on children’s advertising in Ireland. The impetus to respond to this area of commercial activity comes from the Broadcasting Act, 2001 which requires the BCI to identify set standards to govern advertising and related practices aimed at children. This will be the first code of its kind in Ireland.

The practical application of the children’s advertising code will affect home-based broadcast media exclusively. It will apply equally to public and private broadcasters in Ireland. In addition, it will apply to those who make use of a frequency or satellite capacity or up-link in Ireland. More specifically, it will apply to RTÉ radio and television services, TG4, to those television and radio stations licensed under the Radio and Television Act, 1988 (including the national broadcasters, TV3 and Today FM) as well as content contractors licensed by the BCI under the Broadcasting Act, 2001. It will not refer, however, to those services received from abroad – for example, Nickelodeon and MTV – which remain subject to the rules and regulations of their country of origin.

The scope of application may be narrow but the number of influences being brought to bear on the process is not. Phase 1 of the process marked the release of the first consultation document to the public accompanied by an advertisement in the national press inviting the public to participate. Phase 2 Consultation Document was designed to continue raising public awareness vis-à-vis the development of a children’s advertising code. In addition to the circulation of materials to groups, organisations and industry related bodies, the public was invited, through a series of advertisements in print and broadcast media, to participate in the process. Participants could reply by post or on line at the BCI’s website. The BCI pursued an approach that sought to invite and to accommodate diverse opinions while also being able to facilitate any pertinent new material arising in the process. Children were also consulted – firstly, through the release of a document specifically designed for them and secondly, through a children’s event which took place in Croke Park, Dublin on 24 January 2004. The underlining objective therefore was to involve as many people as possible so that the end result would be representative of Irish society today.

The process for developing the code is divided into three parts. Information gathered and reviewed in the first two phases will form the basis of work carried out in the third, and final, phase. In Phase 3, the BCI will produce a draft version of the children’s advertising code based on the views expressed in the consultation process and its own decisions arising from this process. On completion, this draft document will be available to the public for comment and will be finalised thereafter. Viewed collectively, the ultimate aim of the process is to devise a code which is feasible and easily applied.

Consultation document

Similarly to the first consultation document, a series of questions was posed in Phase 2 Consultation Document. It is therefore advised that that document be read in conjunction with this Review of Adult Submissions. Those adults wishing to participate could answer all or some of these questions. There are fourteen categories in the document and each follows a set format for the purposes of clarity and continuity. Beginning with an overview of existing European legislation, which must be taken into account within the proposed code, it continues on to outline the current position in the Irish statutory rules that refer specifically to children.

Also referred to are rules contained in the self-regulatory or industry code of standards of practice operated by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI). Viewed collectively, this approach reflects current practice but it must be noted that the self-regulatory system remains subordinate to legislative controls in operation in Ireland.

Following the legislative overview, the document provides examples from other countries as applicable. These are provided purely for explanatory purposes, to illustrate the type of rules in existence elsewhere. Specific questions pertaining to each topic are presented thereafter. The respondent was asked to consider the incorporation and/or reflection of certain themes and sentiments expressed throughout.

Material reviewed in this document emanated from adult responses to the consultation exclusively. A separate review of children’s submissions exists and is available from the BCI or on its website –

Present report

The present report summarises information submitted by adults in response to the Phase 2 Consultation Document. The approach taken is linear. It considers the initial request and the information received under fourteen principal headings. These form the sections which follow:

  • Social values
  • Inexperience and credulity
  • Avoiding undue pressure
  • Special protection for children in advertising
  • Safety/avoidance of harm
  • Parental responsibility
  • Promotion of programme characters, advertiser generated characters and personal endorsements
  • Product prohibitions
  • Factual presentation
  • Price and purchase terms/comparison claims
  • Identification, separation, insertion/scheduling of advertising
  • Use of split screen, virtual and interactive advertising
  • Assessment
  • Code administration

This report follows the format of the Summary of Submissions Received issued on completion of Phase 1. It introduces the subject matter and groups responses under the questions asked.

Approach taken

The approach taken to the consideration of the submissions was systematic and analytic. As this was a general call, all representations were afforded equal weighting. The method applied allowed for a thorough appraisal of information received in terms of respondent’s objectives, context and content and his/her overall contribution to the code currently being developed.

Attempts were made to follow a systematic approach – looking primarily at responses generally and then at the responses made according to the group to which the respondent belonged to. Four groups were distinguishable in this respect: (i) individuals; (ii) representative organisations; (iii) advertisers, advertising organisations and manufacturers; and, (iv) broadcasters. While informative, this approach was not always possible, however, due to the nature and style of many of responses received. In addition, certain topics were recurring – for example, media education and food advertising. Consequently, such topics receive attention on a number of occasions as appropriate.

The reporting style of this document is informative rather than analytic. Responses received have been reviewed and the similarities/differences highlighted therein. Where additional comments and/or observations were made, consideration was given as appropriate. Viewed as a whole, this document should be seen as part of the overall process in the development of the code for children’s advertising rather than a stand alone report.

Click on the attached document to read the research in full.

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