Government challenged over ban on political advertising

LONDON – Animal Defenders International has launched a legal challenge to the government's ban on political advertising, which if successful would allow campaigning organisations to advertise on radio and television.

The current ban on political advertising means that campaigning organisations with no connection to any political party may not use broadcast media to campaign on issues.

The government has conceeded permission to challenge the ban with a court case scheduled for early 2006.

ADI will argue that the ban is too widely drafted to include organisations that "aim to influence public opinion on a matter of controversy" and interferes with the right to freedom of expression.

If ADI wins the case it will pave the way for politically natured campaigns such as ADI's Cruelty to animals and Oxfam's Make Poverty History to air on radio and TV in the UK, which initially ran on UK TV before being banned.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of ADI, said: "This concerns the exercise of free speech, which there is no justification in prohibiting. The BACC refused our advertisement on the basis that our aims are 'political'." 

She added: "In summary, the protectionist approach towards the public and public opinion, together with the imbalance in engaging the voice of broadcast advertising, cannot be upheld as necessary in a democratic society."

The challenge follows Ofcom's decision to ban the Make Poverty History ads from UK television after they were declared political by media regulator Ofcom.

The ads featured celebrities such as Kate Moss and Brad Pitt clicking their fingers and were created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.

On making the ruling Ofcom appeared regretful, saying in a statement that it could not make exceptions from good and bad politics.

"Ofcom can not differentiate between what some may describe as 'good politics' and 'bad politics'. Rather, Ofcom must, as a matter of law, only look at whether the political advertising rules have been complied with," the regulator said.

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