The Government has blocked a move to allow voluntary groups such as
Amnesty International to advertise on television and radio.
The National Heritage Minister, Iain Sproat, rejected pressure from both
Conservative and Labour MPs to relax the Independent Television
Commission and Radio Authority codes of practice, which outlaw ads by
bodies with political objectives.
The Government is under pressure to act after the Tory MP, Barry Field,
tabled an amendment to the Broadcasting Bill currently going through
Parliament (Campaign, last week).
Field’s amendment has been taken up by the Labour Party, with the
Opposition spokesman on broadcasting, Lewis Moonie, saying: ‘There are
humanitarian reasons for deeming advertising from Amnesty International
and similar organisations non-political.’
The minister admitted that there was concern that bodies with worthy
aims could not advertise, but added: ‘To open the way for one would
allow all sorts of campaigning and issue-based advertising into our
He said the curbs on political advertising, which date back to 1954 and
the launch of commercial television, had served Britain well. ‘We have
avoided broadcast advertising becoming part of the political process,’
he added Sproat pointed out that Amnesty is allowed to advertise in the
print media and also present its views through editorial material.
Labour did not force a vote on the issue after the debate during the
bill’s committee stage. It hopes to raise the matter again when it
reaches its report stage.