Brown to end ban on pressure group advertising

LONDON - Gordon Brown has signalled that he is ready to end the ban on pressure groups like Amnesty International and Greenpeace advertising on television and radio.

Amnesty... pressure group
Amnesty... pressure group

The Prime Minister has promised to act on proposals submitted last month by the Advisory Group on Campaigning and the Voluntary Sector to allow non-charitable social advocacy groups to run ads. It also called for curbs on campaigns by charities to be eased.

A Green Paper setting out the Government's constitutional reforms said it would "explore the options for enabling charities and other sector organisations to better campaign on issues that are likely to advance the cause of the purpose for which they have been established."

It admitted that the membership of pressure groups had grown while that of political parties had fallen and that organisations like Make Poverty History played "an ever more important role in driving social, economic and environmental change."

The 2003 Communications Act outlaws broadcast advertising by "political bodies" and adverts "directed towards a political end". One option is for "political" commercials by pressure groups to state that they include political content, represent the opinion of the advertiser and disclose the source of the ad's funding.

The timescale for change is unclear but legislation could take up to two years.

Charities want Ofcom and the BACC to recognise immediately that registered charities cannot have a political purpose. They say this would clear up some of the confusion over what campaigns they are allowed to run, claiming they currently have to "walk a tightrope."