The Spectator gets not guilty verdict in torture ad storm

LONDON - An ad promoting The Spectator's election coverage has been cleared by the advertising watchdog after attracting 33 complaints about 'sickening' descriptions of medieval torture.

The ad was only allowed to be broadcast on Classic FM and LBC by the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre due to the low child audience for these stations. The RACC also advised the stations that the ad should be broadcast away from mealtimes.

However, listeners complained that the descriptions of torture were "sickening and disgusting for adults" and two reported that children had been upset by them.

The ad, scripted by Clemmow Hornby Inge, compared the physical public flaying politicians received in the Middle Ages with the literary public flaying they received in The Spectator in the present day. The magazine is itself edited by a politician -- the Conservative MP for Henley-on-Thames, Boris Johnson.

It described how the victim's skin would be scorched with hot sulphur, after which an incision would be made and the skin peeled off the body with hot tongs. The ad ended with the line "The Spectator. Getting under the skin of the election."

The Advertising Standards Authority said it did not believe the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. "Although [the description] was detailed, the tone was factual rather than sensational," it said.

In addition, it cleared the ad of causing distress to children, saying it believed the RACC and the radio stations had acted responsibly and this was borne out by the relatively small number of complaints.

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