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Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Revised Communications Code Comes into Effect Today, 1 June 2017

On 28 March 2017, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (“BAI”) published a revised version of its General Commercial Communications Code (the “Code”). The revised Code sets out the rules that Irish radio and television stations must comply with when airing advertising, sponsorship, product placement and other forms of commercial communications. The revised Code comes into effect today, 1 June 2017.

General Commercial Communications Code 1 June 2017 PDF | 0.49 MB

The revised Code introduces a number of key changes which will impact a number of sectors, including financial services and food and beverages.

These changes include:

Revised rules relating to Alcohol Products

The revised Code provides that a broadcaster shall “identify the programmes in their schedules that do not carry commercial communications for alcoholic beverages, in particular, children’s programmes, and shall publish this list on a website maintained by the broadcaster and make a copy of the list generally available.” Furthermore, each broadcaster shall “enforce a Code of Conduct for their presenters ensuring that speech content that glamorises or encourages over-consumption or misuse of alcohol is prevented.” In addition, alcohol sponsorship of sports bulletins, programmes and competitions within sports programmes is no longer permitted.

Revised rules relating to Food, Nutrition and Health

The revised Code adds safeguards in commercial communications relating to food items by providing that “The use of nutrition and health claims in commercial communications shall only be permitted if the average consumer can be expected to understand the beneficial effects as expressed in the claim.”

In particular, the use of nutrition and health claims shall not:

“Be false, ambiguous or misleading; Give rise to doubt about the safety and / or the nutritional adequacy of other foods; Encourage or condone excess consumption of a food; State, suggest or imply that a balanced and varied diet cannot provide appropriate quantities of nutrients in general, subject to derogations provided for by European law; or, Refer to changes in bodily functions which could give rise to or exploit fear in the consumer”. 

Commercial Communications involving health claims shall include all of the following

(a) A statement indicating the importance of a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle;

(b) The quantity of the food and pattern of consumption required to obtain the claimed beneficial effect;

(c) Where appropriate, a statement addressed to persons who should avoid using the food; and

(d) An appropriate warning for products that are likely to present a health risk if consumed to excess.”

Revised rules relating to Smoking Cessation Aids

The revised Code provides that commercial communications “purporting to assist people to quit smoking shall indicate clearly that the product or service is only effective in conjunction with the positive application of the consumer’s will power.”

Similarly, they “shall not indicate that a cure will be brought about by the product or service but may focus on the potential role of the product or service in assisting people to quit smoking.”

Revised rules relating to Financial Services and Products

The revised Code introduces some changes to the calculation of advertising minutage for financial services by providing that “Mandatory regulatory disclosure statements and warning statements in commercial communications for financial services and products shall comply with this Code but shall not count toward advertising minutage.”

Distinction between Product Placement and Sponsorship

The revised Code sets a clear distinction between product placement and sponsorship and provides that “Sponsorship announcements and references may be shown during a programme but shall not be part of the plot or narrative, that is, they are limited to announcements declaring the sponsorship arrangement (e.g. “sponsored by”, brought to you by”, etc.) and announcements for sponsored competitions.”

Information regarding Sponsored Competitions

The revised Code provides that broadcasters are obliged to provide detailed information to participants of sponsored competitions such as “How to enter the competition; Closing times and dates; The means by which a winner is selected; Key terms and conditions that would void entry or prohibit a winner from taking up the prize; How to access the full set of terms and conditions in relation to the competition; and, Any changes to the competition terms and conditions and / or processes and / or prize.”

Under the Broadcasting Act 2009 (as amended), the BAI has various monitoring, compliance, investigation and enforcement powers. This includes the power to impose financial and other sanctions on broadcasters and contractors for breaches of the revised Code.

Should you have any queries with regard to the revised Code and its effects, contact Michael Byrne and Aoife McCluskey of our Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team.

The full text of the revised Code can be located here,