Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Challenge to ban on ‘political’ advertising moves to House of Lords

Posted: 17 April 2007


In 2005 we launched our ‘My Mate’s a Primate’ campaign to highlight the plight of all primate species. As part of our campaign we produced a TV advertisment and, knowing the rules on ‘political’ advertising, we tailored the ad to comply with broadcasting rules. However, the broadcasting authority said that the advert was banned because of who we are. They said that the nature of ADI/NAVS is such that we would not be allowed to advertise anything whatsoever. We therefore decided to issue a High Court challenge.

In October last year, although we lost in the High Court, ADI was given permission by the Court to leapfrog the Court of Appeal and go straight to the House of Lords to challenge the Government over the ban on our advertising in broadcast media. They felt we had a case; this has now been lodged with the House of Lords.

The ban prevents thousands of campaigning organisations from advertising on radio and television – including organisations with no formal political affiliation whose aim is only “to influence public opinion on a matter of controversy”. The BACC refused our recent primate advertisement on the basis that our aims are ‘political’.

In the High Court, we argued that the ban is too widely drafted – it includes organisations whose aim is to influence public opinion; the ban is not a justified interference with the right to freedom of expression because it is unnecessary and disproportionate. We also said that it creates unfairness so that, for example, an oil company can broadcast a vanity advertisement claiming that it takes care of the environment, but environmental organisations cannot respond in the broadcast media. Likewise, ADI cannot advertise to criticise companies using animals in entertainment.

The RSPCA and Amnesty International have previously suffered from the ban and have provided supporting statements for ADI’s case. If successful, the Court will find that the ban violates the right to freedom of expression and that the relevant provisions of the Communications Act 2003 are incompatible with human rights.

The next stage would be that the Government will either have to amend the legislation immediately, or face proceedings in Strasbourg which would almost certainly come to the same conclusion, in which case the Government would then be obliged to take steps to remedy the violation. Ultimately the result is expected to be an amendment to the legislation so that those currently defined as political organisations (although possibly not political parties), such as ourselves, would be entitled to use broadcast media to advertise.

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