BCI Children’s Advertising Code-2005


The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) published a new Code on childrens advertising which took effect from 1st January 2005. The Code applies to any broadcasting service or sound broadcasting service within the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland: RTE radio and TV; TG4; TV and radio services licensed under the Radio and Television Act 1988 including TV3 and Today FM. The BCI Code on advertising and sponsorship formerly covered children’s advertising however the 2005 Code greatly expands the regulation of children’s advertising.

What Advertising

Children’s Advertising is defined under the Code as advertising that promotes products services or activities that are deemed to be of particular interest to children and/or are broadcast during and between children’s programmes. This definition therefore includes products that may not be of any interest to children but are advertised during children’s programmes. Children’s programmes are those that would commonly be perceived as such or programmes which have an audience profile where 50% of those watching would be under 18.

A system of averaging of the audience figures over a reasonable period of time is imposed on the broadcaster for determining whether “long running programmes” are children’s programmes or not. Exceptionally, non-children’s programmes may attract audiences of which over 50% are children and broadcasters are expected to anticipate the likelihood of this happening – high profile sports events or programmes about pop personalities such as that Michael Jackson interview are examples. The Code also works on the basis that children of different ages require different levels of protection and accordingly each provision has an age marking beside it – under 18, children under 15, and children under six .

What does it cover?

The Code is comprised of 12 key sections which are briefly summarised as follows:

1. Social Values

The Code states that “Children’s advertising shall not reflect a range of values which are inconsistent with the moral or ethical standards or diversity of contemporary Irish society”. It further states that “It shall respect human dignity and not discriminate on the nine stated grounds, not be offensive to religious or political beliefs or encourage behaviour damaging to the environment, it shall respect the principle of equality and avoid sex stereotyping and any exploitation or the demeaning of men, women or children.” Broadcasters are now expected to ensure that the Code does not breach those social values.

2. Inexperience and Credulity

The Code states that children’s advertising shall not take advantage of the natural inexperience or credulity of children. In essence children should not be exploited simply because of their youth and advertisers should not use special effects etc to give children false impression of a product. In addition there is a requirement that the regular retail price of toys be provided if that price is above €30.

3. Undue Pressure

This section deals with children being encouraged to pressurise parents into buying them products that they see advertised on television. It states that children’s advertising should not directly encourage or exhort children to put pressure on an adult to buy them the product in question and the advertising should not imply that by having the product the child will somehow be socially superior or more popular than others.

4. Use of Children in Advertisements

The Code states that the use of children in advertisements is only permissible for products they could reasonably be expected to use or be interested in themselves.

5. General Safety

This section deals with common practices regarding safety in television advertisements It states that children should not be encouraged by advertisements to go into unsafe places or talk to strangers. Children’s advertising should not show children in morally or physically dangerous situations. There is an exception for this in relation to advertisements that promote safety such as National Road Safety Authority advertisements which frequently show children in dangerous roadside situations. This section lists several requirements for advertisers on safety in children’s advertising which are too long to provide here but we would be happy to provide on request.

6. Violence

Again it was always common practice prior to the new Code that children’s advertising should not include violent scenes however this has been slightly expanded upon. Public service advertisements such as the road safety ads mentioned above must be scheduled at a time when it would not distress small children.

7. Diet and Nutrition

All children’s advertising for fast food must now contain an acoustic or visual message stating that it “should be eaten in moderation and as part of a balanced diet”. In addition the use of celebrities in children’s advertising to promote drink and food products is now banned.

8. Parental Responsibility

The Code tries to support parents in their responsibility to children by stating that advertisers should not undermine the authority, responsibility or judgement of parents or guardians particularly by using plotlines which encourage children to deceive or pressurise adults.

9. Programme Characters

Characters from children’s programmes currently appearing on terrestrial channels are not permitted to be used in children’s advertising unless it is for a product directly related to their own television show. However advertisements for products related to the show cannot be broadcast 2 hours before or after the show is broadcast.

It should be noted that this applies only to characters from programmes. It does not apply to movie characters that would quite often be used as part of a promotion for certain types of products.

10. Product Prohibitions and Restrictions

The BCI Code on standards in advertising and sponsorship sets out restrictions on advertisements, sponsorship and promotion for a number of products such as medication, alcohol and tobacco. These restrictions also apply to children’s advertising however the restrictions are expanded to include slimming products, betting or gambling products, dating services and any services of a sexual nature.

11. Identification and Separation

This section highlights the need for the difference between children’s advertising and programmes to be easily identifiable. It places restrictions on children’s advertising using excerpts from programmes which might confuse younger viewers into thinking they were watching a programme.

12. Insertion of Advertising

This covered some miscellaneous rules such as that Christmas advertising may not be broadcast prior to 1st November each year and that there can be no advertising breaks in children’s programmes of less than 30 minutes in duration.

Workshop Presentation

On 23rd November 2004 Duncan Grehan presented a paper on the BCI Children’s Advertising Code in Ireland to an audience of over 60 members of the Irish Business Employers Confederation (IBEC), representatives from the national television stations, representatives of the advertising industry and advertising agencies, the AAI and the IAPI. Further information on this may be requested by clicking here.

The above document is for information only and does not constitute legal advice and should not be taken as such. For queries on how the Code may affect your product or service please contact us for professional legal advice.