Government claims that it would be impossible to prevent transmission of tobacco-sponsored Formula One racing to UK viewers from outside Europe are disputed by television regulators.
Junior health minister Tessa Jowell, explaining her decision not to back the ban on tobacco sponsorship of F1 last week, argued that if a European-wide ban on tobacco-sponsored sport were imposed and the sport moved outside Europe “it would have the perverse effect of bringing more tobacco sponsorship to our screen, not less”.
According to Jowell: “The Asia Pacific region offers vast new cigarette markets, with far weaker adver tising restrictions. The pictures would be beamed back to this country and children exposed to more images of Marlboro, Camel and the rest than now.”
But Jowell’s stance, repeated by Prime Minster Tony Blair and Health Minister Frank Dobson in recent days, contradicts advice from the Independent Television Commission that a such a ban could be made effective.
An ITC spokeswoman says: “In theory, if there were legislation in which Europe agreed to ban TV coverage of tobacco-sponsored events, then most people would not be able to receive such channels [carrying F1].”
The number of viewers in Western Europe who are capable of receiving TV services which are beyond the jurisdiction of national regulators is negligible.
But the ITC spokeswoman cautions that future technological advances in the digital distribution of TV may strengthen the ability of some broadcasters to circumvent European TV regulations.