Channel 4 reprimanded for failing to prevent children viewing booze ads

Channel 4 is putting “additional safeguards in place” to prevent alcohol ads appearing in the ad breaks of programmes likely to appeal to children after it was reprimanded on three accounts by the ad watchdog for breaking scheduling restrictions.

Big Bang Theory cast
Alcohol ads appeared in pre-watershed broadcasts of The Big Bang Theory, a programme the ASA deemed was likely to appeal to children.

Ofcom research for the fourth quarter in 2012 found alcohol ads appeared during the ad breaks for pre 9pm episodes of The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother and the broadcast of the film Aquamarine on E4 and Film 4 respectively.

The Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) compliance team found Channel 4 in breach of scheduling restrictions and told E4 in particular to review its series on a more regular basis and act upon BARB audience indexing changes where 10-to 15-year-olds are 20 per cent over-represented to the programme compared with the audience as a whole.

Channel 4 admitted the appropriate restrictions were not applied on the three instances in questions due to human error.

A Channel 4 spokeswoman said in response to the ruling: “We accept the ASA’s findings of the three incidences. We are currently putting in place additional safeguards against such occurrences in the future”. The broadcaster declined to offer further information on the nature of the safeguards when asked.

The Ofcom data also found an alcohol ad was broadcast on Film 4 and Film 4+1 during the films X-Men and X-Men: The Last Stand, both scheduled before 9pm. The watchdog concluded, however, that neither films were commissioned for or directed at audiences below the age of 18.

Elsewhere, the ASA also admonished Discovery Communications Europe, Paramount UK and Sony Pictures Television for scheduling alcohol advertisements during the commercial breaks of a number of programmes it deemed were likely to appeal to children using the same BARB index data measurement.

Ofcom commissioned the research as a part of a wider review into children’s exposure to alcohol advertising on television. Ofcom passed the data from its fourth quarter review to the ASA to assess whether it indicated breaches of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising that states alcohol ads should not be shown in or around programmes commissioned for, principally targeted at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18.

The ASA has commissioned further data for February, March and April 2013.

Last week the ASA published a report that found the majority of children lie about their age online, leaving them susceptible to viewing age-restricted ads. The ASA said brands must take a “tougher line” to protect children on services such as Facebook and Twitter. 

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