Ad watchdog to clamp down on alcohol ad scheduling breaches

Broadcasters and alcohol brands need to be on alert in 2014 when the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will begin proactively testing whether alcohol adverts are breaching new scheduling standards formed to minimise their exposure to children.

Industry regulators are stepping up efforts to prevent children watching alcohol ads on TV.

The ad watchdog will commission its own BARB research to identify and investigate potential scheduling breaches in the new year. If necessary, the process will be repeated again in 2015, it claims.

The sweep of adverts aims to determine whether broadcasters are meeting new BCAP standards outlined yesterday (17 December) to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising. BCAP will write to all broadcasters in the coming weeks with the new guidance (see box) as well as offer additional advice and training.

The clampdown is in response to an Ofcom report earlier this year that suggested children might be at risk from inappropriate content from alcohol brands due to the broader range of content they are now watching. The regulator urged the ASA and BCAP to consider whether corrective measures were needed to ensure broadcasters are not misplacing ads in light of the shifting viewing habits of younger viewers.

The ASA launched ten investigations in response to the report that uncovered1,009 incidences of possible scheduling breaches. Of those, eight resulted in “upheld” rulings against the broadcasters, one case was found not to be in breach and one investigation remains on-going.

It says it will conduct further research to assess the impact changing viewing habits is having on kids exposure to alcohol adverts once it has assessed broadcasters’ responses to the changes.

New guidance for broadcasters for scheduling alcohol ads:

  • Broadcasters will be given specific advice on technical issues such as how to make decisions for small audiences, time-shifted channels, series with inconsistent scheduling, new shows and long-format content.
  • An outline of what the ASA expects when enforcing the scheduling rules
  • A new model for scheduling decision making, which will outlines an ideal approach but also a contingency plan broadcasters should take when that model is not possible.
  • A more detailed outline of the technical aspects of scheduling and audience indexing 
  • A clearer definition of the scope and purpose of the guidance and how it fits with the code.

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