Friday 21 July 2017

Psychics caught out by watchdog’s new rules on predictions

  • €1,000 product placement cap
  • Fortune tellers 'can't talk to dead'
Psychics have been targeted by the new broadcasting rules. Photo: GETTY
Psychics have been targeted by the new broadcasting rules. Photo: GETTY
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

People often complain about the ways in which EU bureaucrats intervene in our lives with a host of new rules and regulations. It seems that we have our very own thought police: the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Fortune tellers, product placement and alcohol advertising during sporting events all come under scrutiny in the BAI's latest regulatory guidelines.

As part of its new Commercial Communications Code, the BAI has drawn up a list of rules broadcasters must comply with when it comes to airing advertising and sponsorship.

It is the first time the guidelines have been substantially revised since 2010 and they will be implemented on June 1, 2017.

Product placement is one area that underwent revision. Under 2010 guidelines, the BAI stated a programme qualified as containing product placement if it featured over €5,000 worth of products or services in a single episode.

This figure has been reduced substantially to €1,000. Some independent producers have said given the high production costs in making content, this could cause complications.

Alcohol advertising during sporting events will come under
scrutiny in the BAI’s latest regulatory guidelines
Alcohol advertising during sporting events will come under scrutiny in the BAI’s latest regulatory guidelines

"It could make things tricky," Stuart Switzer of Coco Television Productions said. "Five thousand was a definable amount. It's a significant drop down and potentially another administrative difficulty for production companies."

RTÉ, which uses product placement heavily in programmes such as 'Fair City' and 'The Late Late Show', doesn't think it will present a problem.

An RTÉ spokesperson said the broadcaster is subject to "no limitations to how much product placement support it can receive".

However, the spokesperson said product placement will not impact the integrity of its programming. They cited the Spar store which features in Fair City saying it "works as a credible part of life in Carrigstown" and does not compromise the editorial integrity of the soap.

RTÉ, which uses product placement heavily in programmes such as ‘Fair City’, doesn’t think the rules will present a problem. Photo: Collins
RTÉ, which uses product placement heavily in programmes such as ‘Fair City’, doesn’t think the rules will present a problem. Photo: Collins

The major revision to the BAI's 'Alcohol Clause' relates to the prominence of branding.

In a rather vague statement, the BAI says that alcohol "may be referenced in the commercial communication but shall not be more prominent than the event or activity being promoted".

The BAI added that commercials should not "depict or feature children consuming [alcoholic] beverages or encourage children or non-drinkers to start drinking".

Several BAI stakeholders had suggested that alcohol brands should only be allowed to sponsor events if 90pc of the audience was over the age of 18.

However, the BAI rejected this suggestion and will retain its policy that alcohol companies are allowed sponsorship if 75pc of the audience is over the age of 18.

Under the 'Fortune Tellers and Psychic Services' segment of the document, the BAI reiterates that ads are "only acceptable where the service is evidently for entertainment purposes only".

Fortune tellers and psychics cannot make "claims that future events may be predicted" or purport "to make contact with deceased persons".

This may seem to undermine the USP of many psychics, but according to the BAI enough is enough.

The new communications code aims to ensure that radio and TV are not placed at a "commercial disadvantage". For example, the terms and conditions spiel that features on financial services radio ads will no longer count towards advertising air time.

It was decided that racing through T&C's at breakneck speed was not comparable to having a disclaimer in small font at the bottom of a TV ad. Lots of areas are touched upon in the extensive document but it remains to be seen if there will be any visible changes on our TV screens.

Irish Independent

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