Thursday 27 June 2019

Row erupts after radio ban on Christmas advert

John Cooney

A RELIGIOUS publisher and retailer is considering legal action against the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland after the regulatory body "blocked" the airing of a radio advert on RTE promoting Christmas gifts.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin last night called the ban bizarre.

The commission banned the advert because they considered that it was using advertising towards religious ends which is forbidden by legislation. But last night an unrepentant commission remained defiant against the book chain which is owned by the Catholic bishops, and it invited Veritas to present it with a new wording that could be broadcast in time for the Christmas market.

Archbishop Martin said the ban was hard to understand and he asked: "Have we really forgotten what Christmas is all about?

Legislation

"I sincerely hope there is room in legislation on broadcasting currently before the Oireachtas that will see an end to bizarre interpretation of rules around religious advertising.''

This is the third time that a Veritas ad has been banned by the commission.

Last Christmas it vetoed an ad that mentioned the word crib. Earlier this year a second one was banned because it advertised the sale of First Holy Communion gifts and described them as 'spiritual'.

The latest stand-off became an unholy public row yesterday when Veritas director Maura Hyland told the Irish Independent of her bitter disappointment that its Christmas radio advert had been blocked by the BCI, which she accused of taking "an extremely narrow view" of current legislation.

"The commission is unfairly applying somewhat different standards to Veritas than to other commercial bodies such as Eason and Argos in promoting and selling our products on the Christmas market," she said. Veritas specialises in religious gifts, wedding and baptism cards and supplies brochures useful to parish communities. "We are simply trying to inform people of our presence and sell products in our shops and on our website," said Ms Hyland.

"Many people all around the country enjoy these products. The ongoing blocking of our advert by the BCI is seriously affecting our capacity to trade in an open marketplace and we will have to take some further action."

However, last night a commission spokesperson said that it had been awaiting a revised version from Veritas.

"It is the commission's view that the scripts, as proposed, may not comply with legislation and regulation regarding advertising directed towards a religious end," a statement said.

"As part of its dealing with agencies representing Veritas, the commission sought to reach a resolution through alternative wording for the script, an offer which to date has not been taken up."

But Ms Hyland said that Veritas really wanted to come up with a wording that was acceptable, but could see no alternative beyond its third draft.

"If we cannot say 'give a gift that means more' (in the ad), what can we say?"

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