Political Advertising

Radiocentre clearance is required for advertisements that might fall under BCAP Code Rules 7.2–7.2.3, on the grounds of either the advertiser’s objectives or the content of the advertisement. This Section includes advertising by COI/Government and local/county/regional/borough council campaigns, humanitarian charities/advertisers, trade unions and similar bodies where their motives or the content of their advertisement could be said to be “political”.
The Communications Act 2003 and the BCAP Code prohibit “political” advertising. An advertisement contravenes this prohibition if it is:

  • “an advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature*”;
  • “an advertisement which is directed towards a political end*”; or
  • “an advertisement which has a connection with an industrial dispute.

“Objects of a political nature” and “political ends” are defined in BCAP Code Rule 7.2.2.
Radiocentre Guidance
“Political” advertising is defined in a wider sense than party political and includes issue campaigning, calls to action by lobbying organisations and advertising which is trying to influence opinions on legislation or public policy or matters of public controversy (e.g. calls to action to lobby for change in international human rights or seeking to change the UK legal limit for abortion fall foul of the ban).
If the motive for placing the advertisement is “political”, the advertisement is unacceptable. Check with the advertiser as to why paid-for airtime is being taken out. Is it awareness only and a charitable donation or is it, for example, a call to action ultimately to change Government policy?
Copy which is biased against or towards public policy matters or matters of public controversy is unacceptable. Neither the alleged merits nor criticisms about local, regional, national or international governments, policy or legislation can be highlighted or promoted in the copy.
Advertisements by central Government (e.g. COI) and by councils may only be accepted where they consist of factual information about Government’s/councils’ executive (rather than political) functions within existing legislation. Copy must be neutral in content, tone and style. Whilst “Vote for change in local Government” is unacceptable, “Call X to find out how you can register your vote in the local elections” is acceptable.
Radiocentre can only accept campaigns that consist of neutral, impartial information and do not “sell” a government policy, show any partiality or make the facts in the copy “promotional” for government.
Neutral, non-partisan information about a current/decided policy would be acceptable, but references to future policy would probably be unacceptable.
Radiocentre may need to “time limit” some campaigns to ensure that clearances concerning matters which are not politically controversial at the clearance stage are not broadcast if they have since become politically controversial matters.
The BCAP Code bans advertisements which relate to industrial disputes/strikes, (other than a public service advertisement inserted by a government department), or express partiality in relation to strikes. However, following or during a strike, advertisements may factually inform listeners of the resumption/disruption of normal services or working hours.
Trade unions can advertise but copy must not mention matters of political or industrial controversy. Trade unions may recruit members and promote one-to-one services they provide such as legal advice. They may not advertise for support in a ballot, to state their position on industrial disputes or political matters, or refer to particular employers.
Party political spot ads (including the advertising of an MP’s surgeries) are prohibited.
Helpnote – Political Advertising

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