Famine is the Real Obscenity advert withheld in the UK

Clearcast, the company responsible for the pre-transmission examination and clearance of television ads, has found the Famine is the Real Obscenity commercial breaches rules covering political advertising.

Clearcast were asked to clear an ad by ONE International called “The F Word – Famine is the Real Obscenity”. However it was rejected.

“We have been unable to clear this ad to date as we believe it is currently in breach of Rule 7 of the BCAP Code, which is itself based on the provisions of Section 321 of the Communications Act 2003. This imposes a blanket prohibition on ‘political’ advertising on television and it is Ofcom who have retained responsibility for applying these rules.” Clearcast say in a statement, adding, “If an advertiser or an advert appears to be in breach of these provisions, neither Clearcast nor BCAP have any discretion in the matter of approval.”

As part of their licensing agreements with Ofcom, broadcasters are required to clear advertising before it is broadcast and ads transmitted on UK terrestrial and satellite channels should be submitted to Clearcast for approval, who then review the ads against The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising.

“These rules ensure that adverts aren’t being broadcast by bodies whose objects are wholly or mainly political. ONE appears to be caught by this rule as they state that part of their raison d’être is to pressure political leaders.” Clearcast say, “It also appears that a number of the claims are made in the version of the advert that we have seen are directed towards a political end, which is again against the rules.” they continue.

They also go on to state that the minute long commercial is not ‘banned’ outright and they aim to hold discussions with One International to “see if there is any way that the apparent legal hurdles can be overcome and the ad cleared.”

If a network carries an advert in breach of the rules on political advertising they can face a statutory sanction by television regulator Ofcom which can also include a fine or revocation of licence.

The African famine awareness commercial starred the U2 frontman Bono – one of the key players in ONE International – as well as George Clooney and Kristin Davis.

Adrian Lovett, Europe director of ONE which campaigns against hunger and poverty in Africa, said: “ONE is not a political party and we have no political affiliation. We recognise the purpose of the broadcasting code is to keep political propaganda off British television, but our ad highlights the desperate plight of 750,000 people in east Africa who the UN warns could die before the end of the year. Unless we keep the spotlight on this crisis and the need for urgent action, those people will be forgotten. Who can object to that message? We are challenging this decision and hope the broadcasters will reconsider.”