Ban on Veritas advert bizarre, says Martin

 

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin tonight branded as bizarre a ban on a Catholic bookseller from advertising on radio in the run up to Christmas.

Publisher Veritas was barred from promoting religious presents and urging people to buy a gift with meaning under strict rules policed by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.

The watchdog claimed mentioning Christmas during an on-air advert and reading out the website address could cause offence.

It is the second time in the last year Veritas has fallen foul of the BCI.

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

“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.”

Broadcasting law bars all ads that have a religious end.

Under a new Bill being reviewed by TDs, the rules will be changed to ban the promotion of one religion over another while  ads will be allowed to promote religious papers and magazines for sale and promote religious events.

Veritas, which is owned by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the ban was ridiculous.

Spokeswoman Maura Hyland accused the BCI of double standards and the group is considering taking a lawsuit to  overturn the ban.

“We note a myriad of adverts being broadcast for alcohol, for example - which are not creating difficulties for the BCI,” she said.

“The products we sell will cause no harm or offence, as only those who want them as presents or for personal use will  purchase them.”

The BCI highlighted three lines from the ad which it was feared would cause offence and a  spokeswoman insisted if issues were addressed they would re-consider the ad.

The phrases were: “Christmas, aren’t we forgetting something? - Why not give a gift that means more? - So to give a  gift that means more”.

In a statement, the BCI said: “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.” Officials at the agency also accused Veritas of turning down its offer to re-write the ad’s script.

Veritas disputed the claims insisting it had submitted three versions of the ad - none of which were accepted by the BCI.

Last year, Veritas breached BCI rules when it mentioned “crib” in a Christmas ad. In April the bookseller was rapped by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission when a member of the public gave out about an ad for Holy Communion presents.

Solicitors Massan Hayes and Curran, who have advised Veritas described the ban as absurd and said a similar
promotion by major stores would have been allowed.

“It is almost certainly the case that an identical advert from those advertisers would not be rejected by the Commission,”  the lawyers said.

They also accused the BCI of discrimination.

Catholic think-tank the Iona Institute described the ban as farcical.

Iona spokesman John Murray noted that the ad referred listeners to the Veritas website which links to the owners of the  business, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

“Ludicrously, this is taken to amount to the ‘promotion of religion’,” said Mr Murray, who lectures in moral theology at the  Catholic teacher training college, Mater Dei Institute.

“No reasonable person could argue that the various Veritas ads banned to date are harmful to the common good,” he  added.

PA