Regulator makes concession on radio advertising ‘red tape’

Industry sought ‘level playing field’ with other media on ads for financial products

 Pauric Travers, chair of the BAI. Mandatory “red tape” on financial services ads will be excluded from the maximum number of advertising minutes that Irish radio stations are permitted to broadcast each hour. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Pauric Travers, chair of the BAI. Mandatory “red tape” on financial services ads will be excluded from the maximum number of advertising minutes that Irish radio stations are permitted to broadcast each hour. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

Mandatory “red tape” on financial services advertising will be excluded from the maximum number of advertising minutes that Irish radio stations are permitted to broadcast each hour.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) has made the change as part of an update to its code on general commercial communications.

The requirement to issue lengthy regulatory statements for financial products and services at the end of ads is much-hated within the radio industry.

Radio broadcasters argue that these often rushed codas to ads are a turn-off for listeners and that radio is at a disadvantage compared to visual media, which can more quickly present the information.

The requirement to include regulatory statements and terms and conditions in ads for financial products and services is laid down in a code governed by the Central Bank of Ireland.

Advertising minutes

But the BAI has now agreed to proposals from the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) body and UK-owned radio group Wireless – which owns FM104 and five other stations in the Republic – that this element of radio ads not count when calculating stations’ advertising minutes.

“The effect of this change would enable stations to compete on a level playing field against other media and would encourage advertisers of financial products back to the sector,” Wireless Group said in its submission to a BAI consultation on the code.

In response, the regulator acknowledged that the regulatory statements were “not, in and of themselves, commercial in nature”.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes also recently called on the European Commission to revise the Consumer Credit Directive so that radio ads could instead redirect listeners to a website for further details. Irish radio stations were losing revenue as a result of this “red tape”, Mr Hayes claimed.

The revised code comes into effect on June 1st, after a draft version was put out to consultation last year.

Gambling companies

The rules on sponsorship stings have been changed so that “calls to action” such as “visit our website” or “find more information at” are now allowed. More specific “calls to purchase” such as “buy now” remain prohibited.

The draft code also lifts a specific restriction on gambling companies mentioning betting odds in their advertisements, although no “direct encouragement” to gamble is permitted.

“The manner in which betting odds are presented may at times be an inducement or direct encouragement to gamble, but, at other times, it may not,” the BAI said.

In a submission to the consultation process, online gambling company Betway described restrictions on gambling promotions on Irish television and radio as “overly burdensome” and proposed that the blanket ban on them be lifted.