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    Monday, 14 May 2007

    Political advertising in Ireland

    Eoin O'Dell of cearta.ie has called for the repeal of the restrictions in Irish law on the airing of political advertising. This follows the preemption of an advertisement highlighting the urgent needs of autistic children in Ireland.

    While an argument can certainly be made regarding the need to protect (cosset?) the public sphere from being overwhelmed by those with the deepest pockets (see, for example, Jamie's reply to a recent post on this blog), as Eoin argues "the advertisements at issue... all demonstrate, there is little, if any, reality to the fears of public disorder or wholesale purchase of the airwaves. To the extent that these fears are justified, a far more narrowly crafted ban, directed specifically towards public disorder and drownout. But the time has come to repeal the overbroad prohibition that prevents charities... from arguing their case in broadcast advertisements". I've made a similar argument before (see (2003) 66(2) Modern Law Review 224-244), and - while it was rejected by the High Court in the Animal Defenders International case - I can't see how it is seriously contestable.

    4 comments:

    Eoin said...

    Do you know whether there is to be an appeal in the Animal Defenders International case? The decision of the Divisional Court is crying out to be reversed on appeal.

    Andrew Scott said...

    ADI announced on 6 December 2006 that they were to take the case direct to the House of Lords on a leapfrog appeal. A hearing is expected later this year, but no date has been set as yet...

    cearta said...

    Wow! That's great news in principle. On the other hand, this is the House of Lords that reversed the CA in R v BBC, ex p Pro Life [2003] UKHL 23, [2004] 1 AC 185; didn't even refer to the speech issues in R v Rogers [2007] UKHL 8; and dismissed the application for judicial review in Belfast City Council v Miss Behavin' Ltd (Northern Ireland) [2007] UKHL 19, so I wouldn't be too sanguine about the chances of the appeal.

    jamie said...

    Eoin argues that "there is little, if any, reality to the fears of public disorder or wholesale purchase of the airwaves".

    I don't think this conclusion is justified. In the event of the repeal of a ban political parties or other groups would seek to purchase airtime to convey their message.

    When assessing whether or not a ban is proportionate you need to take the wider costs into account.

    As I said in my last comment, the issue is not whether or not the public are sufficiently aware of the nature of an advert, it is that political advertising is expensive and it drives political actors to seek ever more funding.

    You need only look at recent history in both the Eire and Britain to see the danger of politicians seeking money from those with deep pockets.

    Eoin's case that this doesn't apply to the IAA advert makes little sense. So we should regulate the only charities with a turnover less than X should be allowed broadcast adverts?

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