Challenge to ban on political advertising

Animal rights group claims breach of Article 10

Animal rights group Animal Defenders International have been granted permission to challenge by judicial review the ban on “political advertising” that prevents many campaign groups from promoting their views on radio and television as a violation of the right to freedom of expression.

Sections 319 and 321 of the Communications Act 2003 prohibit advertising on radio and television which is directed at “influencing public opinion on a matter … of public controversy”.  Applying this legislation in a different case, Ofcom recently banned a television advertisement for the Make Poverty History campaign. In 2001, the RSPCA had an advertisement campaigning about the rearing of broiler chickens rejected by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre because of its ‘political’ nature.

Animal Defenders International are expected to argue that the ban is unfair and constitutes a disproportionate interference with their freedom of expression.  They point out that companies can advertise their environmental credentials but environmental organisations are severely constrained in any response.

The rules have previously been challenged by Amnesty International and the RSPCA, but ADI’s challenge is the first since the coming into force of the Human Rights Act.  The High Court is likely to hear the application for judicial review, issued against the Department for Media and Culture which is responsible for the 2003 Act, early in the New Year.