Political advertising ban challenged

Animal rights group claims breach of Article 10

Animal rights group Animal Defenders International (ADI) will today argue in the High Court that the ban on “political advertising” that prevents many campaign groups from promoting their views on radio and television is a violation of the Convention 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 notably 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.

ADI, whose ‘My Mate’s a Primate’ campaign against the use of primates in advertising and zoos was refused TV airtime because of these provisions, received permission to challenge the ban by judicial review in October last year. They 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 (both of whom will give evidence at the hearing), but ADI’s challenge is the first since the coming into force of the Human Rights Act.  Bindman & Partners are acting for ADI.