Outdoor advertising firms criticised for allowing alcohol ads near schools

A NUMBER of outdoor advertising companies have been rapped on the knuckles for allowing alcohol ads to be displayed too close to schools.

The annual report of the Alcohol Marketing Communications Monitoring Body revealed 15 cases last year where billboard ads breached the industry code of advertising having to be at least 100 metres away from school entrances.

The monitoring body accepted the explanation that the sites were booked in good faith and that the fault had lain with the measuring systems — such as GPS and computer mapping services — used to pinpoint their locations.

Such systems did not always identify the school entrance and could therefore provide inaccurate information.

The monitors said the sites involved had since been re-measured and further breaches were not expected.

A further seven breaches were recorded where more than one alcohol advertisement was posted at the same time but the body said that having pointed out the problem to the companies involved, they expected their next audit would show a major improvement.

Overall, the monitoring body found a high level of compliance throughout the advertising industry with the code of behaviour in 2008 and there were no complaints received from the public during the year.

All the major broadcasters — RTÉ, TV3 and TG4 — were breach-free but Setanta Ireland was found to have breached the code on three occasions when alcohol advertisements were shown during afternoon and early evening periods when a large percentage of the audience would have been under 18.

The monitoring body met with the broadcaster and discovered there had been a “misunderstanding on the application of the code” rather than any deliberate or negligent breach.

Channel 6 (now 3e) was also found to have one breach when alcohol advertising appeared during the US What Not to Wear programme.

The broadcaster argued that the programme was not aimed at under 18s but the monitoring body said its broadcast time — at 8pm — was likely to attract a high percentage of children and teenagers.

Health Promotion Áine Brady Minister welcomed the report and the high level of compliance but said there was no reason to be complacent.

“We will continue to monitor adherence to the codes and to identify what further measures that might be necessary to reduce exposure of children and young people to alcohol advertising,” she said.Concern over food commercials

ADVERTISERS could face further restrictions on the way they market food products to children on television.

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland is concerned about how foods and beverages high in salt, fat and sugar are presented in ad breaks during children’s programming or periods when children are likely to form a sizeable part of the audience.

A working group with expertise in advertising, diet and nutrition is to be convened to review how the children’s advertising code is operating in this regard and whether it needs to be tightened up.

They will also examine how characters from children’s movies are used to promote food and drink products to see if they should be subject to specific restrictions.

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