Government Drops Alcohol Products Bill 

November, 2005 - Kenan Furlong, Associate Russell Rochford, Solicitor

In our previous ezines we tracked the progress of the Alcohol Products (Control of Advertising, Sponsorship and Marketing Practices/Sales Promotions) Bill. The Bill was set to have a major impact on the relationship between alcohol advertising and sport in Ireland but a recent controversial turnabout by the Government means that the Bill may never be enacted. What was it? It was anticipated the Bill would authorise the Minister for Health & Children to make regulations restricting alcohol advertising, sponsorship and sales promotions, particularly those which target children and underage drinkers. In a statement about the Bill in November 2003 the then Minister for Health & Children, Michael Martin, said it would provide for a ban on alcohol-related sponsorship of sports or activities involving participants under 18. It was also expected to limit the times and places where alcohol advertising may be shown by, for example, introducing a watershed on television, radio, and in cinemas. What happens now? The Government has decided to shelve the Bill in favour of the implementation of a voluntary advertising code which it has agreed with the advertising and drinks industries. The code will introduce, among other things, a system of audience profiling. This will mean that alcohol advertising will not be allowed in any programme where more than 33% of the audience is under the age of 18 years. In addition, no advertising of alcohol will be placed in any programme specifically aimed at children or young people. This applies to television, radio and cinema. As regards outdoor advertising, the code includes a restriction that alcohol advertising will not be placed within 100 metres of schools and buses, and bus shelters will not contain wraparound alcohol advertisements. The Government has indicated that if the code is not honoured then the Bill will be introduced as legislation. An independently chaired monitoring body to oversee the code is currently being established. Is a ban workable? - lessons from France In a recent Dáil debate about the Bill, Minister for State Sean Power justified the decision to shelve the Bill on the grounds that the envisaged ban on alcohol advertising was “totally impossible”. The experience in France appears to be that although a general ban is workable it is very difficult to prevent alcohol companies from indirectly advertising their products. In France there is a general ban on televising alcohol advertising. French television channels have bound themselves to a code of conduct implementing this ban. As part of this French broadcasters who are broadcasting bi-national sporting events involving French teams in other EU Member States and who do not control the filming conditions must use all available means to prevent the appearance of alcohol advertising on their channels. In practice this means the French broadcasters must: inform the foreign broadcaster of the requirements of the French law & code of conduct; enquire prior to the event about the advertisements which will be displayed; use all technical means available to avoid showing hoardings advertising alcohol. The French approach does not banish alcohol from the sports arena outright. Stadia in which untelevised games are played are free to advertise alcohol. Alcohol advertising is permissible in the press, on the radio (except at certain times), and in the form of posters and advertising hoardings. At the other end of the scale, there is no restriction on French broadcasters’ ability to televise multinational events held abroad involving alcohol advertising such as the World Cup as these are effectively out of their control. There are also restrictive measures in place in Norway and Sweden, where advertising to the public of all alcoholic beverages over 2.5 and 3.5% respectively is prohibited. In Italy, a compromise is in place whereby alcohol may not be advertised on television until after an 8 p.m. watershed. Indirect Advertising The French experience has shown us that alcohol advertisers have still been able to indirectly advertise their product. The Welsh rugby team for last year’s Six Nations was sponsored by the SA Brains Brewery and displayed the logo ‘Brains’ on their jerseys for all but one of their Six Nations games. When playing France in Paris on 26 February this year, Brains reworked the logo to read ‘Brawn’, while otherwise maintaining the distinctive qualities of the original logo’s design. The result: compliance with French law and the successful marketing of Brains’ product.


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