Letter to Jeremy Hunt
Dear Mr Hunt,
May I begin by congratulating you on your appointment as Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. I am delighted that you are serving under a new Prime Minister whose government promises to do much to overturn many of the mistakes of the past 13 years.
I am writing to ask you to use all your influence and statutory powers to intervene to prevent the broadcast of a TV advertisement this coming Monday (24th May 2010) at 10.10pm on Channel 4. As I am no doubt you are aware, this advertisement is produced by the leading provider of abortion services in this country – Marie Stopes International – a charity that turned over more that Â£60 million in 2008 from providing such services. The stated aim of the advertisement is to “help women make a more informed choice about their pregnancies and sexual health”.
The current BCAP code of practice indicates very clearly that such an advertisement would be in breach of the current regulations for TV advertising.
The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) indicated last year that it had put on hold plans to permit abortion advertisements on TV. In a statement they said “In March 2009, the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) consulted on a proposal to include a rule in the BCAP Advertising Code about post-conception advice services. In recent weeks, Ofcom and BCAP have identified some outstanding matters for further discussion on the proposal … Therefore, when the new Broadcast Advertising Code is published, the regulatory position for advertisements for post-conception advice services will remain unchanged.
Despite this claim however it appears that the TV advertisement from Marie Stopes Advertisement has been approved for broadcast. Even if it is the intention of BCAP to move to a new regulatory framework in September 2010 permitting such advertisements, the new framework is not yet in place and therefore cannot be applied to this advertisement.
The only possible reason that the Advertising Standards Agency can have for permitting this TV advertisement to go ahead despite it’s clear guidance last year that it would not approve advertisements for post-conception advice servies is that Marie Stopes International as a non-profit organisation is not engaged in commercial activity. However, given that the consultations that Marie Stopes International will be advertising cost Â£80 to attend (whether paid for privately or by the NHS) and an abortion itself can cost up to Â£2000 to perform (Marie Stopes International perform over a third of all abortions carried out in the United Kingdom), it cannot reasonably be argued that Marie Stopes International are acting entirely in a charitable manner in this regard. The intent of the advertisement is to promote a commercial transaction – payment for services rendered – which is beneficial for Marie Stopes International and the doctors and nurses that receive payment for their services.
I would therefore ask you to use all the powers of your office to ensure that OFCOM (which has contracted out its obligations to BCAP Ltd and ASA(B) Ltd) meets its statutory requirement under The Communications Act 2003 to ensure that “the inclusion of advertising which may be misleading, harmful or offensive in television and radio services is prevented” (Section 319(2)(h)). As I mention above, BCAP have indicated that they have no intention of changing the current code of practice. The Marie Stopes International TV advertisement clearly breaches this unchanged code of practice and should not be broadcast.
Peter Ould (Revd)
10 Cromwell Road
cc: Rt Hon David Cameron, Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury
cc: Hon Mark Prisk, MP for Hertford and Stortford