Rule 32.2.1 of The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (The BCAP Code) states that alcohol ads should not be shown in or around programmes commissioned for, principally targeted at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18 years.
In practice, programmes commissioned for or principally targeted at under-18s are identifiable by their content. Programmes likely to appeal particularly to under-18s are not so easy to identify.
Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) guidance recommends the use of audience indexing, a statistical tool, to determine the representation of children in relation to the audience as a whole. BCAP guidance states that an alcohol restriction should be applied in programmes where the 10- to 15-year-olds audience, indexed against the total audience of all individuals over four years old, produces an index of 120 or more. An index of 120 would mean that 10- to 15-year-olds are 20% over-represented in the programme audience compared to the audience as a whole.
Audience indexing can be used as a tool for forecasting prospective audiences using historical data. An index over 120, when looked at retrospectively, is not necessarily indicative of a breach of the Code. The test is whether the broadcaster used the predictive tools available to schedule advertising with reasonable thoroughness and care.
The ASA Compliance team received research data from Ofcom about television programmes that contained centre-break alcohol advertisements in Q4 2012. This research was based on Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) data for this period and showed ads where the 10- to 15-year-olds audience, indexed against the audience of individuals over four years old, produced an index of 120 or higher.
Ofcom commissioned this research as part of a review into children's exposure to alcohol advertising on television. Ofcom passed this information to the ASA to assess whether the data indicated breaches of Rule 32.2.1 of the BCAP Code. The ASA commissioned further data for February, March and April 2013.
Three alcohol ads were broadcast on Film 4/Film4+1 during the film Aquamarine, a live-action film about two teenage girls and a mermaid, which was transmitted at 5.06pm/6.06pm on Sunday 17 March 2013.
The ASA Compliance team challenged whether it was appropriate to schedule alcohol ads in Aquamarine because the film appeared to be principally directed at audiences below the age of 18 years.
Channel Four Television Corporation (Film 4) agreed that the film was principally directed at audiences below the age of 18 years.
They said that the film had been transmitted on six occasions in the last year. On five occasions alcohol ads were restricted but in this instance, due to an error, the restriction was not applied.
Film 4 said they had added an extra reporting measure to ensure this did not happen again.
The ASA noted Film 4’s comments and understood that the ads had been broadcast in Aquamarine as the result of an error. We were concerned, however, that alcohol ads were broadcast in a film we considered principally directed at audiences below the age of 18 years.
The scheduling of alcohol advertisements in a film principally directed at audiences below the age of 18 years breached BCAP Code rule 32.2.1 32.2.1 alcoholic drinks containing 1.2% alcohol or more by volume (see rule 32.4.7) (Scheduling of Television and Radio Advertisements, Under-18s).
Alcohol ads must not appear in programmes principally directed at audiences below the age of 18 years. We told Film 4 to ensure they took more care when scheduling alcohol ads in the future.