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.
The data showed that an alcohol ad was broadcast on Film4/Film4+1 during the film X-Men, which was transmitted at 7pm/8pm on Saturday 16 February 2013.
The data also showed that three alcohol ads were broadcast on Film4 during the film X-Men: The Last Stand, which was transmitted at 6.55pm on Sunday 3 March 2013.
The ASA Compliance team challenged whether it was appropriate to schedule alcohol ads in X-Men and X-Men: The Last Stand because the data indicated that they were likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18 years.
Channel Four Television Corporation (Film4) said they considered that the films in the X-Men franchise were not principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18.
From 2009 to March 2013, X-Men was transmitted on Film4 / Film4+1 12 times and X-Men: The Last Stand was transmitted 18 times. The average audience indices throughout this time were 94.5 for X-Men and 97.7 for X-Men: The Last Stand. Furthermore, neither film exceeded 120 when broadcast on Channel 4 / Channel 4+1 in this period.
Film4 also said that on 25 February 2013, six days prior to the transmission on 3 March, X-Men: The Last Stand was broadcast on Film4 and indexed 80.
The ASA agreed that neither X-Men nor X-Men: The Last Stand were commissioned for or principally directed at audiences below the age of 18 years. We considered that forecasting using audience indexing was appropriate to determine whether the films were likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18 years.
We noted that the transmissions of X-Men: The Last Stand were broadcast at the same time, 6.55pm, on 25 February 2013 and 3 March 2013.
We considered that using the average index of previous transmissions of a film on the same channel in similar time-slots, with particular regard to the most recent transmissions, was a reasonable way to forecast audience figures for scheduling purposes.
We therefore concluded that Film4’s decisions not to restrict alcohol ads in the transmissions of X-Men and X-Men: The Last Stand were reasonable and not in breach of the Code.
We investigated the scheduling of alcohol ads in the X-Men films under 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) but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.