Two television ads for the videogame Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, seen between 13 October and 2 November 2019, and broadcast on ITV, around Rugby World Cup matches:
a. A television ad featured the PEGI 18 logo and a voiceover that stated, “The rules of engagement have changed” immediately followed by various photorealistic depictions of urban warfare; including gun fire, bomb blasts and resulting infernos, a scene showing a helicopter crashing, and numerous scenes of military vehicles and personnel discharging ammunition.
b. A shortened version of ad (a).
Twenty four complainants, some of whom reported their children were distressed by the ads, challenged whether the ads, which were for PEGI 18 rated games, had been inappropriately scheduled during programmes when younger children were likely to see them.
Clearcast said as the game was certified PEGI 18 the ad was cleared with a scheduling restriction, ensuring it was scheduled away from programming commissioned for, principally directed at, or likely to appeal to children under 16 years of age. They considered the interpersonal violence shown was mild, and shots that featured firearms and explosions were short in duration and lacked distress.
Additionally, the ad did not show the consequences of any violence, for example with dead bodies or bloody injuries. They felt this was in-line with other ads for games with mild, computer-generated action and was not deserving of a higher timing restriction which they said would have been more suitable for ads with strong interpersonal contact and visuals of bloody injuries.
Ad (b) received the same scheduling restrictions. ITV Broadcasting Ltd said audiences across the Rugby World Cup were significantly adult in composition and that rugby broadcast coverage was neither targeted or principally directed at children, nor of particular appeal to that age group and that was evidenced by the audience indexing data. They said rugby as a sport was followed by a wide adult demographic, reflected in the demographic figures for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which showed the core audience was male in age groups 18?34 and 35?55. They provided Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB) data showing the percentage of younger children who viewed Rugby World Cup games on ITV was 2.89%.
ITV felt they had exercised responsible judgement on the scheduling of the ads, based both on the audience profile and on specific audience index data, and felt they had adhered to the relevant restrictions applied to this advertising. Activision Blizzard UK Ltd said they felt that as the ads were not scheduled during content principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to children, ITV had complied with the relevant Clearcast restrictions and so the ads were therefore appropriately scheduled.
The ASA noted that the ads contained scenes of a violent nature, including scenes of guns being discharged, bomb blasts, and a helicopter crashing into a building. While each of those scenes was fleeting and did not glamorise the violence depicted, we considered the content of the ad was unsuitable for younger children. Consequently, we considered the ex-kids scheduling restriction applied by Clearcast was appropriate, and that the ad should not have been scheduled in or around programmes which were likely to be of particular appeal to children, as required by the BCAP Code.
We understood that the 2019 Rugby World Cup was neither commissioned for, nor principally directed at children, and we therefore assessed the evidence in respect of whether it was likely to be of particular appeal to children. Broadcasters needed to use relevant audience data when making scheduling decisions, and where possible, the data should relate to the same or similar programmes that had previously appeared on the same channel during the same part of the day.
We assessed the BARB data for the programme, which showed that younger children made up 2.89% of the audience of the 2019 Rugby World Cup series. We acknowledged that the ads had been broadcast at various times between 08:55 and 13:20 on the relevant dates, which were times that meant children were likely to be at home and watching television, especially since a number of matches were shown at the weekend. However, the data showed that children made up only a small proportion of the programme’s audience, and we did not consider the programme itself was likely to be of particular appeal to children. In light of that, we understood that children did not make up a high proportion of the audience for the programme, and consequently considered that the ads had not been scheduled for broadcast during a programme that would have particular appeal to children.
We therefore concluded that the ads had not been inappropriately scheduled. We investigated the ads under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements that are suitable for older children but could distress younger children must be sensitively scheduled (see Section 32: Scheduling).
(Children), 32.1 32.1 Broadcasters must exercise responsible judgement on the scheduling of advertisements and operate internal systems capable of identifying and avoiding unsuitable juxtapositions between advertising material and programmes, especially those that could distress or offend viewers or listeners. 32.3 32.3 Relevant timing restrictions must be applied to advertisements that, through their content, might harm or distress children of particular ages or that are otherwise unsuitable for them. (Scheduling of television and radio advertisements), but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.