NOG 7. Political and Controversial Matters

The Communications Act 2003 prohibits political advertising. The term “political” is used in the Code in a wider sense than “party political”. The prohibition includes, for example, campaigning for the purposes of influencing legislation or executive action by local or national (including foreign) governments. The definitions of “political” for the purposes of an advertiser’s status and for the content of advertisements are set out in section 321 of the Communications Act 2003 (“the Act”). The relevant parts of that section are reproduced below in Rule 7.2.

Responsibility for the application of the rules that prohibit “political” advertising and whether an advertiser and/or the content of an ad is caught by the prohibition has not been contracted out to BCAP or the ASA. This responsibility remains with Ofcom. The ASA therefore refers all such matters to Ofcom.

As Ofcom retains jurisdiction over this section of the Code, Clearcast may ask advertisers to seek legal advice on whether any proposed advertising breaches this section.


7.1 Radio Central Copy Clearance – Radio broadcasters must seek central clearance for advertisements that might fall under this section on the grounds of either the advertiser’s objectives or the content of the ad.

7.2 Advertising that contravenes the prohibition on political advertising set out below must not be included in television or radio services;

  1. 7.2.1 An ad contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is:
  2. (a) an ad which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature;
  3. (b) an ad which is directed towards a political end; or
  4. (c) an ad which has a connection with an industrial dispute.
For the purposes of assessing what constitutes ‘mainly’ political, as a rule of thumb Clearcast considers that if 75% or above of advertisers’ activities fall in to the political arena we are unlikely to accept they can advertise on television.

Ofcom has adjudicated on these issues. The adjudication can be found on page 7 here.
  1. 7.2.2 For the purposes of this section objects of a political nature and political ends include each of the following:
  2. (a) influencing the outcome of elections or referendums, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere;
  3. (b) bringing about changes of the law in the whole or a part of the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or otherwise influencing the legislative process in any country or territory;
  4. (c) influencing the policies or decisions of local, regional or national governments, whether in the United Kingdom or elsewhere;
  5. (d) Influencing the policies or decisions of persons on whom public functions are conferred by or under the law of the united Kingdom or of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom
  6. (e) Influencing the policies or decisions of persons on whom functions are conferred by or under international agreements;
  7. (f) Influencing public opinion on a matter which, in the United Kingdom, is a matter of public controversy;
  8. (g) Promoting the interests of a party or other group of persons organised, in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, for political ends.
  9. 7.2.3 Provision included by virtue of this section in standards set under section 319 [of the Act] is not to apply to, or to be construed as prohibiting the inclusion in a programme service of:
  10. (a) an ad of a public service nature inserted by, or on behalf of, a government department; or
  11. (b) a party political or referendum campaign broadcast the inclusion of which is required by a condition imposed under section 333 [of the Act] or by paragraph 18 of Schedule 12 to the Act.