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On-demand TV subject to broadcast ad rules

Providers must respect watershed

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Advertisers and broadcasters must make sure that viewing of their adverts is as controlled on video-on-demand (VOD) services as it is when traditionally broadcast, advertising regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said.

The ASA has ruled that "adequate steps [were] not taken" to ensure that children did not see an advert which had been booked for post-9pm viewing but which had been seen by young children who were watching a television programme on ITV's VOD service.

ITV's VOD service is capable of restricting viewing of programmes which would not otherwise be accessible to children and it also carried notices warning if material was unsuitable for under-18s.

But no such warnings or restrictions were applied to the VOD screening of televised talent contest The X Factor. A trailer for 15-certificate film Carriers appeared before and during the final of the contest on the ITV Player. Amongst the images of the disease-themed thriller used were dead people with decaying skin coming back to life.

A complaint was made by a man who said that the trailers distressed his young children, who were able to see the programme on the Player.

Paramount, the film's distributor, told the ASA that it had booked the advert to appear in post-9pm watershed slots.

"Paramount maintained that when they had purchased the ad space, they had done so in good faith and on the understanding that it would be appropriately placed," said the ASA ruling. "They understood that the TV ad had been given a post 9 pm scheduling restriction and they had assumed that the VOD ad would be similarly restricted."

ITV said that the trailer was not specifically chosen to show during The X Factor but that it had made a "subjective" decision to allow that to be one of the programmes in which the ad could show.

The ASA said that more care had to be taken to ensure that minors were not exposed to damaging material, regardless of the kind of television mechanism used to access a programme.

"Because we considered that some scenes in the ad were unsuitable for younger children, as they were likely to frighten them, and because adequate steps had not been taken to ensure that the ad was appropriately targeted around suitable programming, when shown on a VOD service, we concluded that the ad was in breach of the [ASA's] Code," it said.

"Although we acknowledged that it was representative of the content of the film, we considered that younger children were likely to be frightened by some scenes in the ad, and in particular the scene in which the dead decaying body appeared to come back to life," said the ruling.

"We noted that children had seen the ad on the ITV Player. We noted that if a VOD programme contained adult themes, ITV had safeguards in place to ensure that it could only be accessed if the viewer was over 18 and, in those cases, an on-screen notice warning of the adult content also appeared prior to the start of the programme," said the ruling. "However, we understood that X Factor itself on the ITV Player was not protected by a restricted content warning, nor was there any warning about the scenes in the trailer."

The ad breached the ASA's rules on responsible advertising and causing fear and distress, the ASA said.

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OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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