Christmas comes early

For followers of media law, that is. The European Court of Human Rights gave its decision in another political advertising case today, TV Vest AS & Rogaland Pensjonistparti v Norway. Having already dealt with one situation earlier in the decade (VGT v Switzerland, 2001), finding that a Swiss ban was a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression), and returned to a related matter in the Murphy v Ireland case mentioned on these pages last week, upholding an Irish ban on religious advertising, the case decided today involved a Norwegian political party’s attempt to advertise on TV, despite a statutory ban on such advertisements. The court found that there had been a violation of Article 10. Read the decision here and further comments from OfcomWatch (Russ Taylor) and MediaPal@LSE (Andrew) and Adrian Monck. While some of the counterarguments are dealt with in a bit more detail by the Court on this occasion, there’s not a huge amount in here that wasn’t in VGT, and although the UK did formally notify the Court of the House of Lords decision in ADI, it’s not dealt with directly (there was no obligation to do so, but it would have been very interesting!)

Political advertising on radio and TV is illegal in both Ireland and the UK. Challenges have been brought in both jurisdictions – in Ireland, it was Colgan v IRTC [2000] 2 IR 490. (which predated VGT and wasn’t much more than an application of the Murphy case on religious advertising, which hadn’t yet gone to the ECHR) and in the UK, it was the altogether more surprising Animal Defenders International case, which departed from VGT and found no violation of Article 10 (in the context of a Human Rights Act challenge). Both Ireland and UK intervened in writing in the Norwegian case.

Indeed, it has been a busy time. I dealt (fairly briefly) with the ADI case in teaching just over a month ago and before the semester is over, the landscape has changed. I already agreed to write an article on political advertising in 2009 and it’s turning out to have been an unusually sensible intention – at this rate it will write itself! There have been two significant decisions by Ofcom in relation to political advertising over the last fortnight (!) – one (here) on an advertisement found to promote the Yes cause in the Manchester congestion charge referendum and one (here) on a fairly blatant set of ads for the Lib Dems broadcast on the Channel S satellite services. Things are relatively quiet on the Irish side of things, though of course the Veritas dispute is enough to be going on with (and has led loads of readers to this site – hello, and welcome). The last Irish decisions on political advertising I recall are the Europe Direct decision at the Broadcasting Complaints Commission (discussed here), and the Irish Autism Action one at the BCI – though the one that keeps getting searched for according to my site stats is the earlier Trócaire controversy.

As a bonus link, the court referred to this wonderful EPRA paper from 2006 comparing political advertising rules across Europe. Download it here.


13 thoughts on “Christmas comes early

  1. Hi Adrian. It’s more that it’s a fairly logical gloss on VGT, and given that VGT (Europe) and Animal Defenders (UK) are so similar in facts and the courts (ECHR vs House of Lords) went in totally opposite directions, it just underlines the distance between them. I have read that Animal Defenders are applying (or have already applied?) to the ECHR. I’d be very surprised if they upheld the British law, and the Norwegian case just makes that more likely. That could take some time though…

  2. Just stumbled across your blog whilst researching political advertising more generally – very interesting!

    I’ve recently started blogging about political communication worldwide but with a bias on the UK (being based here). If nothing else, if the law is changed, it’ll make the ‘UK’ section a good deal more interesting!

  3. Thank you for the link to your excellent blog. As Russ pointed out in his post, the time for Internet-based political advertising is coming. You’ll be kept busy I suspect…

  4. From my perspective, this is excellent news. I have long argued for a change in the law regarding political advertising in the UK. I understand that changes as a result of legal precedent move even slower than changes as a result of legislation – but nonetheless, this is a strong step in the right direction.

    I’m going to blog on this right now at my new site – – I write about politics in the US and the UK. Obviously this decision could pave the way for another American import to British Politics.

    Thanks for highlighting it.

  5. Political advertising on radio and TV is illegal in both Ireland and the UK, this was a good article, politics like this need to be discussed more and more nations should employ these rules

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