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  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.