CAP/BCAP Codes – Review of Proposed Changes

6 May, 2009

On 26 March 2009 the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice published their consultation on the codes that regulate broadcast and non-broadcast advertisements (Codes).  For the first time, the Codes are being reviewed by a body other than an agency of Government.  The public have been invited to comment on the Codes themselves, and have been given until 19 June 2009 to do so.

This article looks at the scope and nature of the review and the proposed changes.

The review aims to ensure that consumers are offered the highest level of protection possible and that broadcasters have a clear, practical and relevant set of rules to which they must adhere.

The main proposed changes (some of which have already received significant media interest) are:


Enhanced Protection of Children

A scheduling restriction will prevent ads for age-restricted computer and console games from appearing around programmes made for or likely to be watched by children.

Marketers will be prevented from collecting data from under 12s without obtaining consent from a parent or guardian, and from under 16s about other people.

New rules will be imposed reflecting updated legislation on the promotion of infant and follow on formula.


Social Responsibility

The concept of social responsibility will be included in the broadcast code for the first time.

Of particular interest is the provision that marketers will be prevented from exaggerating the environmental benefits of their products.  Environmental claims must be based on the life cycle of the product, and cannot highlight the absence of an environmentally harmful product if that product wouldn’t usually be found in similar and competing products.

The Codes propose that all lottery ads should be subject to the same social responsibility rules regardless of their regulatory status.



In response to the high teen pregnancy rate in the UK, the late night scheduling restriction previously applied to the advertising of condoms will be relaxed.

Pregnancy advice services will be permitted to advertise in the broadcast media (for the first time on radio).  They will be required to make it clear if they do not refer women for abortion.

The new Codes incorporate European legislation on the types of claims that can be made about food products and the regulatory status of herbal medicines.  In relation to food products, it will not be acceptable to make claims about a product which gives rise to doubts about the safety of another product.

It will be possible to use health professionals in broadcast ads (apart from ads for food or medicine).


Consumer Protection

Advertisers must make any qualifications to offers made in ads clear to any consumer who would see or hear the ad just once.

All claims made by marketers must be based on normal use of the product.

Prize promoters will be required to be clear about the number and nature of prizes, including those that are available to win and those that are guaranteed to be won.

The consultation does not contain proposals to regulate claims made on companies’ own websites. 

The Codes will not extend the recent reviews of the advertising of alcohol, gambling, and food to children, but will maintain the restrictions imposed as a result of those reviews.

The range of key topics affected by the review of the Codes is significant and is likely to have a notable impact on all types of media, including television and radio.  The practical implications of the Codes will be clear in areas which already receive considerable media interest, such as the environment, ‘healthy’ food products, and the advertisement of pregnancy advice services and related abortion issues.

It remains to be seen whether the changes will have the effect of strengthening the principles behind the self-regulatory regime of the advertising industry, particularly that advertisements should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.

Reviewed in 2015