Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Advertising standards goes nuts over guns

How The Process works: the media reports, the politicians react. In the world of shooting, plenty depends on what the media and politicians think of shooting when they report and react. It depends partly on what they think the world will think of their reports. It also depends on what they think of imponderables such as the merits of ‘kneejerk’ laws. But mainly it depends on what they think of shooting.

So the jobs of BASC, the Countryside Alliance, the NGO and others are crucial. And because this general election saw a bigger change in our politicians in our lifetimes, they have their work cut out like never before.

Happily, the organisations have set a scene where shooting is broadly a ‘merit’ activity. There will be battlegrounds such as Scottish airguns to face. But the main problem we face is which politicians are bumped into making foolish anti-gun statements by the Gun Control Network (membership about four) before realising there are no votes in it.

And all this comes to the point of this article: what on earth is the Committee for Advertising Practice up to? All the other horses in the race are going anti-clockwise round the Grand National course, just like they should. CAP has pointed its horse in the opposite direction and is galloping hard.

CAP and its offshoot BCAP want to be the last cultural bastions in British life that do not believe shooting is good for individuals’ social responsibility, citizenship, not to mention its benefits for conservation, home cooking and the fact that it’s more fun than visiting an art gallery (presumably the CAP members’ preferred Saturday afternoon activity). Even the Labour Party is broadly pro-shooting, though you wouldn’t trust them with gun legislation further than you could throw them.

CAP has brought out its new rules and regulations for advertising standards in both the press and broadcast outlets. Its broadcast regulations (BCAP), which come into force in September, ban a number of ‘demerit’ activities, including advertising pornography, prostitution, betting tips and guns and shooting clubs on telly.

It has included a derogation for clay pigeon shoots which, in effect, damns all other kinds of sport shooting. It lumps pheasant and fullbore target shooting in with derringers and dodgy sniper rifles.

You can see the gathering of luvvies, Saatchis and Binkle Bartle Bogarties that make up the CAP and BCAP teams getting together and saying: “Dear dear dear me no no no - shooting will never do.”

In a way there is a point there. But they have missed it completely. Along with the luvvies, we in the gun trade do not want the kind of gun culture in Britain that sees people as they stand in bus queues sprayed with bullets from legally-owned machine pistols. We in the gun trade certainly don’t want the kind of finger-pointing that sees, for example, Smith & Wesson in the USA sued for making the guns that kill people. It leads to a monstering of the gun trade which colours all press reporting. There is even a belief among the British press that, because the NRA in the USA is so mighty, the NRA in the UK must be huge though strangely silent, ignoring the reality that the British NRA is a bunch of charming but toothless old humbugs who want to keep Bisley firmly in the 1920s where it belongs.

If CAP and BCAP are serious about curtailing gun advertising in the UK as a way of slowing gun culture, they should ban the advertising of films and video games that glamourise guns. If they believe in banning anything, which they clearly do, then the bulk of Hollywood’s output should be neither advertised nor even trailed on television. That means no more James Bonds, no more Dirty Harrys, no Lara Crofts and there are parts of Super Mario Brothers which will need close inspection. Because we the public cannot be trusted to watch them, any more than we cannot be trusted to enjoy shooting sports.

A ban on gun violence in films and computer games would not affect the British gun trade. As far as I know, nobody has had their decision on the best grouse gun to buy informed by the armoury available to them in the computer game Grand Theft Auto.

However, it will affect the British film industry. And there is the clue. For the CAP and BCAP thesps have good links with creatives from film, and shooting movies bankroll Hollywood. It matters not a jot that nobody has gone on a mass-murder rampage after a day’s pheasant shooting, though there are countless cases of people with post video game aggression going out and trying it all out for real on real people. This failure to address this situation shows a level of institutional corruption within CAP and BCAP.

The shakiness of the ground on which CAP treads is displayed by its inability to spot that the internet is the future of television. It has decided to try to regulate the internet using its CAP rules - the one that governs press advertising - instead of its BCAP rules - the one that makes up the rules (as it goes along) for television. It has decided that the internet is a paper product not a broadcast outlet. How hilarious. Let’s see where they go with that one.

How will this all affect The Process? Since there is negligible advertising of guns on television, it will not. The new state of affairs will not even make a story in the national press. I tried it. However, it is a bleeding sore that needs to be salved. It is an area where the Gun Trade Association or BASC - whoever claims to represent the gun trade the most effectively - should get on the phone to the people at CAP or to CAP’s political masters, point to the numbers of shooters in the UK and get CAP capped.

There is no point dealing with CAP directly. During the period of consultation before the new rules came out I tried to do that. They ignored me - and I wonder how many others they ignored. Oh and one last thing. You can download the document on the internet as a PDF but for some reason it has disabled any search for the word ‘gun’, so you have to read all 150 pages of it if you want to find that your industry has been banned. Sneaky lot, those ad people.

Those demerit activities in full

(taken from the new BCAP rules, which come into force on 1 September 2010)

Broadcast advertisements for some products or services are not permitted either because those products may not legally be advertised or because of a clear potential for harm or serious or widespread offence to the audience or to society. rules

10.1 Advertisements for products or services coming within the recognised character of or specifically concerned with these are not acceptable:

10.1.1 breath-testing devices and products that are intended to mask the effects of alcohol

10.1.2 betting systems and products that are intended to facilitate winning games of chance

10.1.3 all tobacco products. Also non-tobacco products or services that share a name, emblem or other feature with a tobacco product (as provided for by rule 10.4), rolling papers and filters

10.1.4 guns (including replica guns), gun clubs and offensive weapons. “Offensive weapons” are items made or adapted to cause injury. References to clay pigeon shoots are permitted only as part of a wider range of outdoor pursuits

10.1.5 prostitution and sexual massage services

10.1.6 obscene material. “Obscene material” is material that offends against the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (as amended)

10.1.7 products for the treatment of alcohol and illegal-substance dependence

10.1.8 pyramid promotional schemes. “Pyramid promotional schemes” are those in which consumers pay or give other consideration for the opportunity to receive compensation that is derived primarily from the introduction of other consumers into the scheme, not the sale or consumption of products

10.1.9 the acquisition or disposal of units in collective investment schemes not authorised or recognised by the FSA, without the prior approval of BCAP.

… and it goes on to ban escort agencies and tobacco etc

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