Alcohol Action Ireland
Media Release 27 February 2023
Minister must provide clear answer regarding delay in implementing alcohol ad broadcast watershed to protect children
FOI documentation shows last meeting re this matter was a year ago
Information provided to Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) under the Freedom of Information shows that consultations with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland in relation to curbing alcohol ads to children took place during 2021 and early 2022, as required under the provisions of the Public Health Alcohol Act (PHAA).
According to the documents received by AAI, it appears as though the last meeting between the Department of Health and the BAI was in Feb 2022. However, when asked about this issue, Minster for Health Stephen Donnelly consistently states that consultations are ongoing.
As per the Act the only consultations that need to take place regarding the broadcast watershed are with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).
In his most recent answer to a Parliamentary Question on 24 Jan 2023, Minster Donnelly said:
“Section 19 on a Broadcast Watershed requires consultation with relevant stakeholders under Section 1 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018. This is to ensure the most efficient and effective enforcement of this provision on commencement. It is my intention to commence section 19 as soon those consultations are satisfactorily completed.”
AAI is now calling on the Minister to provide some transparency around this matter.
Dr Sheila Gilheany, AAI CEO said:
“What are the barriers to implementation? From our FOI, it appears as though there is an issue that is holding up this matter. We know there were meetings, but we were refused the minutes of those meetings. What we can see is that in 2020, the authorities were talking about drawing up a memorandum of understanding between the HSE and the BAI in relation to enforcement. That was 3 years ago. What is the issue with enacting this simple mechanism, given that consultations with BAI have been ongoing since 2019? If that is an unfair assessment of the situation, then the minister needs to be more transparent about what is going on. We can see a flurry of activity in 2021 but no evidence of meetings since Feb 2022, even though Minister says consultations are ongoing.”
The PHAA is a suite of quite modest measures designed to provide some degree of protection from the tactics of an aggressive industry acting against the population’s health through aggressive marketing. What is clear is that there is continuing ferocious lobbying against the implementation of the PHAA and corporate social responsibility strategies that deflect attention from the harmful nature of the product. This is very apparent from the ongoing hysteria from the alcohol industry about health information labelling of alcohol products. This same information will also have to be included in alcohol advertisements when Section 13 of the Act is commenced.
Poll findings indicate overwhelming public support for action to curb alcohol advertising. Data shows that:
- 70% of people back stopping alcohol adverts from being shown on TV before 9pm.
- 68% back restrictions to limit what alcohol advertising children see and hear.
- 66% back stopping alcohol adverts from being streamed on social media channels
Dr Gilheany continued: “Even when the order is signed, the industry has a year to get their houses in order. They know this is coming and are very likely already prepared. Enforcement of this issue shouldn’t be a barrier to implementation – breaches will be very clear to spot. We must stop this deference to industry and implement the law without any further delay.”
As AAI has pointed out previously, figures from the BAI have shown that 7 out of 10 of the top programmes watched by children are big sporting events. Many of these are shown before 9pm, are sponsored by alcohol companies and have extensive alcohol advertising associated with them. Indeed, data from the same BAI report indicates that Diageo is the number 4 broadcast advertiser to children in Ireland. The lack of effective controls on marketing to children mean that at least 50,000 children in Ireland start to drink every year and 37% of 15-24 year olds who drink have an alcohol use disorder.
APPENDIX – TIMELINE:
In 2018, the Oireachtas passed the Public Health Alcohol Act, (PHAA) which prohibits broadcasting of alcohol advertising on TV between 3.00am and 9pm and on radio between midnight and 10.00am and 3.00pm and midnight. The Act states that before this comes into operation the Minister for Health should consult with the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
Sept 2019: The BAI states in an email that a “consultation” regarding the broadcast watershed. “closes on Friday.”
Feb 2020: BAI email makes reference to a discussion re enforcement of the broadcast watershed, with a view to potentially drafting a MOU between the BAI & the HSE Environmental Health Service.
Nov 2021: “There is a requirement on the Minister for Health to consult with the BAI (and the Department) before making an order as it relates to section 19 and the provisions of section 13 (as they relate to broadcast advertisements). In this regard, the BAI has met with officials from the Department of Health with a view to assisting them in determining how they will implement the provisions once they come into effect. I have recently received correspondence from the Department of Health seeking a further meeting, specifically on the commencement of Section 19, and we will be following up on this shortly.”
Nov 2021 – Feb 2022: series of meetings relating to implementing broadcast watershed provisions. Last meeting took place in Feb 2022 as per FOI records. (Minutes of meetings refused)
Jan 2023: Answer to PQ from Minister Donnelly: Section 19 on a Broadcast Watershed requires consultation with relevant stakeholders under Section 1 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018. This is to ensure the most efficient and effective enforcement of this provision on commencement. It is my intention to commence section 19 as soon those consultations are satisfactorily completed.
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