CAP and BCAP consultation on rules on harm and protected characteristics

CAP and BCAP are publishing a consultation on the introduction of new rules on harm and protected characteristics (as defined in the Equality Act 2010). The proposed rules are:

CAP Code

Marketing communications must not include anything likely to cause harm. To comply with this rule, marketers must have particular regard to the likelihood of causing harm to vulnerable people, and to the following characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

BCAP Code

Advertisements must not include anything likely to cause harm. To comply with this rule, broadcasters must have particular regard to the likelihood of causing harm to vulnerable people, and to the following characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation.

CAP and BCAP commit to equality and diversity through the ASA’s diversity and inclusion strategy, and, consider themselves subject to the public sector equality duty. As a result, CAP and BCAP seek to ensure that the protections they provide to those sharing protected characteristics are as strong as possible.

The ASA system’s gender stereotyping work and, more recently, work on racial and ethnic stereotyping have provided CAP and BCAP with a further opportunity to consider the protection that they provide to those sharing protected characteristics. This work has underlined the importance of having a framework in place that allows CAP and BCAP, and the ASA, to respond quickly and flexibly to prevent harm, including to those sharing protected characteristics. Such a framework will allow the ASA system to further its commitment to equality and diversity, and to set out the ways in which it has regard to the public sector equality duty and the duty, under the Communications Act 2003, to prevent harmful advertising from being included in broadcast services. Instead of having to develop new rules to deal with specific harms to specific groups, CAP and BCAP consider that overarching rules, which allow for assessment of new evidence, are quicker and more effective at preventing harm while ensuring governance standards are met.

The principle that ads should not be likely to cause harm, both generally and specifically to those sharing protected characteristics, is central to CAP and BCAP’s and the ASA’s work. CAP and BCAP consider that the introduction of explicit rules on harm and protected characteristics in both Codes will send a clear message to stakeholders of the standards that the ASA system already applies in practice in its regulatory decision-making.

Respondents are invited to indicate whether they agree or disagree with CAP’s proposals, and provide their rationale for this to harm@cap.org.ukThe consultation will close at 5pm on 24 August 2021. 

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