Coral “horrified” after gambling ad broadcast on children’s TV channels

26th June 2013 9:57 am GMT

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told US media conglomerate Turner Broadcasting System that it has committed a “serious breach” of the Broadcast Code for allowing a TV ad for online gaming operator Coral.co.uk to be broadcast nine times during Saturday morning children’s programmes.

The TV ad for Coral.co.uk was broadcast on Saturday May 25th between 6:42am and 8:42am during children’s programmes on Turner’s Cartoon Network and Boomerang channels.

The ad opened with a voice-over which said: “This is Coral gaming, online and on mobile.” The ad then showed a visual of the Incredible Hulk, among other images, with a voice-over and visual stating: “New players get a free £10 gaming bonus ... Play now [at] coral.co.uk.”

The ad was cleared by Clearcast with a restriction that it should not be broadcast in, or adjacent to, religious programmes, children’s programmes or programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18 years. This included a presentation note which reminded broadcasters of the gambling industry’s voluntary agreement not to schedule gaming ads before the 9pm UK TV watershed.

Seven viewers challenged whether the ad was suitable for broadcast on dedicated children’s channels.

Turner Broadcasting System Europe, a subsidiary of Time Warner, apologised unreservedly for the error that led to the ad being “inadvertently and incorrectly” scheduled on their children’s channels. The company said that while it had never happened before, on this occasion a booking number was erroneously allocated to the ad which resulted in it being broadcast on the channels.

Turner claimed to be well aware of the requirements of the Code and of the restriction applied by Clearcast and that, if the correct entry number had been assigned to the ad, it would not have been scheduled incorrectly.

Turner said it understood the gravity of the error and as soon as the problem was brought to their attention, the on-call duty manager acted to source and eradicate a repeat of the issue and the company also subsequently re-checked all similar ads to ensure no inappropriate content had been broadcast.

Turner said that since the error occurred, its transmission teams had prioritised a review of all processes and had evaluated the implementation of new technological solutions that imposed checks on all content regardless of how it was inputted into their system.

Meanwhile, online gaming operator Coral said it was “horrified” that the ad was viewed on Turner’s children’s channels.

The operator said that it had worked with its media agency and made arrangements with Turner to air its ads on the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) channel post 9pm. Coral said however that neither the company nor its agency had booked advertising air time on children’s channels or during any other children’s programmes.

Coral said after being notified of the error, it instigated an investigation, notified the regulatory authorities in the UK and Gibraltar and, as a precaution, suspended all other Coral.co.uk ads due to be aired by Turner Broadcasting that weekend.

Coral added that the company was fully aware of the importance of regulation and social responsibility regarding child protection and regretted the ad was shown in children’s television programming.

In its assessment, the ASA said that it was “deeply concerned” that an ad for a gambling service was broadcast at all on Turner’s children’s channels.

“We acknowledged Turner’s assurance that the situation had never arisen before and that they were taking steps to prevent the mistake being repeated,” said the ASA. “We accepted that Coral had taken all necessary steps to ensure their ad was scheduled appropriately and that, when submitting the ad to Turner, they had no further control over when it was broadcast. We also acknowledged Coral’s proactive approach to the issue once they were made aware of it.”

The ASA said however that the considered failure to comply with the requirements of the Broadcast Code, which strictly prohibits gambling ads in or adjacent to programmes likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18 years, was a “serious breach”.

As a result, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 4.1 (Harm and offence) and 32.2.2 (Scheduling of Television and Radio Advertisements, Under-18s).

Since the ad had already been removed from broadcast on Turner’s children’s channels, the ASA considered that no further action was necessary. Turner has been told to ensure that it has failsafe processes and procedures in place to ensure that gambling ads are never broadcast on children’s television programming.

A spokesperson for Turner International commented: “A Coral gambling ad ran erroneously on our kids’ channels as the result of human error with booking numbers. We apologise unreservedly and have reviewed our transmission processes to ensure this highly regrettable incident remains a one-off occurrence.”

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