ASA Adjudication on Royal National Institute of Blind People
Royal National Institute of Blind People
105 Judd Street
4 July 2012
Number of complaints:
A TV ad for the charity RNIB seen on Boomerang, Cartoon Network and Disney channels seen at 14:00 and between 18:30 and 18:45, told the story of a child, Emma, who lost her sight. Many of the shots were shown from Emma's point of view, including the blurring when she began to lose her vision. The voice-over explained that the ad was based on a true story and then went on to describe Emma, a little girl with lots of friends, who loved to ride her bike, read and count the stars. Emma was then heard calling for her mother in some distress, as the world was shown from her point of view. Only vague shapes could be seen and the noises were chaotic. The voice-over explained that she could no longer do the things she loved as she was going blind, and then went on to request donations of £3 per month whilst showing Emma happily listening to a talking book, trampolining, playing with her friends, and walking in the park with her mother.
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with no timing restriction.
Four complainants challenged whether the ad was unsuitable for broadcast when young children could see it. Three of the complainants stated that their children, aged between four and eight years old, had been distressed by the ad.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) said they had created the ad to raise awareness of sight loss in children, because there is a common misconception that sight loss only affects the elderly. They said that, whilst the ad was intended to be emotive in order to encourage people to donate, they did not feel it was so upsetting that it would seriously distress younger children, particularly as the ad ended on a positive note with Emma enjoying all of the things she loved doing before she lost her sight. They said they believed it was rare for children to be watching the channels in question without adult supervision and that the ad was targeted at parents rather than children. They said airing the ad on the children's channels had achieved 848,000 adult viewings during March 2012.
Clearcast said they did not feel a restriction was warranted because there was nothing in the ad that was scary or likely to cause widespread distress amongst the young. They said the voice-over throughout the ad was very soothing, with an even tone, and that Emma's cries for her mother were requests for reassurance and sounded measured rather than terrified. They also pointed out that the ad ended with Emma laughing, smiling, trampolining and playing with her friends.
The ASA understood that the intended target audience of the ad was parents rather than their children, but noted that some young children had been distressed by the ad. We considered that, whilst the subject matter of child sight loss was a sensitive issue, the ad itself did not contain any material that was likely to cause distress to children who saw it. We did not dismiss the reported distress lightly, but considered that it was not always possible to avoid causing upset to some more sensitive children. We concluded that a scheduling restriction in order to direct the ad away from children was not warranted on this occasion.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 32.3 (Scheduling) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.