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Court of Appeal upholds breadth of the prohibition of political advertising in broadcast media in London Christian Radio Ltd & Anor, R (on the application of) v Radio Advertising Clearance Centre [2013] EWCA Civ 1495

DATE: 03 Dec 2013

The Appellants wished to broadcast the following advert on their radio station: 

"We are CCP. Surveys have shown that over 60% of active Christians consider that Christians are being increasingly marginalised in the work place. We are concerned to get the most accurate data to inform the public debate. We will then use this data to help make a fairer society. Please visit CCPmagazines.co.uk and report your experiences."

The advert was refused clearance by the Respondent, RACC, who is the relevant pre-clearance body, on the ground that it contravened the prohibition on political advertising contained in sections 319 and 321 of the Communications Act 2003.  The appellants challenged this decision on various the grounds which were rejected by Silber J. in  [2012] EWHC 1043 (Admin).

In the Court of Appeal the main issue was whether, as a matter of ordinary construction, the advertisement was "directed towards a political end" within the meaning of s321 of the 2003 Act.

The Court was divided.  The Master of the Rolls (with whom Richards LJ agreed) held that whether an advertisement was "directed" towards a political end did not necessarily require the advert on its face to seek to advance a political end.  The MR held that in this case the underlying message of the advertisement was that there was an existing unfairness in society in the form of the marginalisation of Christians in the workplace, which CCP was saying should be changed and that this was sufficient for the advert to be directed towards a political end.  LJ Elias disagreed and held that the section should be construed more narrowly to focus on the immediate effect of the advertisement: does the advertisement itself, without reference to future action, itself seek to achieve a political end?  His answer to that question was no and so he would have granted the declaration of lawfulness sought.

The judgment is available here