Watchdog defends violent anti-drinking commercial (+video)

By Simon Collins

Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro is backing a graphic television commercial in which a drunken man hurls a child against a wardrobe.

The Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) commercial, which started screening during the 6pm news hour on Sunday, has sparked multiple complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about its timing.

One Auckland complainant, who declined to be named, said young children watching in the early evening would not understand that the man was drunk and would be disturbed. "I am disappointed to live in a society where government agencies feel such advertisements are necessary to get their point across. Do you have no shame?" he asked Alac.

But Dr Kiro supported Alac's campaign, which also includes a commercial showing young men fighting and another showing a woman having sex after getting drunk.

"I am heartened to see children and young people have been considered in the planning of this campaign," she said. "It is important that these ads are designed to get New Zealanders thinking about the personal costs of binge drinking - to them, their friends and family."

The three advertisements are part of Alac's $3 million-a-year campaign against binge drinking, which it defines as drinking at least seven glasses in a session.

It says it is not against moderate drinking.

"These commercials are unpleasant, but so are the consequences of binge drinking," said Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan. "The ads mirror what is happening, unfortunately, every week around this country. It is time to be brutally honest about some of the worst effects of intoxication."

He said the advertisements were tested in focus groups of parents who were asked whether they should be screened in prime time.

"The uniform response was yes," he said. "Some of the comments were: 'It's educational - keep away from drunk people,' and 'Prime time is cool ... to educate the kids. That's the time slot'."

Television Commercial Approvals Bureau manager Richard Prosser said the ads were given a GXC (General Except Children) classification, which allows them to be screened "at any time except during programmes which are intended particularly for children under the age of 10".

This means the commercials can screen any time in the evenings from 4.30.

"It's GXC because it's regarded as an advertising commercial that is educational. ... You wouldn't use that sort of example to sell a washing machine.

"This is a social message that is going out, so it's an example of violence or something like that which is quite acceptable when it's educational. If a child was looking at it with an adult, the adult should be explaining why this is happening, the problems caused by drinking."

Alac said it had received four complaints about the commercials by yesterday. TVNZ received one and TV3 none.

Advertising Standards Authority executive officer Hilary Souter declined to specify numbers but said she had received "multiple complaints" about all three of the advertisements. She said the authority's chairman, Lincoln Gould, would probably decide this week whether the complaints should go to a full meeting of the authority next month.

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- NZ Herald

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