A radio advertisement for ISPCC featured a domestic scene in which a man and woman are heard arguing. A child retreats to an upstairs room and locks the door.
“SFX: Dialling number
Child: C’mon…just pick up the phone. (We hear a panic in her voice)
Phone voice: The number you have dialled is not in service
(Child starts to break down in tears)
SFX: We hear footsteps getting closer to door, attempt to open door, followed by two loud knocks
Dad: Open this door now, open it. This minute. I’ll give you 3 seconds. Three, two, one.
SFX: Three loud knocks on door, getting louder. The last one sounds like it breaks through.
Male VO: Without urgent funding, Childline will have to close for 5 hours a night. Please donate €4 text CHILDLINE to 57911 now. Because no child should be forced into silence.
VO: A minimum of €3.20 will be donated to ISPCC. Service provided by Oxygen8. Helpline 1850 50 40 50.”
The complainant considered that the advertisement unfairly portrayed men as domestic abusers and had suggested that Childline was in existence due to the fact that domestic violence was carried out by men.
The advertisers provided a background to the advertisement, stating that it was for their ‘Emergency Appeal’ campaign and was focused on saving their night time service hours. They said that the closure of this service would have affected thousands of children across the country at a time of night when Childline receives its most serious calls.
They said that the impactful style of the advertisement aimed to draw the audience into the reality of one example of a call. They also pointed out that the advertisement was one element of an integrated campaign that featured other promotional material. They said that the opening dialogue of the advertisement featured both a male and female who were engaged in a heightened state of stress and tension leading to the male eventually banging on the door. They said that this was not an intentional attempt to cause offence or to gender stereotype the male as the prime aggressor in abuse cases, but was merely a continuation of the story being depicted in the advertisement and reflective of calls they received in Childline in terms of content.
They referred to statistics from both themselves and from the Women’s Aid Organisation which showed that there was a clear identification that male incidence of abuse was significantly higher in these situations. These statistics were available from published reports.
They also stated that as a voluntary organisation they had very limited financial resources and the advertisements were developed in partnership with a corporate supporter. They said that it was not an option to produce two separate advertisements to ensure that they would not be accused of stereotyping and that the advertisement in question was developed based on a real life call to Childline.
They also stated that their aim was to provide services to and advocate on behalf of all children in Ireland and it was not their intention to cause offence to any person or persons.
Complaint not upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that the situation depicted was based on a type of call the Childline service had received and that the advertisers had provided evidence that had shown that a higher percentage of males were reported as perpetrators of abuse, in the circumstances portrayed. While noting the complainant’s concerns, they did not consider that the advertisement implied that all abusers were male but rather that the advertisement had sought to reflect a situation portrayed in the calls made to their service. In the circumstances they did not consider that the advertisement was in breach of Sections 2.16 or 2.17 of the Code.
No further action required.