Commenting on a report entitled The Potential Impact on Irish Media of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, commissioned from economist Jim Power on behalf of the Irish media industry, ABFI Director Patricia Callan said, “This comprehensive study highlights the enormous impact the Bill will have on the media industry in Ireland without any conclusive evidence that the measures proposed will tackle alcohol misuse. It is yet another example of the unintended consequences of this deeply flawed Bill.
“After an extensive economic analysis of similar advertising restrictions in other jurisdictions, the report found that there was no evidence to link restrictive advertising with reduced consumption of alcohol by both adults and young people. In fact, Jim Power goes as far as to say, it is very questionable if the benefits to be derived from a ban on advertising would outweigh the costs.
“Since a similar advertising ban was introduced in Norway consumption has remained static whilst in Mediterranean wine-drinking countries average consumption fell by more than 30% between 1980 and 2000 despite the fact that most wine countries have fewer restrictions on alcohol advertising, marketing, and distribution.
“In fact, the report looks at the evidence of 17 OECD countries including Switzerland, Greece, Italy and Denmark and fails to find conclusive evidence that advertising bans reduce consumption. In Ireland, consumption has declined by 25% since 2005 according to the World Health Organisation.
“The content restrictions proposed in the Bill will ban images of conviviality – such as scenes in an Irish pub, images of a person consuming an alcohol product and images of people and will mean the end of the iconic Guinness Christmas advert. The placement restrictions contained in the Bill will also see a blanket ban applied to public transport, depriving a sector already under immense financial pressure from much needed revenues. The findings of the report echo what we in the industry have been saying for quite some time – that is, the effect of the restrictions will simply shift advertising revenues away from Irish radio, TV and print media towards international, non-Irish regulated media organisations and to digital media, which is much less regulated and which is where young people access most of their media content. In fact, 60% of 12-17 year-olds use a device other than a TV (compared to 34% of all adults) to view content and none of these platforms will fall under the provisions of the Bill.”
She continued, “Advertising has increased as firms compete for market share and new innovative products are launched, yet alcohol consumption continues to decline, as longstanding drinks industry-supported education initiatives make their mark. The EU (ESPAD) report shows that for students in Ireland aged 15 to 16 years old, the lifetime use of alcohol declined by 15% between 1995 and 2015. These declines have been achieved in the absence of the draconian advertising measures contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015.
“It’s vital that the socio-economic impact of this proposed legislation is really assessed and that the right balance is struck between safeguarding one of our strongest and most dynamic industries and achieving our desired public health goals in tackling alcohol misuse,” she concluded, “The drinks industry is advocating for existing codes to be put on a statutory footing with significant penalties for breaches. This could be implemented within a much shorter timeframe and without jeopardising the advertising sector in addition to the hospitality sector which employs over 200,000 people around the country”.