A radio advertisement that reminds listeners about the religious meaning of Christmas has been banned by Ireland's broadcasting regulatory body.
The advert by Veritas, a religious publisher and retailer owned by the Irish Catholic Bishops
Conference, says: Cakes and crackers, Santa and stockings, turkey and tinsel, mistletoe and mince pies and presents and puddings. Christmas: aren't we forgetting something? This Christmas why not give a gift that means more?
suggests gift items such as candles, books and artwork that are available from the Veritas shop.
It was due to be aired on RTÉ, the state broadcaster, which plays the Angelus at midday and 6pm every day as a reminder of the call to
Catholic prayer Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, called the ban bizarre: Have we really forgotten what Christmas is all about?. I sincerely hope there is room in legislation on broadcasting currently before the Oireachtas [parliament] that
will see an end to bizarre interpretation of rules around religious advertising.
Irish broadcasting legislation on religious advertising is to be relaxed to avoid embarrassment over bans on promotions for first holy communion presents and cribs.
Eamon Ryan, the communications minister, plans to allow organisations such as
Veritas, a religious bookshop, to advertise on radio. The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI), which polices the independent-radio sector, has banned a series of planned Veritas advertising campaigns in recent years.
Government sources say
Ryan is keen to retain provisions of the existing law that prevent churches or quasi-religious groups from using the airwaves to recruit members. But he will introduce legal changes when the broadcasting bill comes back to the Dail at report stage this
month to ensure proportionality in applying the law.
If the Oireachtas adopts the changes, the minister will direct the BCI and its successor, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), to accommodate the spirit of the change in a new
code of practice on advertising.
At Christmas, Veritas was refused permission for an ad on RTE and four local stations for different and thoughtful gifts, which included books for children.
Veritas says it has held constructive
discussions with officials from the department of communications about the ban in recent weeks. A spokeswoman said: In these difficult commercial times, we need to advertise all the more, so any change in this area would be welcome.