Banning prayer – miscommunication of communication?

52 - Amalfi Cathedral

On Sunday my Twitter feed was full, not of lovely thoughts of sleeping in but of the DCM banning the Lord’s Prayer.

There was more but you get the gist, now as a marketer the word “ban” and “banning” raised eyebrows. Adverts are very rarely banned prior to going into the public sphere it’s normally as a result of a complaint to the mighty ASA (Advertising Standards Authority). They have the power to give you a good telling off, ban an advert in it’s current form and various other powers.

There was no mention of ASA but instead lots of talk of DCM (the cinema advertising channel controller). Now DCM have a lovely set of rules here: Rules and that, around 2.2 you’ll find the rules on Religious advertisement. Which begs the question…what’s happened here then.

Rumours gained from talking and listening to various people in Christian circles (Bishops mainly but also comms director of CofE) is that the DCM offered the CofE some sort of 60% discount (likely due to end of year coming up), then presented this rule change. Here is Rev Arun (comms director for CofE) stating that…

So two possible scenarios happened…

  1. Ad sales man needs to reach his target approaches new markets in a brain wave. CofE think “brilliant” Only issue is that it goes against policy …oh dear commence full on PR storm.
  2.  Ad sold as above but for some reason they thought better of it and changed the rules to stop it being put on.

Either way the word “Ban” seems misused here it’s more an odd misunderstanding. The oddness extends to the way DCM issued a statement regarding it

“In a statement, DCM said it had a policy of not accepting political or religious advertising content in its cinemas.

It said that “some advertisements – unintentionally or otherwise – could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith,” and that “in this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs “. BBC

Now it would be perfectly acceptable in PR terms to leave this with the first part of the statement but for some reason DCM thought they would explain the situation and then suddenly a non-news story turns into a storm, all because of that word…”offence”.

The idea that my Christianity is offensive to a Muslim is laughable; in fact I have had many a chat with Muslims and we aren’t offended by each other, in some respects we may well be worshipping the same God but from a different angle (another blog post perhaps!). The idea it’s offensive to a person of no faith or faith that there is no God is laughable. A friend of mine; an atheist, bonded over the fact we both think Richard Dawkins is fundamentally wrong on his ideas of faith and atheism.

So in PR terms that was wrong and both Atheists and people of faith have come out to defend Christianity’s right to advertise. And quite right we can advertise where we like….unless it goes against a defined set of rules by the advertising body responsible for that channel.

There is a debate to be had looking into if these rules are correct. To condense this down somewhat I feel either way is fair, you either allow all religious and political advertising or stop it all, no voice is overpowered by another.

This is not an attack on free speech as far as I can tell and have knowledge of, it seems to be a miscommunication that this advert was allowed via the DCM policy (who looks at a policy before advertising…I don’t!) and a miscommunication from DCM suggesting why the advert is not allowed.

Now I’ve researched this as much as I can given the limits on my time, the whole story appeared to be a little crazy and I was right in thinking that it wasn’t “banned”. The advert should never have got to the stage of going past the DCM as it goes against it’s rules, whoever was selling the advert should have been aware of this but these things happen we all drop a few balls at work and we move on (although if the advert was created for this purpose then compensation should be discussed).

Update: Before I even posted I was checking to see if anyone had done any detective work it would seem they have good old Guardian:

However, church sources claimed the section of the policy relating to religious advertising had been added only after the C of E sought approval for its Lord’s Prayer promotion.Guardian

Interestingly if we all do some simple digging the current document mentioned above was edited on Friday (20th November) around 11am, gotta love a pdf date stamp :-). We don’t know what was edited but it was changed on that date.

I’m sure this will now rumble on for a few more days but it does put the cat among the pigeons if the rules were changed for this instance.

The advert in question is here at the moment: Just pray advert. It’s quite nice.

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