Anti-terrorist hotline ad banned for being 'offensive'
- 11 August 2010
- From the section UK
A radio advert urging listeners to report suspected terrorists has been banned by a watchdog for potentially offending law-abiding people.
The anti-terrorist hotline ad suggests suspicious behaviour may include paying with cash and keeping curtains drawn.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which was behind the campaign, said seemingly insignificant behaviour could be linked to terrorism.
But the Advertising Standards Authority ruled it could cause "serious offence".
Some 18 listeners who heard the advert, broadcast on Talksport, complained to the watchdog.
Of those, 10 said it could be offensive to law-abiding citizens, while the rest said it could encourage people to harass or victimise their neighbours and was appealing to people's fear.
In the advert, a man says: "The man at the end of the street doesn't talk to his neighbours much, because he likes to keep himself to himself.
"He pays with cash because he doesn't have a bank card, and he keeps his curtains closed because his house is on a bus route."
It then says: "If you suspect it, report it."
The campaign by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) was aimed at promoting the confidential anti-terrorist hotline.
The Metropolitan Police, speaking on Acpo's behalf, said the ad addressed the issue of terrorists living within communities "and sometimes what appeared to be an insignificant behaviour could potentially be linked to terrorist activities".
It said the behaviour mentioned was based on trends identified by the police and evidence given in court.
Talksport said the script avoided stereotyping and made no appeals to prejudice.
But the ASA concluded the ad could describe the behaviour of a number of law-abiding people within a community.
"We considered that some listeners, who might identify with the behaviours referred to in the ad, could find the implication that their behaviour was suspicious, offensive.
"We also considered that some listeners might be offended by the suggestion that they report members of their community for acting in the way described.
"We therefore concluded that the ad could cause serious offence."
However the ASA also found the advert was not sensationalist, nor did it encourage victimisation or make an undue appeal to fear.
The ASA banned the advert in its current form.