Media watchdog bans offensive anti-terror hotline advertisement!
LONDON, England - August 11, 2010 - Britain's eccentrics, recluses and misanthropes, you can relax. Ignoring neighbors and keeping your curtains permanently shut to the world outside might not win you many friends, but you're no longer likely to be denounced as a possible terrorist.
A radio advert that urged listeners to consider calling the police's anti-terrorist hotline if they had suspicions about local people who avoided company, kept their windows covered and eschewed bank cards for cash has been banned for potentially causing "serious offence".
The campaign by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), broadcast on the TalkSport radio station, could upset those "who might identify with the behaviors referred to in the ad", the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled.
The brief message, billed as "brought to you by TalkSport and the anti-terrorist hotline", urged the public to call if they spotted any apparent patterns of unusual behavior. It gave seemingly everyday examples: "The man at the end of the street doesn't talk to his neighbors 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. This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions."
The advert attracted 18 complaints from listeners who considered it offensive to encourage the reporting of those doing nothing illegal, or who thought it could cause harassment or victimization.
The ASA ruled that the advert - which can still be heard on the Metropolitan police website - should not be broadcast again in its current form.
ACPO apologized to those offended. It said, "The aim of the series of adverts was to alert the public to a range of behaviors that individually could mean nothing but taken together may be construed as suspicious and might be an indication of terrorist activity. This advert was based on trends identified by police and specific circumstances (that) had been amongst evidence given in court at terrorism trials."
The news is less good for free-spirited Internet buffs with a sentimental streak, after the ASA told the Guardian another advertisement in the same series could be broadcast again as there had been no complaints about it. This begins, "The man two desks down from you at work looks at online aerial photos, because he's thinking of moving house. He rents three lockups, full of his mother's things he just can't throw out. He paid for a flight with cash, but that's because he's a spontaneous kind of guy."
No complaints were made to the ASA about the second advertisement.