UK Regulator – Distasteful Spitting on TV?

The UK's advertising regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), received more than fifty complaints about a television advert for Sony Internet TV. The advert showed two teams of children playing football in a large stadium packed with spectators. Following a tackle, a yellow card, and a saved shot on goal, a boy was seen turning away and spitting. The shot cut back to the children playing in a park and on-screen text stated "Imagine reliving the greatest games…Sony Internet TV". Viewers complained that the shot of the child spitting was offensive and risked causing antisocial behaviour because it glamorised spitting. Sony UK stated that they did not condone spitting and that it was not their intention to glamorise but to "make gentle fun of one of the less attractive aspects of the national game". Clearcast (which pre-approves most UK adverts) said that the context of the advert was young boys behaving "like their heroes" and that they did not believe such a "well-worn habit" in football would cause harmful emulation. Rejecting the complaints, the ASA stated that "although distasteful to some" it did not believe that the brief shot shown in the context of an "fantastical" advert which showed children emulating professional footballers either glamorised spitting or would cause serious or widespread offence. Moral: It's a fine line between "distasteful to some" and causing "serious or widespread offence". However, the context of the advert is important when making this distinction. – Richard Dickinson and Jake Marshall

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