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Friends of Science, Out of Home
Friends of Science
Friends of Science, Out of Home
DATE OF MEETING
18 January 2018
No Grounds to Proceed
Advertisement: The billboard advertisement for Friends of Science showed an image of
the surface of the sun with solar flares and the earth in the distance. The billboard stated
"The sun is the main driver of climate change. Not you. Not CO2."
The Chair ruled there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.
Complainant, S Walsh, said: Advertisement is Scientifically inaccurate and presents
climate change as something that people can do nothing about. Ad is deliberately misleading
and doesnt represent the current scientific consensus of the status of climate change.
Advertisement also misrepresents the scale of solar flares apparently showing them
reaching earth, which is not correct.
The relevant provisions were Code of Ethics - Basic Principle 4, Rule 11, Rule 2.
The Chair noted the Complainant's concern the billboard advertisement gave misleading
information about climate change.
The Chair confirmed the advertisement for Friends of Science was an advocacy
advertisement intended to highlight their particular opinion about the cause of climate
The Chair acknowledged such opinions could be polarising, however, advocacy advertising
is provided for under Rule 11 of the Code of Ethics, and allows robust expression of opinion
as long as the advertiser is clearly identified.
Also applicable were the Advocacy Principles, developed by the Complaints Board in
previous Decisions for the application of Rule 11. These said:
That Section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act 1990, in granting the right of freedom of
expression, allows advertisers to impart information and opinions but that in
exercising that right what was factual information and what was opinion, should be
That the right of freedom of expression as stated in Section 14 is not absolute as
there could be an infringement of other people's rights. Care should be taken to
ensure that this does not occur.
That the Codes fetter the right granted by Section 14 to ensure there is fair play
between all parties on controversial issues. Therefore in advocacy advertising and
particularly on political matters the spirit of the Code is more important than
technical breaches. People have the right to express their views and this right
should not be unduly or unreasonably restricted by Rules.
That robust debate in a democratic society is to be encouraged by the media and
advertisers and that the Codes should be interpreted liberally to ensure fair play by
That it is essential in all advocacy advertisements that the identity of the advertiser
The Chair ruled the advertisement had clearly displayed the identity of the Advertiser in the
form of a website address, meaning consumers could obtain more information if required.
The Chair also noted that the advertisement had not made any explicit claims around the
size or strength of solar flares.
The Chair said taking into account the provision for advocacy, the advertisement had been
prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and there was no apparent
breach of the Code of Ethics.
Accordingly, the Chair ruled there were no grounds for the complaint to proceed.
Chair's Ruling: Complaint No Grounds to Proceed