29 January 2014

It's not dead yet....

Today's soundtrack has been 'we shall overcome' and many other great protest ballads that I, and many others, learned from Pete Seeger. These were the soundtrack of my childhood - the songs we sang on car trips and in the canoe. To this day my mother can't serve a plate full of yellow and green vegetables without risking a chorus of 'green and yaller, greeeen and yaller, mother be quick, I'm going to be sick....  

These good memories of someone who refused to give up ought to be steeling me for a good fight.  But instead I am disheartened.  From the sublime to the ridiculous - the nice way code refuses to die (this has also been running through my head today)

You will remember that this absurd pr campaign generated a number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Association.   I was aware of complaints that worried that the campaign itself endangered cyclists. I personally objected to the offensive imagery in one advert in my Sunday paper. But my complaint, along with many others was not upheld. Here is part of their ruling "While Council acknowledged that some readers may have found the middle finger gesture offensive, they considered that the ad was intended to be a light-hearted and humorous approach towards an important public health message."

I was disappointed, but perhaps not surprised.  I presume that they err on the side of free speech and light tough regulation. 

Imagine my surprise then, when I discovered that a complaint had been upheld. Apparently this ad - the one with the horse, which although foolish had the positive merit of advising drivers to not pass cyclists too closely - "breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social responsibility), 4.1 and 4.4 (Harm and offence)."  and "must not be broadcast again in its current form.".  

A success you might think?  Well no.  The ASA, in their wisdom, thought that the ad was irresponsible because the cyclist wasn't in the gutter, and wasn't wearing a helmet.  In future, Cycling Scotland has been told "ads featuring cyclists should be shown wearing helmets and placed in the most suitable cycling position."  Regardless of the fact that Cycling Scotland - who train the trainers -  might be considered to know something about road positioning, and passing distances.  

The implications for future campaigns are hard to assess. At the very least the ASA has shown themselves to be equally ignorant* as many of the drivers I encounter on the streets.  At worst, their attempt to 'apply' the Highway Code shows the limitations of that document. 

But there's a lot of us out there upset about this and we'll not be beaten, we'll stick together, we shall overcome. 

*Yes, that's harsh. but even my 7 y.o. knows better!

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