Code of Conduct approved to address sexism in francophone TV ads

Code of Conduct approved to address sexism in francophone TV ads
Credit: Belga.

On 14 July, the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) approved a code of conduct aiming to fight sexism in advertising, the details of which were announced on Tuesday.

As part of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation's Women's Rights Plan for 2020-2024, there has been an active push to get sexism off television screens, particularly within ads.

The CSA, the French-speaking audiovisual sector's regulatory body, intends to restrict the influence of these commercials in the future, particularly among children and teenagers, by ensuring that they "do not spread harmful gender stereotypes about women."

The regulatory board requested that these problems be considered not just by broadcasting services, but also by representatives from advertising, academic specialists, and civil society players. To that end, their Advisory Board has drafted a Code of Conduct comprised of twelve articles for more egalitarian and inclusive commercials from the broadcasting services under their jurisdiction.

Defining and delimiting 

In order to delimit sexist aspects of adverting, the first article of the Code defines various concepts while also identifying what constitutes as discrimination and hate speech. Furthermore, their Equality and Diversity Barometers on radio and television advertising demonstrate the complex nature of sexism, as sometimes sexism can be presented both directly and indirectly, or even combined within a single commercial.

The broadcasting services have been instructed to pay special attention to their own advertising, such as self-promotional spots, jingles, and on-air graphics. Informing the services that these advertisements an be a force for good and  used to destroy stereotypes or to display varied representations, such as unrealistic body types or gender roles.

Advising and analysing 

As a result, the CSA advised its broadcasting services to evaluate the advertising they present against the aforementioned standards.

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They have also asked them to pay particular attention to the commercials that they themselves create: self-promoting ads, jingles and on-air graphics. Telling the services that these ads can be a force for good and used to demolish preconceptions or to display diverse representations, such as bodies or gender roles.

Prioritising the youth

The CSA believes that ensuring that advertising does not have an influence on Belgian youngsters should be a priority for broadcasting services.

According to the Code of Conduct, "commercials must neither communicate hyper-sexualised portrayals of minors, nor must they depict them engaging in 'risky' behaviour." They also wish to deter broadcasters to show advertisements that would push minors to harm their physical, moral, or mental well-being.

Finally, the Code has introduced a mechanism that would appoint a "Gender and Commercial Communication" representative within each media organisation.  This role, together with the creation of a Monitoring Committee, will help in the development of a practical guide and training module for professionals to better adhere to the Code of Conduct.

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