An interesting story in today’s Guardian suggests that Animal Defenders International may be successful in overturning a broadcast ban on advertising by campaigning organisations like the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the hoped-for campaign against state funding of political parties:

"ADI, a peaceful animal rights campaign group, was told it could not advertise on TV against the use of primates by commercial companies for advertising and in zoos. If the high court declares that the ban is incompatible with article 10 [of the ECHR] it would force the government to change the law sooner or later, though ministers could delay taking action and wait for ADI to take the case to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.  The Strasbourg court is almost certain to agree that the ban should be lifted because it has already declared a similar proscription in Switzerland a breach of article 10 in a case brought by an animal rights group. Campaigning organisations can now advertise freely in most other European and Commonwealth countries."

The Taxpayers’ Alliance has already welcomed the possibility:

"The TPA fully supports lifting the ban. It will allow us to finally seriously break the dominance the BBC exercises over people’s view on politics and it will massively increase our ability to educate the public on the real benefits of lower taxation and constitutional reform. We would be able to develop a campaign to break the consensus which currently exists on tax and spend. Instead of hoping that BBC correspondents pick up on what we’re saying, or hoping that we get our message across through the various nespapers and blogs, we would be able to run 30 second ads during Coronation Street and Emmerdale."

Opponents of such advertising worry that it could empower ‘big money’ with powerful business lobbies funding advertising front groups.  They also worry that we will see the kind of negative advertising that has come to dominate American politics.  The Willie Horton and Swift Boat Veteran advertisements are probably in their minds.  Whatever the decision the stranglehold of the BBC and other old media giants is coming to an end.   Even if ADI fail to win their case the technological merger of TV and internet over the next few years will eliminate the barriers that prevent campaigns from addressing mass and targeted audiences.