| President George W. Bush (right) pets “Katie” at the annual turkey pardoning ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Reuters)
London, Nov. 27: A television advertisement has been banned for poking fun at George W Bush. Its creators have been told that they must get the American President’s permission if they want to be irreverent about him.
When the producer of the ITV animated comedy 2DTV, asked regulators what would happen if they wanted to ridicule Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein, he was told he would have to obtain their “authorisation” too.
The seven-second cartoon sketch advertising a Christmas video of the award-winning series showed Bush receiving the video as he sits in the Oval office.
Exclaiming: “My favourite — just pop it in the video player”, he walks across the room but instead slots the video into a toaster and burns it to a crisp.
Despite its creators’ claims that the dig at the President’s intelligence was “relatively innocuous”, it proved too much for the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, which pre-vets television adverts on behalf of the broadcasting industry.
In a short written adjudication to Giles Pilbrow, 2DTV’s producer, the BACC said the advert had contravened the advertising standards code of the Independent Television Commission under the section headed “protection of privacy and exploitation of the individual”.
Without further elaboration, the ruling said simply: “The portrayal of George W. Bush in the commercial is offensive.”
Another commercial for the video, in which David Beckham is writing a Christmas list and asks his wife how to spell “DVD”, was banned for the same reason, said Pilbrow yesterday. “It’s the most frustrating bureaucratic decision I’ve ever come across,” he said. “I asked some at the BACC if they would apply the code in the same way if we did a sketch about Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. He said: ‘Absolutely’. The code says you have to seek authorisation. We would write Bush a letter but he’s a busy man. As for bin Laden, he’s a little hard to track down at the moment.”
Pilbrow said it was not the code, which was “there for the right reasons — to protect the common man”, that was at fault but its interpretation.
He added: “To say you can’t be offensive about bin Laden is so clearly absurd and totally wrong in the current climate. The ITC must be the only body in the western world which will defend him from being offended.”
The ITC backed the BACC’s decision. Quoting from the relevant section of the code, a spokesman said: “With limited exceptions, living people must not be portrayed, caricatured or referred to in adverts without their permission.”
A ban on bin Laden would also be appropriate because the code “does not make exceptions for individuals”.
He stressed that the ITC’s advertising code was stricter than its programmes code because adverts “come into your home unbidden and with no warning about their content”. “You might say it’s innocuous but I’m sure George Bush might have a different opinion,” he added.
George W. Bush yesterday personally intervened from the White House to set aside a death sentence — for a turkey.
“By virtue of this pardon, Katie is on her way not to the dinner table but to Kidwell farm in Herndon, Virginia,” Bush said, granting the reprieve from the dinner table to Katie, the first female turkey in the decades-old history of the White House Thanksgiving tradition. The turkey is the centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner in the United States.