|UK||CHURCH TO HAVE SAY ON ADVERTISING RULINGS|
Britain's Advertising Standards Authority has responded to a doubling of complaints about allegedly blasphemous advertising material by appointing an Anglican priest to its council.
Rev Martyn Percy, head of the Lincoln Theological Institute in Sheffield, is on a panel that advises how far firms can exploit religious symbols.
The authority has decided it must do more about the sensitivities of Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus after a large increase in religious images in advertisements. Four of the 10 campaigns that were most offensive to the public last year used Christian images. There was also a big increase in complaints based on religious concerns, from 335 in 1997 to 699 last year.
The advertisements that were most offensive included a poster promoting the Sunday Times that depicted Raquel Welch on a cross, an advertisement for Diesel jeans showing denim-clad nuns looking at a statue of the Virgin Mary and a Watches of Switzerland poster that had a bishop smoking cannabis.
Analysts said advertisers were turning to such motifs because they believed that they had a particular resonance with the public as the Millennium drew to a close.
The authority conducted a survey which found that 80 per cent of people were offended by disrespectful references to race, religion or culture. A majority of people also said that they did not think that Christianity should be given special protection in advertising.
Mr Percy said: "There is a growing awareness of spirituality as we get towards the end of the Millennium and advertisers are waking up to the fact that religious images are still very much alive. Provided the images are not rankly abused the churches ought to feel quietly encouraged by the fact that Christian symbols are circulating in the public domain."
Telegraph 11:45am 22/9/99