Aids Trust calls for BBC airtime

The National Aids Trust is rallying support to lobby the BBC to broadcast public health and safety campaigning messages that will reach prime-time TV and radio audiences across the UK.

The charity wants the BBC to work with charities to produce short public-service announcements covering issues such as safe sex, discrimination and racism to help campaigning organisations get their message to a wider audience.

"We're talking about short bursts of information designed by a collection of charities working in the same field," said Keith Winestein, head of campaigns at the National Aids Trust. "They could replace one of the regular programme trails or channel promotions. We should at least be given the same airtime as political party broadcasts."

The BBC's acting director-general, Mark Byford, has said that his greatest achievement in 24 years at the BBC was a World Service campaign highlighting the dangers of HIV/Aids.

The National Aids Trust praised the corporation for this campaign, and for the inclusion of an HIV-led storyline in Eastenders. But it says it should be the BBC's responsibility as a public service broadcaster to transmit more information about important issues that charities with limited budgets struggle to communicate to the general public.

"TV and radio campaigns are hugely effective ways of getting a message across, but many charities simply can't afford to get on terrestrial channels," said Winestein.

He pointed to NAT's current relationship with the Viacom network, which runs HIV awareness campaigns across channels including MTV and VH-1, as an example of how broadcasters can be instrumental in raising awareness of health and safety issues.

But Jane Mote, channel controller at the Community Channel, dismissed public service announcements such as party political broadcasts as "dead airtime".

She said charities could have a greater impact if they worked with organisations like the Community Channel to design better formats for existing social affairs programming and to suggest new ways to weave health and safety messages into existing TV and radio shows.

The BBC was unavailabe for comment.

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