Charities urged to use text and web to lobby

Campaigners can avoid advertising restrictions, say experts

Charities lobbying for political change should use text and web campaigns to avoid legal restrictions on political advertising, experts on communications have advised.

The Communications Act 2003 bans broadcast adverts that are "directed towards a political end". But it does not cover text messages or adverts that appear online, according to Brian Lamb, executive director of advocacy and policy at the RNID.

Lamb said the broad definition of political means in the act meant charities could use broadcast adverts only for fundraising purposes.

"Broadcast advertising would be an effective way for charities to promote a social advocacy message," he said. "But Ofcom would see this as political, so they can't. More charities should be using text and web campaigns to get around this."

Jonathan Bass, managing director of mobile marketing company Incentivated, said many charities had used text messages for donations, but "few have latched on to its utility as a tool for lobbying the Government to change the law or for promoting a social message".

In January, Save the Children generated more than 183,000 text responses and 7,800 online sign-ups for a Gaza ceasefire campaign.

Sarah Fitzgerald O'Connor, supporter acquisition manager at the charity, said: "We took the response to Downing Street, putting pressure on Gordon Brown. We will consider bringing elements of this campaign into our future activity."

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