The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) is facing harsh criticism for rules which have banned a Catholic bookseller from advertising on the radio to attract customers seeking Christmas gifts.
The BCI claimed that mentioning "Christmas" during on-air advertising and reading out the website address could cause offense, the Irish Times reports.
Publisher Veritas, which is owned by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the ban was ridiculous. Spokeswoman Maura Hyland accused the commission of double standards and said the group is considering a lawsuit to overturn the ban.
"We note a myriad of adverts being broadcast for alcohol, for example - which are not creating difficulties for the BCI," Hyland said, according to the Irish Times. "The products we sell will cause no harm or offense, as only those who want them as presents or for personal use will purchase them."
The BCI said its concerns were prompted by three lines from the ad.
"Christmas, aren’t we forgetting something? - Why not give a gift that means more? - So to give a gift that means more," were the phrases of concern.
Irish broadcasting law reportedly bars all ads that have a religious end.
"It is the Commission’s view that the scripts, as proposed may not comply with legislation and regulation regarding advertising directed towards a religious end," the BCI said in a statement, accusing Veritas of turning down its offer to re-write the ad.
Veritas countered the accusation, saying it had submitted three versions of the ad, all of which were rejected.
Solicitors Massan Hayes and Curran, who have advised Veritas, argued that a similar promotion by major stores would have been allowed.
"It is almost certainly the case that an identical advert from those advertisers would not be rejected by the Commission," they said, accusing the BCI of discrimination.
Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said the ban was hard to understand, asking: "Have we really forgotten what Christmas is all about?"
"I sincerely hope there is room in legislation on broadcasting currently before the Oireachtas that will see an end to bizarre interpretation of rules around religious advertising," the archbishop commented, according to the Irish Times.
John Murray, spokesman for the Catholic think-tank Iona Institute, also voiced criticism.
"No reasonable person could argue that the various Veritas ads banned to date are harmful to the common good," he said, the Irish Times reports.
Last year Veritas was accused of violating BCI rules when it mentioned "crib" in a Christmas ad. In April the Broadcasting Complaints Commission rebuked Veritas when a member of the public distributed an ad for Holy Communion presents.