The Media Commissioner has consulted professional organisations on the issue of advertisements published around death news

Published: 12 April 2022

At the end of last year and in the first weeks of 2022, the press reported on the deaths of numerous people, many of them well-known, in many cases with content that contravened the code of conduct adopted by professional organisations, with advertisements placed around the reports without regard to the dignity of the dead. The Media and Communications Commissioner has therefore asked the self-regulatory bodies of the media sector for information on their recent experience and the measures they have taken to mitigate this phenomenon.

In recent years, there have been numerous instances in the printed press and on online news sites of death news stories being published without regard to the codes of conduct of self-regulatory bodies and the Commissioner's recommendation on the rules of reporting suicides. Advertisements were placed in and around news broadcasts without taking into account the gravity of the subject and the dignity of the dead and the bereaved. In addition, there have also been instances where these news stories have been published in prominent places and repeated without justification, or where the personality rights of the bereaved have been disregarded. On this issue, the Commissioner has already consulted the relevant self-regulatory bodies back in November 2019: the Association of Hungarian Publishers (MLE), the Association of Hungarian Electronic Broadcasters (MEME), the Association of Hungarian Content Providers (MTE) and the Advertising Self-regulatory Board (ÖRT). As this phenomenon has occurred many times in the past, the Commissioner asked the professional organisations to provide information on the measures and experiences following the previous consultation.

The consultation showed that all organisations are paying continuous attention to the issue and are open to raising awareness of the phenomenon among their members. For example, many members of the Association of Publishers do not publish advertisements alongside reports on deaths, or specifically draw attention to the fact that such content should only be read by adults. In the case of news that specifically refer to suicide, the news outlets indicate where to seek help in such a critical state of mind. Members also report on positive initiatives aimed to prevent suicide.

The Hungarian Advertising Self-regulatory Board regularly organises training sessions in the sector, and between 2019 and 2021, it specifically addressed aspects of brand safety, highlighting the issue of "where not to place advertising". In the field of brand safety, the Board considers influencer marketing and programmatic marketing, the automated placement of advertisements, to be risk factors, because – although the important goal here is to ensure that advertisements are displayed in a fair and valuable content medium for the advertiser – in these areas the priority is typically numbers (views, followers, likes), and the issue of overall brand image is not yet given sufficient emphasis.