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SABC licence ad was the wrong thing to do‚ says ASA

20 February 2018 - 07:14 By Naledi Shange
An SABC TV Licence advert was pulled after a complaint that it was sexist and played into harmful gender stereotypes. File photo.
An SABC TV Licence advert was pulled after a complaint that it was sexist and played into harmful gender stereotypes. File photo.
Image: AFP Relaxnews ©All rights reserved

Men braai‚ drink beer‚ make fire and abhor shopping malls. And they have to pay the TV licence because their wives aren’t capable.

This is the gist of an SABC TV Licence advert that was yanked off radio station 5FM after a complaint that it was sexist and played into harmful gender stereotypes.

“Luckily you now no longer have to subject the man in your life to the horrors of a shopping mall when TV licence payment time comes around‚” the advert states‚ adding that the new website enabled hubby to pay from wherever he is “while you get to follow the sound of those heels calling your name”.

“Seems fair‚ doesn’t it? The new TV licence website‚ quick‚ convenient‚ secure‚” it ends.

But this is nonsense‚ said Jesse Kaplan. She lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority of SA‚ saying women are able to work‚ make their own money and pay their own bills.

“[Kaplan] argued that the commercial makes reference to men hating malls‚ but now the men can stay at home and can pay while a woman just goes shopping for pretty shoes. Because clearly she has nothing else to do and he's the bread winner and makes all the important decisions and payments in life‚” the ASA said of the somewhat sarcastic nature of the complaint.

The authority agreed with Kaplan that the advert missed the mark and called on 5FM to pull it off the air.

The SABC had argued that the objective of the advert was to promote online convenient and hassle-free payment methods and was portraying the “playful stereotypical relationship of men whom are not the traditional home shoppers or caretakers and it recognises how women fill very large shoes when supporting a family”.

“There is no direct aim at women; instead it clearly identifies how men may be perceived as ‘lazy’ when it comes to shopping and TV Licenses payment in a humoristic and entertaining manner‚” it said.

But in its ruling‚ the ASA said: “On one hand‚ many commercials use gender stereotyping as a tool of humour‚ and do so without negatively entrenching gender stereotypes. On the other hand‚ issues of gender equality are topical and important. We see the international trend towards more thoughtful treatment of gender stereotyping in advertising regulation as evidence of this.”

The authority said the advert was let down by its clumsy execution.

“The storyline of the commercial is reliant on an assumption that the man has to pay the TV licence. Previously‚ he would have had to go to the mall to do so‚ and his female partner would have had to persuade him to do this. Now‚ he can sit on the couch and pay it. But either way‚ the man has to pay the TV licence. The idea that the woman could have simply paid the licence while she was at the mall is not entertained. The communication is‚ as the Complainant highlights‚ dependant on an assumption that women are financially or mentally incapable of paying the TV licence if a man is around to do the job‚” the ASA said.

“What the Directorate find untenable is not the humorous stereotyping of the genders‚ but the underlying assumptions regarding the role and ability of each gender‚” it continued.

As a result‚ 5FM was ordered to withdraw the advert with immediate effect.