Page last updated at 01:24 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Watchdog backs 'shocking' advert

Scene from Barnardo's advert
The ASA said violence was shown to be inappropriate and unacceptable

A hard-hitting TV commercial for children's charity Barnardo's will continue to be screened, despite attracting almost 500 complaints.

Viewers - including some child abuse victims - had complained its repeated scenes of a young girl being hit and later taking drugs were distressing.

But the Advertising Standards Authority said the issues raised justified the use of such "shocking" images.

Barnardo's said the advert highlighted the "vicious cycle" of abuse and crime.

In it, a teenage girl is pictured behind a prison door, then at a kitchen table where a man hits her hard on the back of the head and calls her a "worthless little cow".

The next scene pictures her at her classroom desk, tearfully telling the teacher: "I don't know what it says", before she appears in a deserted setting having just taken drugs.

The scenes are repeated at increasing speed, emphasising the sound of the slap and the girl's sobs.

Deprivation and exclusion

Text on the screen reads: "For thousands of children in the UK the story will keep repeating itself, until someone stops it."

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated the advert after receiving 477 complaints and said more viewers had complained since then.

It acknowledged the abuse victims' distress but noted that "the scene involving the violence, although shocking to watch, showed the violence as unacceptable behaviour and did not encourage or condone it.

"We concluded that the aim of the ads justified the use of such strong imagery," it added, noting that the adverts were shown after 2100 GMT and away from programmes popular with children.

Barnardo's spokeswoman Diana Tickell said the vicious cycle of deprivation, exclusion, abuse and crime was the greatest threat to the UK's most vulnerable children.

She added: "We hoped that viewers of the advertisement would be able to look beyond the challenging story and realise that this is a very real issue and that the shocking fact is that for some children the story will keep repeating itself until someone stops it."

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