Murphy v Ireland: ECHR 10 Jul 2003

A pastor attached to an evangelical protestant centre based in Dublin wished to broadcast an advertisement during the week before Easter 1995, but the broadcast was stopped by the Independent Radio and Television Commission because section 10(3) of the Radio and Television Act 1988 prohibited the broadcasting of any advertisement directed towards any religious or political end or having any relation to an industrial dispute. The applicant applied for judicial review against the Commission and the attorney general, but failed in the High Court and the Supreme Court. A bill was introduced in the Dail to amend section 10(3) of the 1988 Act, but the amending bill never became law. The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands opposed the amendment, noting the great power of the radio and television media, but resisting the proposal that Commission officials should distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable advertisements. He pointed to the difficulty of framing a selective ban and to the distinction between religious advertising and advertising for goods and services. When the Irish government introduced its own bill, section 10(3) was largely preserved but was extended to digital and other broadcasting services.
Held: Member states enjoyed a wider margin of appreciation in relation to matters of morals and religion as compared with restrictions on political speech or debate on matters of public interest. The potential impact of the medium was an important factor in assessing the proportionality of an interference, and audio-visual media have a more immediate and powerful effect than the print media. The court paid attention to the peculiar characteristics and sensitivity of religious broadcasting, but noted that the prohibition concerned only the audio-visual media: these, as the applicant, the government and the court all agreed, had a more immediate, invasive and powerful impact than other media, but the applicant was free to advertise the same matter in any of the print media, or at public meetings and other assemblies. Moreover the prohibition applied only to advertising. The applicant retained the same right as any other citizen to participate in programmes on religious matters, but advertising tended to be partial, and was not subject to the broadcaster’s duty of impartiality, so that the purchase of advertising time would lean in favour of unbalanced usage by religious groups with larger resources. The court considered these (para 75) to be highly relevant reasons justifying the Irish state’s prohibition.


44179/98, [2003] ECHR 352, (2003) 38 EHRR 212, (2004) 38 EHRR 13


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Human Rights


DistinguishedVGT Verein Gegen Tierfabriken v Switzerland ECHR 28-Jun-2001
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Cited by:

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CitedCore Issues Trust v Transport for London Admn 22-Mar-2013
The claimant sought judicial review of the decision made by TfL not to allow an advertisement on behalf of the Trust to appear on the outside of its buses. It was to read: ‘NOT GAY! EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!’. The decision was said to . .
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Human Rights, Media

Updated: 07 June 2022; Ref: scu.184412