Seven UK MPs have put down an early day motion in the House of Commons asking Digital Cinema Media (DCM), an agency that places advertisements during films and works with mega-scale cinema houses in the UK, to "reconsider and overturn" a ban on a Church of England advertisement.
DCM had banned a Church of England cinema advertisement about the Lord's Prayer which promotes their #justpray campaign. The video shows people from various demographics articulating the Lord's Prayer, a Christian prayer believed to be taught by Jesus to his disciples in the New Testament.
The ban, which has been largely criticised by newspapers, politicians and mediapersons, triggered a debate on media censorship, self-regulation and vested interests.
The Daily Mail said it was hypocritical to ban the religious ad when advertisements about alcohol consumption and violent video games get approval.
UK PM David Cameron's spokesman reportedly said the PM called the ban "ridiculous", while the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said: "Freedom of expression can be and is restricted but only in order to prevent violence, abuse or discrimination for example. There is nothing in law that prevents Christian organisations promoting their faith through adverts."
DCM had rejected the ad stating it was against their policy of not carrying political or religious advertisements as it came with "the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences".
Kathryn Jacob, President of the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA), said all advertisements first need a clearance from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). And that usually advertisers ensure approval for every frame by BBFC before spending the money to make it only to be rejected.
The Guardian reported Jacob as saying: "We have a very robust self-regulatory regime in the UK, which is the envy of other countries."
However, the Church of England has released the ad on YouTube, and garnered 380,826 views in just four days.
In support of the ban, John Hegarty, co-founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, said: "If an advertisement on behalf of the church was accepted, it would be difficult to draw the line at adverts for Scientology or Jehovah's Witnesses."
In India, recently, a similar controversy over a video praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, directed by Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chief Pahlaj Nihalani, being showcased before the film "Prem Ratan Dhan Payo", received strong reactions from the Indian film industry as well as viewers.
Happened to see this video during "Prem ratan dhan paayo", quite terrible, ek to movie aisi aur upar se ye video... https://t.co/5T99eDYGvL
â€” Dev (@devsphotography) November 17, 2015
The CBFC director was quoted by ABP Live as responding: "I knew the Salman Khan film would draw big crowds. This will ensure lakhs will watch and appreciate the video. I approached the producers of the movie and they agreed to attach it (to the film)."