Hot News – Issue 6

Working Time Regulations: all employers should be aware of these new Regulations which implement into UK law the EU Working Time Directive. They introduce obligations for employers to limit their employees’ working week to 48 hours (subject to exceptions) and provide for minimum levels of annual leave. Compulsory rest periods and rules about night working are also brought into force. See our feature article for further details about the Regulations.

US copyright double bill: the House of Representatives has passed two bills which will affect copyright law in the US when they become law. The first extends copyright protection from 75 years to 95. This means that a work created in 1923 – which would otherwise have entered the public domain on 1 January 1999 – will now be protected until 2019. The second makes it illegal to crack the digital encryption used to protect copyright materials from piracy. Also prohibited is the making or distribution of equipment designed to copy protected digital works.

Producer made redundant: the Employment Appeals Tribunal has ruled that a radio producer whose contract was not renewed, although a more experienced producer was taken on shortly before her contract expired, was made redundant by the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation v Farnworth]. The Tribunal dismissed the BBC’s submission that a redundancy situation should not exist where the business needed fewer of a particular kind of employee. The questions to be asked were:

  • was the employee dismissed? 
  • had the requirements of the employer’s business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind ceased or diminished, or were they expected to do so?
  • If so, was the dismissal caused wholly or mainly by that state of affairs?

In this case, the Tribunal held that the BBC’s need for as many producers at Ms Farnworth’s level had diminished or was likely to diminish. 

Introduction of the Euro: with the imminent opening of the European Central Bank (1 January 1999) and the introduction of a single currency throughout the EU, it is important for all businesses to be aware of the implications of European Monetary Union. See our feature article to understand the radical currency changes already affecting the European Union.

Guidelines to reduce unintelligible text in TV adverts: Rule 8 of the ITC Code states that the text of supers in TV commercials ‘must be clearly legible and held long enough for the full message to be read by the average viewer on a standard domestic television set’. As anyone who regularly watches TV commercials in the UK will know, this rule is often subject to extremely wide interpretation by advertisers. The ITC has introduced new guidelines, effective from 1 September 1998, which are aimed at ensuring compliance with Rule 8.

Under the guidelines, size of supers text is standardised at 14 TV lines in height (12 or 13 is acceptable if the text is placed in an opaque block edged with a clear margin). Text should be held for 0.2 seconds per word plus a 3-second ‘recognition period’ (reduced to 2 seconds where the text is 10 words or fewer).

The guidelines aim particularly at ensuring intelligibility and avoiding the tendency to long paragraphs of incomprehensible gobbledegook. The ITC points the finger of blame for excessive verbiage at the over-cautious approach of the advertisers’ advisors, and the Guidelines aim to eradicate the use of unnecessary and meaningless quasi-legal verbiage (eg ‘subject to status’). Higher standards will be applied to text which takes up more than 3 full-length lines.

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.