Now Ofcom’s plan to delegate its job of handling broadcast ad complaints has the statutory green light, the new kid on the regulatory block, the Broadcast Advertising Standards Authority, is planning to open its doors earlier than you think.
Who: Parliament and the Advertising Standards Authority
When: July/August 2004
Previously on marketinglaw.co.uk we have reported on proposals by Ofcom to contract out the job of processing complaints over TV and radio advertising.
The bodies nominated to do the job on behalf of Ofcom are the Advertising Standards Authority and the Committee of Advertising Practice, which already regulate non-broadcast advertising. The idea is for a separate broadcast advertising arm of the ASA to be created, so that all complaints over advertising in the UK are processed by a one stop, self regulatory shop.
The system was to be financed by a levy of 0.1% on all broadcast advertising spend, handled by a new "Broadcast Advertising Standards Board of Finance."
After a consultation process, Ofcom adopted these proposals, and all that remained was for Parliament to give its seal of approval.
Parliamentary thumbs up
Both Houses debated it on 16 July 2004, when all the main parties gave the plan the thumbs up.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth, a former chairman of the ASA, felt that the system had all the main features which lay behind the ASA's success. These were an adequate and independent source of finance by way of the broadcast ad spend levy, effective enforcement sanctions (probably the most potent of which is the two year compulsory pre-vetting penalty for outdoor advertisers who serially breach the code, although it is not clear how this will work in the broadcast channels where compulsory pre-vetting is already the default) and an ability to command credibility from both the public and the industry.
In this last connection Lord Thomson said he was particularly struck by the fact that it was the advertising industry members of the ASA council who, with their expert knowledge of what advertisers could get up to in stretching the Code to the limit, were most determined to maintain the industry's standards and reputation.
ASA expansion plans
With this hurdle surmounted, the ASA was able to start its plans for expansion in earnest. There will be a move from its current premises in Torrington Place to new offices in Holborn and its staff will increase from 70 to 106 to deal with the anticipated rise in complaints.
Some Ofcom staff who are now dealing with advertising regulation will join the new "BASA" and the ASA's IT experts are working on a new database for complaints as well as satellite TV access. There will also be events publicising and educating stakeholders about the forthcoming changes and currently the plan is that the new Broadcast Advertising Standards Authority will open its doors on 1 November 2004.
Why this matters:
The original plan was to have the new system in place by the summer of 2004 but a further round of public consultation in the early part of the year pushed this back. To have the system live by 1 November 2004 will still be something of an achievement but we have every confidence that the ASA will be up to the task.