UK Government U-Turn Over Self-Regulation for TV Ads

20 May 2002

Hopes for a switch to self-regulation for British TV and radio ads [WAMN: 13-May-02] have receded according to the latest nods and winks from senior government sources.

Although the draft Communications Bill published earlier this month implied the government would be receptive to self-regulatory proposals from the ad industry, [unnamed] ministers are reportedly insisting that any industry-appointed TV and radio watchdog must be subsidiary to Ofcom, the new regulatory office for the telecoms, online and broadcast media industries.

Protests the Advertising Association: “The government appears to be suggesting the advertising industry should pay for this new regulatory system but with no real transfer of authority.”

According to AA director of public affairs Sara Soltani: “It is being made clear to us that the government is fed up because there are no detailed proposals on the table from the advertising industry. But there is no point in us putting forward a set of proposals until we have agreement on the core principles.”

The ad industry’s preferred model is that of the Advertising Standards Authority which polices press and poster advertising on a self-governing basis. If and when a transgressor fails to toe the line, it is referred by the ASA to the Office of Fair Trading which has legal powers to enforce a ruling.

The government, however, deems this approach unsuitable for TV and radio advertising although talks between the industry and the politicos will continue. Meantime, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport insists the ball is in the industry’s court to propose “a scheme that recognises the government's willingness to devolve some powers to the industry”.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff