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Ofcom Chair Backs “Co-Regulation” of British TV Ads

News, 17 January 2003


The chairman of Britain’s new media supra-regulator Ofcom plans to give the ad industry a stronger role in policing television advertising – though he has notably avoided the term “self-regulation”.

Speaking at the Oxford Media Convention earlier this week, Lord David Currie announced that Ofcom would respond to pressure for an industry body to oversee TV ads if an acceptable plan is proposed.

Such a move was anticipated after culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell and trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt promised “no unnecessary barriers to self-regulation” in November [WAMN: 01-Nov-02].

Interestingly, however, Lord Currie refused to use this phrase. “If the industry can come up with a scheme that can be audited effectively,” he commented, “Ofcom would be inclined to move towards co-regulation. [Note the ‘co-’.] We will be open to suggestion as to when these opportunities might arise.”

It is proposed that a TV equivalent of non-broadcast body the Advertising Standards Authority be set up. Ofcom’s involvement would be limited to auditing the new watchdog to check it maintains standards, but it could step in if it thought necessary.

The draft communications legislation unveiled last year is non-specific as to who is responsible for policing broadcast ads, prompting intense lobbying by the advertising industry for self-regulation – though whether Lord Currie’s refusal to use this term heralds a retreat from Jowell’s statement remains to be seen.

Ofcom hopes to extend this model – described as “co-regulatory and de-regulatory where possible” – to other communications sectors within its remit.

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff